Winner Take Nada: A Review of Understanding Dada by H. Michael Sanders. Cincinnati, Ohio: Elena Press, 2016. $13

The following book review of Understanding Dada is a MetaDada exclusive by first-time contributor Shyanna Bodenstein. We look forward to more critical reviews from her razor sharp pen (or actually flat, slightly concave black keys) – Editor

By Shyanna Bodenstein

A long-standing, semi-serious scholar of dada proposed to explain this subject in a book, and then had the audacity to do so. One would think that one who has lived by, created by, taught by, and agitated language and image by dada would know better. Fortunately for us, he did not.

Understanding Dada by H. Michael Sanders offers the 21st century reader, who is daily inundated by data about one’s supposed humanity that must be consumed, processed, and acted upon, an alternative: pure dada that one is obliged to forget. In fact, half a hardy laugh and you’ve already spent more interpretive effort than the subject demands.

Professor Sanders has struck all the epistemological chords of the dubious nature of dada (sometimes referred to as Dada): theory, philosophy, principles, system, strategy, tactics, mechanics, method, history, politics, economics, law, rhetoric, culture, aesthetics, fashion, theology, scripture, morality, and belief. One would think that such an extensive list implies a massive tome on the level of War and Peace x 10. But no! This is not your daddy’s dada! This is not your go-tell-it-on-the-mountain dada! This is not a mountain of dada! It is more like the spaces between the moments of our thoughts, words, lives, and difficult accessories.

Furtherless, Professor Sanders has offered a full page to each topic. Furtherless, the book is amply illustrated by illustrations that take up 8/10 of each page. This meant, for Professor Sanders, that the writing went very quickly. This means, for the reader, that we get to peruse a series of black-and-white pictures and – yuk-yuk-yuk – the joke’s on us! Because dada is anything but black-and-white, and entirely both as well as all.

The book is also timely amid the current rage of adult coloring books, though this one is less tedious than those of the picassorama therapy genre. Many of the illustrations have no blank space for coloring, and ones that do offer generous space between the lines; see, for example, the Theory section. You don’t have to color at all if you prefer the film noir aesthetic applied to deep think.

There are, of course, some words to read – an introduction and a closing poem – but in a stroke of near genius Professor Sanders discovered: why use words, those poor, blind, hairless creatures dependent upon humans for meaning and humanity, when you can use an image legally stolen from the annals of . . . . of . . . . well, let’s not get too personal. Professor Sanders assures us that all of his images reside in the digital free zone of copyrightlessness, as opposed to copyrighteousness, so that we may retain our intellectual virginity as we take in this fascinating filibuster of the meeting of the minds.

One thing this reader noticed, however, is that most of the illustrations involving humans were those of the male persuasion. Where are all the dada chicks? They are out there, and I encourage all of them to leave the circus, enter the portal nearest their last threshold, and set up shop. Advertise your mama’s dada. After reading Professor Sander’s book, we’ll understand. Absenceness is next to godliness.




MetaDada Broadside No. 7: Dada Culture

DBS-07-DadaCulture-Final copy

“People who joins us keep their freedom. We don’t accept any theories.”- Tristan Tzara, “The Second Dada Manifesto” (1918)

The modern use of the word “culture” is purportedly derived from the writings of the famous Roman orator, Cicero, who in about 45 BC wrote Tusculanae Disputationes [Tusculan Disputations]. In this dimly illuminating manuscript [see illustration] he uses an agricultural metaphor, cultura animi, to refer to the cultivation of a “soul” or what we might term a philosophical outlook. That’s what MetaDada is all about, a world-view that places all things into soulful perspective under the throbbing, sore thumb of Dada. Dada Culture is ready to flex its smooth, bulging muscles to root out idiocy and lay it lovingly in the sun to dry, right after it gets all hot and sweaty at the gym.


“We are looking for a straightforward pure sober unique force we are looking for NOTHING we affirm the VITALITY of every instant the the anti-philosophy of spontaneous acrobatics…”  – Tristan Tzara, “Unpretentious Proclamation” (1919)

Responding to Dada Poetry

A Poetry Feature for MetaDada

The following collection of student poetry emerged from the course, Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry, taught by Professor Rhonda Pettit at University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College. The students were introduced to the origins of dadaism, and were provided with an inspirational prompt in the form of Hugo Ball’s sound poem, “Karawane” as recited by Marie Osmond on the mid-eighties TV program, Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The poetic responses are spontaneous and unedited. – Editor


Real or Not Real
By Alyssa Ferreri

I don’t how it started,
I’m not sure when it happened.

My consciousness is muddled.

My dreams feel like life,
My life feels like a dream.

Hazy and clouded.
My thoughts are broken and incontinuous.

My body is not my own,
I do not recognize my reflection.

My voice belongs to someone else,
It doesn’t sound like me.

I don’t remember when this started,
And I’m not sure how to go back.



The Story of the Tiger Master
By Bryant Pil

Tigris ri se na ca to bert
Ug se uma tu bai see nai ruu
Flisk chung chong chang bur suie
Tigris, ug flisk quan zine ze cha nob
Ug fig sig nich gon kull
Tigris se sag on kull uugh neh shu.

Tigris ni sen puri nours se cha nook
Flisk igris runt ti nag commn ca ser.
Temperla nei no umbra or ursa chame
Tigris gon kull umbra nove ursa
Ursa pleau ruf ser Tigris no nore kull.

Tigris par que ti ni chu se sa ming.
Tigris kone ser chai leon nor essarers
Leon rolay par tear Tigris

Essarers nest que sa seur que non blem
Tigris kone ure ser say aster et vati nu.
Leon sa cer aster pone tui kola ser ni ca
Bour ran essarers aster que new von tans que sont.


superstitious world hangs over me
By Emily Mannira

Black cat black cat
love me, feel me, be free
Black cat black cat
6 + 6 = 12 + 1 = 13
13 x 2 = 26
That number follows me
ever since the day I was born
Black cat black cat
love me, feel me, be free


By Marie Hopkins

the stomach falls pitless
it couldn’t comprehend
what happens to goblins that don’t make sense
they fall off their trolls
and tickle their toes
and the words that you stumble creeps around
round the hose
shit bumble bee
I don’t know what you be
what you see
around the whole garden
flying after me
pits in my stomach
spits after you
everything I’ve said I mean to consume
brackish bees down my neck
hornets sting tone and flesh
and empties and parties and terrible turns
round the garden
with zits on my stumpen
ground on so fluven
crumpled and fallen, little bees jack the oven
honey in me, honey you see, honey it tastes so naturally
sugar is lumpy ee ee e he
confound all the variables
split open a tree
that falls in the woods
when no one’s around
she jumps in the leaves
she makes all the sound
terrible twos turn into fours into doors you walk through
spun in the stifle that huckers down my knees
crumbles and turns
I never liked stew
I always ate breakfast
for dinner it sooms it crues it dues it knows
what to assume and what to leave lingering
to burn in the simmer
and all the eyes knowing, at least I think they know me,
but all they assume is all that they see
my handwriting lingers and busies its neck
and folds into corners that fall over deck
we were leaning too far
too long in the winter
spring rain came burning to knock over retreat
run little falter, run next to me
I’ve always felt empty, but now I feel free
quick as a rabbit darts underground,
quick as the coffin I pick out of sound
it’s mine, it’s yours, this was all meant to be
and now I can’t understand what I’m trying to be


By Andrew Wood

Elope antifreeze
Set out with the true ones
Those punks and hippies
Who take care of their own and you
If you let them
Bring sides to fancy not together
But of each other
Semblance of entrance or entrancement
I found play dough on the wall and dreamed along winding root of discretion
I’m not sure who was at the pizza window
I was rude but not rude for a minute
My clock need be 10 minutes too fast
So I feel late and worry
I must worry
I must worry to move to forwardly seeking, anxious, impending
And I said no to it
The thought must do it
I must make noise louder and louder and louder and louder and louder
I will wear leather
Then sweater
Then long flowing tie die
I will wear pleather
And a long dress
And comic book sideways
Sidelong and headed, pushing them further
I will get louder sun scream smelling like ball point pen ink

So sophist sadists
Those that must conquer
Must win forever
must undo others
So she who wheoo
Setoo the sell off of out take camp
My companion get static startled
Lazy with reverb and honest occasion
Rip up your ledger
Spill oil out out out


Purple Platypus
By Matt Zupancic

Purple, a king’s color, royalty, Crown Royal, Canada, maple, sweet,

sugar cane, tropical, paradise, no worries, lazy day, Sunday, Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2,

concerts, summer time, sunshine, camping, outdoors, forests, mountains, west, California

dreaming, The Mamas and the Papas, 1960’s, revolution, youth, innocence, dreams, reality,

perception, Doors of Perception, philosophy, Plato, Pluto, planets, solar system, sun, light,

dark, night, city life, no sleep, energy, coffee, morning, fresh start, new, amateur, experience,

mastered, teachings, knowledge, knowledge is power, ignorance is bliss, happiness, euphoria,

dopamine and serotonin, chemicals, chemistry, biology, life, animals, mammals, platypus.


My Brother and I
By Katie Brooker

We look at each other
Snagler wayshamled tofaba
Fortuga beyshlamanate iletudo
Mgmletufe cosada fe lefa
Hehe coos outward from our lips

Tosha sumartotos lexituda
Mgmletufe cosada fe lefa
Another giggle escapes

No one will know
Shasamasa waytora bala conaskay
Snagler wayshamled toga faba
Mubu falata dula
Whispered to one another

Amatada foralara fefocale
Nalo belata cocoam
Just the two of us in the world

Keeping each other safe under the covers
Latusa shalatuda fasleta ahsha
Cuslatu shafu malate krla
Krlashe latusa amatada
We hear the thud thud of footsteps

Ahhh! Sheaforta!
Nhama Nhama shh
Fear riddled whispers between us

Just the two of us against the world
Hack tou faltusha awlashatu
Amentutada shashata huhufaha
With our secret language

Hash sh ha shshha Matula
Sheaforta Matula Hahash shshhash
Mom and dad will never know

Profile 5: MARCEL JANCO (1895-1984), Founding Member of the Zurich Dada Group

Portrait-JancoMarcel-1918 copy

Among us were neither blasé people nor cynics, actor nor anarchists who took the Dada scandal seriously. – Marcel Janco, 1957

Hand-Engraved-RJanco, looking out at Zurich from his vantage point on Central Square 65 years after the birth of the movement, called out: ‘Dada is not just alive, Dada is thriving!’

Marcel Janco was born in Bucharest in 1895, and is regarded as one of Romania’s key avant-garde artists. In 1915, he studied architecture in Switzerland, and eventually joined Hugo Ball and Jean Arp to co-found Zurich’s Dada movement between 1916 and 1919. He directed stage and costume design at the Café Voltaire, creating and painting masks in the African style, which evoked unique choreography at Dada events.

Indeed, Janco’s masks were basic to Dada, creating what he termed was ‘our faith in a direct art, a magical, organic, and creative art, like that of primitives and of children.’  Hugo Ball wrote in his diaries, “What fascinates us about these masks is that they represent, not humanity, but characters and emotions that are larger than life.  The paralysing horror which is the backcloth of our age is visible.”

Janco’s art style broached the figurative and the abstract; expressionism and cubism. His paintings conjured the dynamics of dance – breaking the surface and overlapping – as in physical movement. As such, his forms were simultaneously visible as 2- and 3-dimensional, emulating dancers on a stage.

The artist also was associated with the Paris Dada branch, where he participated in an international exhibition of abstract art. Janco was a co-founder of the avant-garde Romanian journal Contimporanul, with which he remained associated in the 1920’s, while contributing to a variety of other progressive art publications.

Upon returning from Paris to his native Bucharest in 1921, Janco generated the development of the avant-garde, and, from 1926, worked as an architect of modern buildings there. When Fascism invaded 1940 Romania, Janco emigrated with his family to Israel, where he founded and developed a thriving artist’s colony at En Hod.

Inspired by his international success, resident artists sought Janco’s counsel in their quest for universal recognition of Israeli art. They were rewarded in 1983 by his participation in the establishment of the Janco-Dada Museum in Ein Hod, the city in which Janco died one year later. The Museum remains an an active center for both documenting Jano’s legacy and exhibition opportunities for contemporary Israeli artists. – MEKHand-Engraved-L


Portrait-JancoMarcel copy