“In my workshop at Germantown HS, Making Dadaist Self-Portraits, I introduce the young writers to Tristan Tzara’s whimsical recipe for writing, “To Make a Dadaist Poem,” created in 1914. Dadaists exploded constricted definitions of form. In the last line of his word cutout meets randomness recipe, Tzara writes:

‘The poem will resemble you.’

Janice Lowe

“For making their own Dadaist self-portraits, the young writers cut or tear out individual words from their own writing, put word strips into brown paper bags, remix words by shaking, then pouring them onto desks. The poured words make a shape. Words are pasted or written on bags in the shape in which they land. Part of the fun is reading and experiencing the odd juxtaposition of words, the visual surprise of the found. The word order “plays” them. This “anti” technique is not about structure or line. After the shaking, there is no re-ordering, only considering. Some embellish their word collages with black marker outline or drawing.

“Writers were excited to small-share their visual-writing experiments. They had a blast playing with randomness, silence, space–with bumping into surprise and meaning.”

— Janice A. Lowe, Poet & Performer, T&W

Dadaist Self-Portrait by Kelsie Reed

Here is a brief report on Janice Lowe’s Residency at Germantown HS:

“These workshops provide a dual benefit to students. First, the work done within attends to the Common Core standards. Students are asked to analyze and use figurative language, explore connotative meanings and consider word placement and choice. Second, the students have the experience of working creatively with a different instructor. This is invaluable.

“Each year, the same incredible thing occurs. At least one student who was either disengaged and/or struggling in English finds a love of language and poetry they did not have before the the workshop. One of these students now writes poetry daily and participates in public recitation competitions. Another, a student from this year, approached me after the workshop and said, quite genuinely, that he had found words to be different, and that was work he “actually liked.” These moments are what our department looks forward to each year,as well as the opportunity we get to explore writing and teaching from a new perspective.” — Stacy Dore, English Deptartment

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