Poetism Manifesto / Devětsil | Karel Teige, 1928

Karel Teige, Collage #366, 1949                                          Karel Teige, Collage  #336, 1947


Poetism creates a poetry for all the senses.
Poetry for SIGHT or “liberated painting”: 1. dynamic: kinography, fireworks, light shows and all sorts of live spectacles (= “liberated theater”), 2. static: typo- and photomontage pictures, the new picture as a poem of color.
Poetry for HEARING: the music of loud noises, jazz, radiogenics. 
Poetry for SMELL: Poetism plans for a new olfactory poetry, a symphony of smells. Smells exercise a profound influence on our “inferior,” instinctive psyche: the smell of blood, dust, perfumes, flowers, the stench of animals, of petrol, of oil, medicines and drugs can exercise a powerful and amazing effect on our emotions. Baudelaire still filtered clusters of smells into a system of poetical language. We want smells to act directly like sounds and colors. The language of smells is probably best known by lovers: gifts of flowers and perfumed love-letters are the first step toward olfactory poetry. Moreover, gardeners were fully schooled in its ABC and its effect on the emotions and it was used in the liturgy of many religions. So let’s make poems from smells as directly as me make them from color and sound!


Karel Teige, Collage #299, 1944                                       Karel Teige, 1941


Poetry for TASTE: If, in the case of certain individuals, we do no doubt the direct connection between their sight, sensibility and intrinsic nature, there is every reason to suppose that the great gourmands and gourmets of history — the cordon bleu gastronomes and the Pantagruelesque hedonists — are able to enjoy total communication between taste and soul; that, as Delteil once said, good digestion is as much a source of joie de vivre as a good prayer. We are not talking about the poetry of intoxicating drinks and narcotics or alcoholic hallucinations that almost automatically give rise to lyrical tension. The enjoyment of a good dîner is no less refined or aesthetic than any other whereas enjoyment is among the supreme human values, measured in terms of life’s objective: happiness. We regret that culinary art is no longer taken as seriously as it was in medieval aesthetics and as it deserves. Poetry for taste, culinary art (of which Apollinaire wrote in his “Poète assassiné”), apart from its intrinsic gustative values, is intended to affect the entire concert of the senses with its forms and colors and its many and varied aromas. 


Karel Teige, Collage # 323, 1946                                       Karel Teige, Collage #350, 1948


Poetry for TOUCH. This was discovered by Marinetti, who, in 1921, termed it tactilism. There was already a foretaste of it in Rachild’s “La Jongleuse” and “Les Hors-nature.” Although the plastic arts also use tactile elements, Marinetti’s poems of touch — “tactile pictures” — have nothing in common with painting or sculpture, their aim being to achieve tactile harmony. In our civilization, our touch is trained to a high level of deftness but so far has not been aesthetically cultivated in terms of impressionability. Whereas our visual sensations when looking at materials of different softness or coarseness often arouse in us associative tactile perceptions, merely touching them in the dark fails to arouse intense excitement within us. Tactile poetry, composed of delicate, fine, coarse, warm or cold fabrics, silk, velour, brushes, slightly electrified [601] wires, etc., is capable of cultivating our tactile emotionality and providing us with the utmost sensual and spiritual thrills. 
Poetry of INTERSENSORIAL EQUIVALENCES: optophonetic, “liberated theater,” colored lights and singing fountains.


Karel Teige, Collage #70, 1939                                              Karel Teige, Collage #293, 1944


Poetry of PHYSICAL AND SPATIAL SENSES: the sense of orientation, the sense of speed and the time-space sense of movement: sport of every possible kind: motoring, aviatics, tourism, gymnastics, acrobatics: our innate thirst for records is slaked by athletics; victory mania flares up at football matches along with the joy of collective teamwork and feeling of strained harmony, precision and co-ordination. The poetry of sport, shining above the educational and orthopedic tendencies of physical exercise develops all the senses and provides a pure sensation of muscular activity, the delight of bare skin in the wind, beautiful physical exaltation and intoxication of the body. Liberated dance, sovereign dynamic poetry of the body, independent of music, literature and sculpture, opening the gates of sensuality; the art of physical genius, the most physical and abstract art of all, whose medium is tangible flesh-and-blood physicality, whose movement gives rise to a poem of dance using dynamic and abstract forms. 
Poetry of the COMIC SENSE: Grock, Fratellini, Keaton, Chaplin, etc.


Karel Teige, Untitled, 1941                                  Karel Teige, Collage #243, 1942


published in ReD Vol. 1, No. 9, 1928 Poetism in Book Design

Translated by Gerald Turner. From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910-1930. 

Karel Teige was the major figure of the Czech avant-garde movement Devětsil  in the 1920s, a graphic artist, photographer, and typographer. In his 1935 Prague lecture, André Breton paid tribute to his "perfect intellectual fellowship" with Teige and Nezval: "Constantly interpreted by Teige in the most lively way, made
to undergo an all-powerful lyric thrust by Nezval, Surrealism can flatter itself that it has blossomed in Prague as it has in Paris."


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