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Translations by Pierre Joris, after Tristan Tzara

"I don’t even want to know that there were men before me" (Descartes), but some essential & simple laws, pathetic & muffled fermentation of a solid earth.


Nauri [Africa?]

Who wants to throw the Zigendung?


That I want to throw in the sky


That it may let some water fall on me

some water

That the burned grass may grow a little

fresh grass

That my old cow may eat

Old cow

I want to kill her for the vultures there

The vultures there

That they may give me their feathers


Those I want to fix to my arrow


I want to hunt the enemy's oxen


to receive my wife


That she may give me a child


that it may pick my lice


that an old man I may go and die with them


The dance of the greased women

(Steingeröll) new signs putting

short putting new signs

signs head stretch out

white dots they feel along the wide bands

twins on a pile say

twins a pile say

senses of the girls yell loud

from the sky loudly to say

then the paved women advance in a straight line

the (wässerälber) walk around

salt lakes with upright shores

(wässerälber) high upright

water plans green of grass

come the torch comes

feet quick come

the women of the past come

thick grass come out of

from thick bushels come outside

on the paths of the gods always to lie

the paving lead them

through the rocks' openings lead (gehne ich)

the paving lead them

woman of the past (me) I sigh after my house

from the deep I wish to return

in joy I sigh after the house

the bushes I sigh after the house

in the throat I desire

in the belly I sigh after the house

in the belly I tremble continuously

in the joy I tremble

in the joy I am in mourning

in the belly I am in mourning

the girls tremble continuously

the fertile girls

flames of fire are bent (over) bent (over)

the rock’s edge is vaulted is vaulted

the convoy of the heights is well bent is well bent

the eucalyptus foliage is vaulted is vaulted

the agia’s trunk is bent

the agia’s trunk is bent is bent

the water is vaulted is vaulted

the course of the river is bent is bent

the tied (Geschwürte) are approaching

The past women advance

The lines advance

walking fast walking in a nearby line

on a pile sit down

on blocks of rocks sit down

the flame of fire advances

the great flame

the paving with wheels approaches

the flame

Inteer angoulba remains standing motionless

the flame of fire remains standing

Baronga (Mozambique)

The lake dries from its edges

The elephant dies from a small arrow

the squealings of the green finch (?)

You'll die with your lie

I still sculpt a stick of ironwood

I still think about it

The noise a cracked elephant tusk makes

The anger of a hungry man

A gourd that stretches its branches over the plain

A chief dragging himself across his village square.

The strident noise of the dry sorgho stalk

The anger of a hungry man

A small tree covered with wild pigeons

Your father, covered with heavy bracelets

The palm leaf with its many folioles

The old fallen one has passed the river

People against a wall

Ah if only I died

A short stick with a mace at its end

to refuse food one to the other

in the same village, is a fault for which

one may be fined.

I threw my Kouakoua far away it rolled to the end of the world

I have accepted pickaxes that came from Ba-labi.


The thieving monk has eaten all my millet

Now he comes back. He (to have received from) me

Where will we go to seek refuge? (as famine is gnawing at us now)

Go to Mougondja (or to Modjadji the famous rainmaking queen who lives in the north). Go to Maoueoue

Where will we seek refuge?

Eyeye! e! e! e!


Don't you want to buy a new wife from us?

later on your daughter will bring you a domain

worth fifteen silver


Braid the goat’s gall bladder into our hair

Then we’ll return home (and the women passing by

will see that we’ve been feasted)


Wauru [Eastern Coastal Africa?]


stay up there

stay on the Däbanne chair

the Däbanne up there

Steer your boat leap from the sea to the shore

Stay stuck in the private parts of the ...

fuck her, in her private parts rage like

thunder and lightning, thunder growls thunder growls

leaping from her sex.

... O!

Show, open wide her intimate organs,

drink the palm wine

foam in her

drink the palm wine.

. . . your sex stinks like the shark's gall

the shark’s gall stinks atrociously

and everything that pours from it

I want to go towards Tararuru

to go get Tararuru

to open to open

to smell to smell

pick the flowers

shake the petals

hee hee look at that clitoris



Let's go, let's move

Woman, watch your things

I didn't hang them up

because I was busy trying to dry myself.

I gave you a promise and I'm confident

rubbed with ointments and I waited for you, you, my little silver fish,

because the more I rubbed myself with ointments the more I spread myself

I've always had confidence in you, with ointments I rubbed my old nuts

they belong to you, my necklace,

everybody wanted to see the young girl

beautiful as a necklace beautiful as the sun

She is all splendor

O like the silvery fish in the water

you are beautiful, my young girl.

Ebo Ebo the silvery fish has come

from the reef it came

Ebo Ebo she watched over the deep of the sea

Ebo she swims on the Baweln

Ebo Ebo she swims on her back Ebo she swims on her back

Puberty chant for young girls

You the young girls, all together oo

Get up and come over here

cause the sun rises oo.

The waves come closer, unfurl and break with a thunderous roar

the water unwrinkles and flows back, flows back towards the great rock

and we dance around you for you

A basket falls from the rock

Do you still remember how we fished with the net the net?


Maori (New Zealand)

Tota Waka

Kiwi cries the bird


Moho cries the bird


Tieke cries the bird


only a belly

rises into the air rises into the air

continue your road

rises into the air

here's the second year


here is the catcher of men


make room and drag him


drag where


Ah the root the root of Tou

Heh the wind

drag further

raging wind

drag further the root

the root of the Tou

So push, Rimo


go on Totara


go on Pukatea


give me the Tou


give me the Maro


stretch stretch (the hauling rope)


my belly


kihi, e

haha, e

pipi, e

tata, e





me the rope


me the spear

me the silex-child

me the child of the Manuka-oar

I am I am

a long procession

dead is the thing

a long procession

goes on gliding goes on gliding

to sink you to sink you

brandish the axe


only a rooster

only a Taraho bird

only a duck

ke ke ke ke

only a duck

ke ke ke ke



Ntuca [Africa?]

Tropical winter

The color recomposes flows between the spaces

like a liquid hanged man sways

the rainbow

the worms of light circulate in your diarrhea

there where the clarinets grow

pregnant woman toucanongonda

like the green ball

pregnant woman culilibulala produces the satellite

the bell glides under the boat

green ball burning

the town below flame-bandages caressing the centrifugal wound

squeeze squeeze strongly — high the bellies and infuse the plants' acid

the feldspaar he in your interior speed angel mac mac mechanic

O mechanic of necrologies

she throws at her husband's head a bowl of vitriol

let’s go toward other meeeeeteeeooorooooloooogies

in Cambodia for example

while the sun glides tangent of the atmosphere

in poupaganda I glide aureola ganda ganda gandapalalou

skating leading to the zoo of heedless mammoths

[Note: This is one of Tzara's dada-ized workings, from which his own poem, "Ange" (Angel), is derived.]


Pierre Joris’s translations are from Tzara’s Poèmes Negres, gathered from ethnographic sources and announced for publication, but never published, circa 1916. The complete Joris versions appear in his book, 4 x 1 (translations from Rilke, Tzara, Jean-Pierre Duprey & Habib Tengour), recently published by Inconundrum Press.

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