Speaking of interchange between the arts, have you heard the story of how Pablo Picasso came to poetry? We came across this knowledge thanks to Anastasios Kozaitis, in whose email Poem of the Day a few years ago we discovered Picasso’s poem “Boisgeloup 18 april XXXV” translated from the Spanish by Jerome Rothenberg. It turns out that Exact Change, the book publisher that specializes in “literary classics of surrealism, dada, fluxus, pataphysics, and other experimental art movements of the 19th and 20th century,” published a sampler of Pablo Picasso’s poetry in English in 2004: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and Other Poems, edited by our favorite anthologist-duo, Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris (of Poems for the Millennium fame). You can read excerpts from the book in PDF form at Ubuweb Historical, and you’ll find there a fascinating amalgam of journal-like but exquisitely surrealist prose poems and imagistic, aphoristic lyrics.
As Exact Change notes in their introduction to the book, “Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) is arguably the most famous and influential artist of the 20th century. What few in the English speaking world know is that in 1935, at age 54, an emotional crisis caused Picasso to halt all painting and devote himself entirely to poetry. Even after resuming his visual work, Picasso continued to write, in a characteristic torrent, until 1959, leaving a body of prose poems that André Breton praised as ‘an intimate journal, both of the feelings and the senses, such as has never been kept before.’”