In 1928, French painter René Magritte painted his famous surrealist work, “The Treachery of Images.” It was a simple painting, that of a pipe with the notation Ceci n’est pas une pipe–this is not a pipe. At first blush the painting causes a sort of cognitive dissonance because, of course, the painting certainly is that of a pipe–it with the deep wooden bowl and the quarter-bent stem, it which summons the lingering scent of your grandfather’s Virginia blend. Simply put, the image depicts that which it claims it is not.
Not a pipe? Preposterous.
But Magritte was right. Though the painting is a representation of a pipe, it is not a pipe itself. It cannot be plucked from the painting, filled with tobacco, and smoked over a snifter of brandy in the retirement hours of the evening. And even if it could be argued that Magritte’s representation of the pipe holds many of the facets of a pipe itself (and therefore is a pipe of sorts), only one facet, one angle of the pipe is presented. Who knows what grave defects the backside of the pipe might hold? What if there is some hidden defect which would render the model pipe unsmokeable and therefore, not a pipe at all?
Magritte’s point goes well beyond the age-old adage, “things are not what they appear to be.” Instead, Magritte asks the viewer to eschew traditional assumptions about images; he asks us to see a thing for what it is, not what it claims to be.
This message seems to resonate in this age of the digital forum. We are inundated by images, and not just by those generated by corporate fat cats who want you to believe that you need the next product du jour. No, the treachery of images has gone much further than that. We have imaged ourselves, created our own personal brands on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like, brands which hide the unseemly sides of us. In that, have we become the makers of our own treachery, our own provocateurs? Have we believed each other’s avatars? More importantly, have we believed our own?
Our Treacherous Images
In a moment of
could be enough
our own allies
to remind one
another that we
are more than the
which we grace
We are more than
We are what
which is real.
Today’s Poetry Prompt.
Surrealists attempted, by way of their art, to juxtapose different realities so as to signify a new, or more defined one. For instance, the image of pipe juxtaposed to the phrase “this is not a pipe” solidifies a third reality—namely, an image is not the object itself. Can we play with these themes, perhaps penning pieces about the treachery of images in the media these days? A daunting task? Maybe. But you all did such good work last week that I reckon you’re up to the challenge.
Tweetspeak’s November Surrealism Poetry Prompt:
This month’s poetry theme at Tweetspeak is surrealism, and we’re composing poems that play with the theme. Let’s create some surrealist poetry by playing with juxtapositions and free associations. Perhaps you can gain a bit of inspiration from this month’s playlist or from other source. We’d love you to join with us, even use a Dali or Picasso as your writing prompt. How do you participate?
1. Study up a bit on the history of surrealism, on both the artistic and philosophical underpinnings of the movement. Listen to the Tweetspeak monthly playlist.
2. Compose a poem using surrealist concepts, juxtapositions, or associations.
3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #TSSurreal hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.
4. If you aren’t a twitter user, leave your found poem here in the comment box.
5. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and ask the winner to record his or her poem to be featured in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.
And speaking of winners, last week, Robbie Pruitt composed a nice piece, inspired in part by the images of Dali. In “Water-Soluble Time, ” He writes:
Time melts in savings
Sometimes I’m at a loss
I cannot keep time
It washes over—then out
Over face of glass,
Then, clouded over
Resistance is not proof
Now, let’s create some more surreal poetry. Who’s first?
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $2.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In November we’re exploring the theme Surrealism.