1. Or Picasso himself: “history’s bottom of the heart which has us by the throat neither more nor less.” (10.2.37) And again: “That death could fall from heaven on so many, right in the middle of rushed life, had a great meaning for me.” (Interview with Simone Gauthier, 1967)
2. “Critics have said that I was affected by Surrealist poetry as well as by family problems. Absolute nonsense! Basically I’ve always written the same way. ... Poems about the postman or the priest.” (Picasso to Roberto Otero, in Richardson I.107)
3. “There were many books in his home ... Detective or adventure novels side by side with our best poets: Sherlock Holmes and the publications of Nick Carter or Buffalo Bill with Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé. The French eighteenth century, which he liked very much, was represented by Diderot, Rousseau, and Rétif de la Bretonne. ... Thanks to Rimbaud and Mallarmé, it is certain that Picasso’s work owes something to literature.” (Maurice Reynal, 1922) And Christine Piot, citing this and much else adds: “As we see, his literary culture was most eclectic.”
4. “Picasso, after reading from a sketchbook containing poems in Spanish, says to me: ‘Poetry—but everything you find in these poems one can also find in my paintings. So many painters today have forgotten poetry in their paintings—and it’s the most important thing: poetry.’” (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, 1959)
5. But another account, decades later: “Picasso once told a friend that long after his death his writing would gain recognition and encyclopedias would say: ‘Picasso, Pablo Ruiz—Spanish poet who dabbled in painting, drawing and sculpture.’” (Midguel Acoca, “Picasso Turns a Busy 90 Today,” International Herald Tribune, 25 October 1971)
6. “After a swim, on the beach at Golfe-Juan, we are talking about Chinese characters (écriture). A Chinese friend is drawing Chinese characters on the sand. Picasso had amused himself before by drawing his own ideograms in the sand: bulls, goats, faces of peace. He is fascinated by the interplay of Chinese characters, the strengths and economy of their construction. ‘If I were born Chinese,’ says he, ‘I would not be a painter but a writer. I’d write my pictures.’” (Claude Roy, 1956)
7. And further: “’The work of madmen,’he told me, ‘is always based on a law that has ceased to operate. Madmen are men who have lost their imagination. Their manual memory belongs to a realm of rigid mechanism. It is an infernal machine that breaks down and not an intelligence that progresses and constantly creates in order to progress. One cannot compare poems resulting from automatic writing with those of the insane. The work of a madman is a dead work; the poetry it contains is like the ghost which refuses to give up its corpse.’”
8. A fuller exploration of the nomadics theme in Picasso’s poetry follows this introduction.
9. The initial perfromance/reading took place (March 19, 1944) at Michel Leiris’s place in Paris, with “actors” who included the Leirises (Michel and Louise), Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Raymond Queneau, Jean Aubier, and Dora Maar. The director was Albert Camus and the musical accompaniment was by Georges Hugnet.
10. “Painting is never prose,” he declared to Françoise Gilot, “it is poetry, it is written in verse with plastic rhymes [...] painting is poetry.
11. “A few attempts at illegible writing or writings with ‘unknown words’ appeared in 1938 and 1949.” (Christine Piot)
12. “writing in his small notebook —elbows sticking out one more than the other over the table’s edge — the left hand holding the already written page the other on the paper — the point of the pencil here — where I press it” (3 november XXXV)
13. In my own case, a special acknowledgement must be made to Manuel Brito, who looked over all my translations from the Spanish and kept me more on the mark than I might otherwise have been. (J.R.)