psychic onomatopoetic harmony

As i blog through Marinett’s manifestos in chronological order, i see how his thought becomes more complicated, and the interesting ways through which he restates his premises. In the essay “Geometric and Mechanical Splendour and the Numerical Sensibility” (1914) he further amends the futurist sensibility and technique.

“A new beauty is born today from the chaos of the new contradictory sensibilities that we Futurists will substitute for the former beauty, and that I call Geometric and Mechanical Splendour.

Its essential elements are: hygienic forgetfulness, hope, desire, controlled force, speed, light, willpower, order, discipline, method; a feeling for the great city; the aggressive optimism that results from the cult of muscles and sport; the imagination without strings, ubiquity, laconism and the simultaneity that derives from tourism, business, and journalism; the passion for success, the keenest instinct for setting records, the enthusiastic imitation of electricity and the machine; essential concision and synthesis; the happy precision of gears and well-oiled thoughts; the concurrence of energies as they converge into a single victorious trajectory.”

My major critique of this position is that it doesnt account for the injustices created by industrialism: the pollution of the environment, the exploitation of workers, the consequences of war, the cost of unmeditated progress, and the effects of imperial industrialism on the “third world” — elements of which modernity creates itself.


As far as technique, I am still taken by his definitions.

“Many times I have demonstrated how the noun, enfeebled by multiple contacts or the weight of Parnassian and decadent adjectives, regains its absolute value and its expressive force when it is denuded and set apart. Among naked nouns I distinguish the elementary noun and the motion-synthesis noun (or node of nouns). This distinction is not absolute and it comes from almost ungraspable intuitions. According to an elastic and comprehensive analogy, I see every noun as a vehicle or belt set in motion by the verb in the infinitive.”

Stein does not make this distinction, although perhaps we can describe the nouns that she does use as “motion-synthesis nouns.”

“Except for needed contrast or a change of rhythm, the different moods and tenses of the verb should be abolished, because they make the verb into a stagecoach’s loose wheel adapting itself to rough country roads, but unable to turn swiftly on a smooth road. The infinitive verb, on the other hand, is the very movement of the new lyricism, having the fluency of a train’s wheel or an aeroplane’s propeller.

The different moods and tenses of the verb express a prudent and reassuring pessimism, a clenched, episodic, accidental egotism, a high and low of force and tiredness, of desire and delusion, of pauses, in other words, in the trajectory of hope and will. The infinitive verb expresses optimism itself, the absolute generosity of the folly of Becoming. When I say to run, what is that verb’s subject? Everyone and everything: that is, the universal irradiation of life that runs and of which we are a conscious particle. E.g. the finale of Tavern Parlour by the free-wordist Folgore. The infinitive is the passion of the I that abandons itself to the becoming of all, the heroic disinterested continuity of the joy and effort of acting. Infinitive verb = the divinity of action.”

This is quite lovely. The death of the subject ressurrection through the divine action of the infinitive.

Continually his thread of lyricism, he articulates an idea of “synoptic tables of lyric value” which allow us “as we read to follow many currents of intertwined or parallel sensations at the same time.” It would be like reading all of Pessoa’s heteronyms at once.

Picking up another thread from the last manifesto, he adds a new element to “Free expressive orthography and typography” “[they] also serve to express the facial mimicry and the gesticulation of the narrator. […] Thus the words-in-freedom manage to make use of (rendering it completely) that part of communicative exuberance and epidermic geniality[…] This energy of accent, voice, and mimicry that has shown up hitherto only in moving tenors and brilliant talkers finds its natural expression in the disproportions of typographic characters that reproduce the facial grimaces and the chiselling, sculptural force of gestures. In this way words-in-freedom become the lyric and transfigured prolongation of our animal magnetism.”
Reminds me of David Antic and McClure. This showing of the narrator’s physicality in the words themselves.


The most interesting part of this manifesto is the categorization of various types of onomatopoeia:

Our growing love for matter, the will to penetrate it and know its vibrations, the physical sympathy that links us to motors push us to the use of onomatopoeia.

Since noise is the result of rubbing or striking rapidly moving solids, liquids, or gases, onomatopoeia, which reproduces noise, is necessarily one of the most dynamic elements of poetry. As such, onomatopoeia can replace the infinitive verb, especially if it is set against one or more other onomatopoeias. (E.g.: the onomatopoeia tatatata of the machine guns, set against the Hoooraaaah of the Turks at the end of the chapter ‘Bridge’ in my Zang tumb tumb.)

The brevity of the onomatopoeias in this case permits the most skilful combination of different rhythms. These would lose a part of their velocity if expressed more abstractly, with greater development, that is, without the help of the onomatopoeias. There are different kinds of onomatopoeias:

Direct, imitative, elementary, realistic onomatopoeia, which serves to enrich lyricism with brute reality, which keeps it from becoming too abstract or artistic. (E.g. Ratta-tat-tata gunfire.) In my ‘Contraband of War’ in Zang tumb tumb, the strident onomatopoeia ssiiiiii gives the whistle of a towboat on the Meuse River and is followed by the veiled onomatopoeia ffiiiii ffiiiiii, echo from the opposite bank. The two onomatopoelas saved me from needing to describe the width of the river, which is defined by the contrast between the two consonants s and f.

Indirect, complex, and analogical onomatopoeia. E.g. in my poem Dunes the onomatopoeia dwn-dum-dwn-dum expresses the circling sound of the African sun and the orange weight of the sun, creating a rapport between sensations of weight, heat, colour, smell, and noise. Another example: the onomatopoeia stridionla stridionla stridionlaire that repeats itself in the first canto of my epic poem The Conquest of the Stars forms an analogy between the clashing of great swords and the furious action of the waves, just before a great battle of stormy waters.

Abstract onomatopoeia, noisy, unconscious expression of the most complex and mysterious motions of our sensibility. (E.g. in my poem Dunes, the abstract onomatopoeia ran ran ran corresponds to no natural or mechanical sound, but expresses a state of mind.)

Psychic onomatopoetic harmony, that is the fusion of 2 or 3 abstract onomatopoeias.

“There it is, [citizens], sitting there, for USE.” (Olson)


The fetish of numberical and mathematical precision in poetry plays out here in a different way:

My love of precision and essential brevity has naturally given me a taste for numbers, which live and breathe on the paper like living beings in our new numerical sensibility. E.g. instead of saying, like the ordinary traditional writer, ‘A vast and deep boom of bells’ (an imprecise, hence inefficient denotation), or else, like an intelligent peasant, ‘this bell can be heard from such or such a village’ (a more precise and efficient denotation), I grasp the force of the reverberation with intuitive precision and determine its extent, saying: ‘Bell boom breadth 20 square kilometres.’ In this way I give the whole vibrating horizon and a number of distant beings stretching their ears to the same bell sound. I escape imprecision and dullness, and I take hold of reality with an act of will that subjects and deforms the very vibration of the metal in an original manner.

The mathematical signs + – x = serve to achieve marvellous syntheses and share, with their abstract simplicity of anonymous gears, in expressing the geometric and mechanical splendours. For example, it would have needed at least an entire page of description to render this vast and complex battle horizon, when I found this definitive lyric equation: ‘horizon = sharp bore of the sun + 5 triangular shadows (1 kilometre wide) + 3 lozenges of rosy light + 5 fragments of hills + 30 columns of smoke + 23 flames.’

I make use of x to indicate interrogative pauses in my thought. I thereby eliminate the question mark, which too arbitrarily localises its atmosphere of doubt on a single point of awareness. With the mathematical x, the doubting suspension suddenly spreads itself over the entire agglomeration of words-in-freedom.

Always intuitively, I introduce members that have no direct significance or value between the words-in-freedom, but that (addressing themselves phonically and optically to the numerical sensibility) express the various transcendental intensifies of matter and the indestructible correspondences of sensibility.

I create true theorems or lyric equations, introducing numbers chosen intuitively and placed in the very middle of a word, with a certain quantity of + – x =. I give the thicknesses, the relief, the volume of the thing the words should express. The placement + – + – + + x serves to render, for example, the changes and acceleration of an automobile’s speed. The placement + + + + + serves to render the clustering of equal sensations. (E.g. faecal odour of dysentery + the honeyed stench of plague sweats + smell of ammonia, etc., in ‘Train Full of Sick Soldiers’ in my Zang tumb tumb.)

Thus for the ‘ciel antérieur où fleurit la beauté’ of Mallarmé we substitute geometric and mechanical splendour and the numerical sensibility of words-in-freedom.


One thought on “psychic onomatopoetic harmony

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s