Isidore Isou (1925-2007)

Poemes Lettristes 1944-1999

1. Poeme pour broyer le cafard (1950)

2. Marbre pour Dante: Enfer, Purgatoire, Paradis (1950)

3. Boxe (1947)

4. Bonne nuit, Madagascar (1945)

5. Sonnet (1944)

6. Jungle (1945)

7. En souvenir de Gabriel Pomerand (1981)

8. Les Djinns (1981)

9. Improvisation (1999)

10. Invitation au voyage (1984)

11. Niege (1950)

12. Lances Rompues pour la Dame Gothique (1945): interlude (Isou-Dufrene) (1972); recherches pour un poeme en prose pure (1950); coda semantique (Isou-Dufrene)

13. Isou performed by Francois Dufrene

14. Rituel somptueux pour la Seclection des Espèces (1965) (2:12)

Tracks 1-13, from the CD Isidore Isou: Poemes Lettristes 1944-1999 Alga Marghen, Italy, plana I 12VocSon033, 1999

Tracks 1-13 were performed by the author and recorded (except for those involving Francois Dufrene) in Paris on May 12, 1999 by Ramuntcho Matta

Track 14, From the LP Futura Poesia Sonora (Cramps Records, Milan)


According to Isidore Isou there exists a poetic evolution which, from Baudelaire to Tzara, involves a constant deepening and reduction of the poetic material, from the poem to the phrase, from the phrase to the word, from the word to the phoneme, from the phoneme to the syllable, to the alphabetic letter. In 1945 he accordingly founded a movement, "Lettrisme", that proposed the letter as the only material for a different poetry (poésie autre), a poetry founded on the melodic beauty of alphabetical combinations. At the same time he experimented with handwriting which he called hypergraphy. Towards 1950 the members of the lettriste group, apart from Isou himself, were Maurice Lemaître, Jacques Spacagna, Roland Sabatier, Altagor, Gabriel Pomerand, Roberto Altmann, Jean-Louis Brau, Gil J. Wolman, François Dufrêne, but the last three, as we have seen, left the group towards 1960 to set up the ultra-lettriste movement. The program did not go beyond what had already been done by the dadaists Hausmann and Schwitters in Germany, Albert-Birot, and the Artaud of the experiments in glossolalia in France, and Krucenych and Iliazd in Russia.

Nevertheless, the lettristes, Isou and Lemaître especially, succeeded in composing phonic poems which are not to be ignored - "car le lettrisme - poésie, musique, peinture - est un tout et un trust. En poésie, plus de mots. En musique, plus d'instruments, seulement sur un rythme swing, des ineuglements et des grognements spontanés. Quant à la peinture, qui supprime l'objet, elle n'a coucher sur la toile des 'ah! oh! hi! pan! pan!' " (H. Morel in "Ce Matin", 1947). In effect, like the letter of the alphabet, and even more so, the graphic sign can be an element as beautiful as a decorative object. Of these works, Isou's "Rituel Somptueux pour la Selection des Espèces": solemn singsongs of African type. Orgiastic paroxysms masterfully distributed in a pagan sonic spectacle which the Tzara of the Cabaret Voltaire period would perhaps not have disdained to compose had he disposed of technical means of recording then not available.

Isidore Isou, born in 1925 at Botosani, Rumania, is the founder of the lettriste movement. At first, around 1945, his concrete system confined itself to commonplace alphabetical writing (the period of the Latin writing), later he passe on to an examination of the immediate possibilities of letters and signs (the "multi-style" period) and to the so -called "hypergraphy." Poet, polemic, painter.

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