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From fantastical Romanian tales to French post-war weariness via Dada, Surrealism and Marxism, Tristan Tzara’s poems were always exploring the frontiers of language and thought. He continually pushed to the limits the possibilities of words, of what language might be able to reveal and convey. Tzara saw poetry as an essential catalyst in society capable of creating a permanent atmosphere of openness and active change. He pursued this ambition with intense vigour, but also with wit and an essential humanist insistence.

Lee Harwood began translating Tristan Tzara’s poetry in the early 1960s with the approval and enthusiasm of Tzara himself. ‘The Glowing Forgotten’ is a selection from that remarkable work.

‘Selected Poems of Tristan Tzara’, translated by Lee Harwood, is the best collection of poems by the leader of Dada to have appeared in this country. Harwood has caught nicely this poet’s blend of irony, black humour and lyricism. (The Sunday Times)

Tristan Tzara, born 1896 in Moinesti, Romania, was a poet, playwright, prose writer, critic, editor, scholar, and, most of all, an instigator. He died in Paris in 1963.

Lee Harwood has published many books of poetry, including a large ‘Collected Poems‘ (Shearsman Books, 2004). John Ashbery described him as ‘
one of Britain’s best poets’. He was born in 1939, and lives in Brighton, England.

Read the extract below:

The Glowing Forgotten
Tristan Tzara
ISBN: 0-9537634-9-8
£3.50/$8.00  Out of print


13 (an extract)

who will free us from the encumbrance of possessions and flesh
the applause of the sea breaks over you
the tragic and taut sea wall on the first step of the amphitheatre
old stone wrinkle on the worn forehead of the world
the wreckage and rubbish thrown into the sea
and the sea’s into the world
the careworn wrinkle of earth crowded
tied down in the deep of sea shadows
cramped in the darkness of the stern fearless of the future
meeting with claws striding erect in the waves
wrinkle sodden with the inconceivable curse of time
until the end of time
until the exhaustion of cyclones in their elysian storerooms
sad little life beaten at every step
tumbled knocked hurried sad life
sad life harassed by the wild omens trampled on
and yet: the jaws of immovable eternity and insolence
fortified and crenellated right up to the apex of god
that no eye has been able to reach
no joy able to warm with human tenderness
but what use to climb the magpie to filter the clouds
when human kindness no longer knows how to warm my joys
what does a friend matter alone at night boredom
I’m all soft bread inside death friend
and the degreee of cold increases in me each day friend
becomes friend what does the custom matter
what does a friend matter alone at night boredom
one day one day one day I’ll put on the cloak of eternal warmth
buried forgotten by others in their turn forgotten by others
if I could only gain the glowing forgotten