More Surrealist Fun

I love the Surrealists! Sometimes you just need a good laugh.

Another literary game of chance:

The first player writes the opening of a sentence beginning with “If” or “When” and then conceals it. The second player finishes the sentence in the conditional or future tense.

This game, also invented by the French Surrealists in the early decades of the 20th Century, is referred to as CONDITIONALS in the book Surrealist Games, compiled and presented by Alastair Brotchie and edited by Mel Gooding, 1993.

Here’s what happened when Sabine Miller bravely agreed to jump into the surreal swimming pool with me once again:


If popsicles were used as currency
clarity could be bought but not sold

If Dracula went through menopause
lines would succumb to music

If shadows would just get on with it
a patriot would kneel to the sea

Michelle Tennison,  Sabine Miller (2017)


If a telephone could bleed language
dogs will finally laugh out loud

If a rosebug could engineer a rose
flowers would know where to go

If we are ships with bananas as rudders
doctors would stop daydreaming

Sabine Miller,  Michelle Tennison (2017)

Every time you grab at love you will lose a snowflake of your memory -Leonard Cohen


What makes lovers leave?
          Sound becomes a scattering of birds

Question Paul Miller,  Answer Michelle Tennison (2014)


Is love
the answer
          for the frozen inlet
          a moon made
          of swans

Question Sabine Miller,  Answer Michelle Tennison (2015)

“Reality is Fabricated Out of Desire” — Man Ray


Will this dream ever end?
          I bet heaven is also what you make of it.

Question Christopher Herold,  Answer Michelle Tennison (2017)


Fairy dust, plus
a little wind
makes what?
          At extreme magnification it remains star-shaped.

Question Sabine Miller,  Answer Michelle Tennison  (2015)


Non-linear, Non-ordinary Sabine Miller

I count West Coast artist and poet Sabine Miller among my close friends, even though we’ve never actually met in person. A few years back we played numerous long-distance rounds of  The Question and Answer Game, and it was thrilling.

Sabine is a master of non-ordinary juxtapositions and connections within poetry, as evidenced by her most recent collection Branch to Finch with Ornithopter Press. She is one of the most non-linear thinkers I know, so playing The Q&A Game with her is quite a ride:

Are you awake?

          Russian nesting dolls


Does the ocean have a soul?
          Dark matter


What is the dream of the ruby-throated hummingbird?
          And you, too, are wild
          in the oak’s dream


When will I be loved?
          The wind is so gentle today


Questions Michelle Tennison,  Answers Sabine Miller (2015)


Which brings me to the thought that there is something really different going on here with this game. On occasion it can feel quite personal, even healing.

Perhaps it’s because, due to the element of chance, we feel brave enough to ask some personally significant questions we might not otherwise choose to ask.

And there is something more. 

To comprehend these Q&A connections we often have to find meaning that isn’t obvious by means of logic alone.  We need to engage other channels of perception. For me it is an intuitive process that seems to work best when we engage the heart,  because the heart can recognize truth even when the rational mind can’t quite get there.  And, by the way, it is into just this very territory that I gladly entrust Sabine Miller to be my guide.

Seriously, why am I here?
          the day lily
          in its splendor

Question Michelle Tennison,  Answer Sabine Miller  (2015)


Where do we fly to when we fly in our dreams?
          More of something,
          silence, more
          of this

Question Michelle Tennison,  Answer Sabine Miller   (2015)

A New Truth

The strangely beautiful juxtapositions engendered by The Question and Answer Game can, when successful, highlight the revolutionary gifts of Surrealism. The rational mind is sidestepped. Mental habit is challenged. Our social conditioning is no longer in control. Even our personal story and world view can be called into question in order to make sense of  a radically new correlation of ideas. We aren’t really sure how it is possible, but somehow this thing confronting us just feels true in a new way.

What is the moment of conception?
          Lost to her breath given willingly

Question Michelle Tennison,  Answer Chris Hudson (2010)

What am I doing in the other dimensions?
          The perfume of strangers

Question Michelle Tennison, Answer Sabine Miller (2015)

How will I know you in the afterlife?
          The heart outside my body

Q&A Session with Mary Ellen Binkele and Michelle Tennison (2014)