Dadaism: Monsters, Machines, & Madness

Dadaism: Monsters, Machines, & Madness

Trace the long cultural trail of Dada before turning its tools onto contemporary problems.

*  To ensure the safety of our tutors and students, this course will take place on video-conferencing platform, ZOOM *

The art movement, Dada, was forged in the ashes of World War 1. Its artists revelled in surrealism, futurism, and defiant absurdism as a way of unravelling the absurdity of global truths tested to breaking point by the chaos of mechanised warfare. In this poetry workshop, we’ll delve into the origins of the movement, repurposing techniques that embraced technology, playfulness, randomness, cut-ups, and collage as a way of interrogating and unpicking the truisms of modern life. We’ll also ask what we can learn from the blind spots of Dada: what, even for them, was taken as universal? 

We’ll read from artists on the frontlines of early Dadaist discourse: Max Ernst, Claude Cahun, Léopold Sédar, Senghor, Tristan Tzara – against the backdrop of Cabaret, The Battle of the Somme documentary, and the Harlem Renaissance. 

We’ll trace the long cultural trail of Dadaism from Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo to David Bowie and AI Poetry. We’ll step into the nonsense cosmologies of Alice and Wonderland and ‘The Cheese and the Worms’ and ask if the future was all it was meant to be, with help from Le Voyage dans la Lune, The Jetsons and Black Panther 

We’ll mine spam emails, auto-generated text, newspapers and Instagram inspirational quotes for poetic material, alongside reading from more recent writers turning the tools of surrealism and futurism on contemporary problems, including Danez Smith, Ocean Vuong, Terrence Hayes, Octavia Butler, and Natalie Diaz.

The course will have 2 parts, the first being a Zoom session, filled with challenging reading, writing, and group discussions on the topic, after which you’ll be set various writing prompts and exercises to complete at home, before reconvening for a Zoom-based workshop in part 2 to discuss and develop your new poems.

Saturday 20 February & Saturday 6 March, 2-4pm. The course will take place using the video conferencing platform, Zoom.

More information about how all our face-to-face courses work can be found on the Face-to-Face courses page.

Image Credit: Mace Hudson

About Eleanor Penny View Profile

Eleanor Penny is a writer, journalist, poet and teacher. She’s a three-times Barbican Young Poet, twice shortlisted for Young People’s Poet Laureate for London. She’s the winner of the Keats House poetry competition, the Verve Poetry Festival prize, and the 2020 Poetry London Prize. Commissions include the Barbican, the Poetry School, the Cinema Museum. She’s an editor at Novara Media, and the host of poetry podcast Bedtime Stories for the End of the World and Politics Matters on FUBAR Radio. Her work has appeared in numerous outlets including The New Statesman, Vice, Verso Books and the Independent. Her first book is forthcoming with flipped eye. 



'Poetry school has opened the garden of poetry for me where I can plant line after line, be patient for them to grow, wait for the fruits to arrive then share them and simply enjoy. This garden also allowed me explore and enjoy the oak trees planted by the masters. So thank you The Poetry School for making this possible.'

– Spring 2020 survey response

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