Some of my favorite poets traffic in surrealism.
I have already mentioned my personal love and affection for Ted Joans (I have smuggled a copy of his chapbook/selected poems – WOW – into the office and am sneaking little hits of his jazzy lyrics when I can spare a moment), who André Breton called the only “afroamerican surrealist” he had ever met, and also my beloved anthology, Surrealist Love Poems.
Perhaps I have not yet noted the special place that Paul Eluard’s Capital of Pain and Love, Poetry have in my heart, as well as, to a lesser extent, The Smoke That Carried Us: Selected Poems of René Char.
But I am not ignorant of the fact that surrealism has also spawned some of the most pernicious imitators – wild, sloppy writing for which surrealism is just an excuse.
The term “soft surrealism” seems to have been coined for just such a reason. It encapsulates the laziness and weakness of failed, contemporary attempts at surrealism.
But I also know that Eluard and others have deeply tinged my work. Are my own poems “soft surrealism?” Is is possible to pen a truly great surrealist poem so far from the literary moment that spawned the movement?
I don’t have the answer to that question.