Here are a few quotes from "Surrealestatement" (Queen Street Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4, 2005), Ray Ellenwood's excellent review of the Mercury Press anthology Surreal Estate - 13 Canadian poets under the influence (Mercury Press, 2004). I'm mostly quoting the bits that relate to the Recordists here. The whole review is well worth reading, though. I've included a link at the end.

This quote doesn't relate directly to The Recordists but certainly speaks to our attitude/approach:

Although café society and concerted action have been important in the history and definition of Surrealism, the movement was also identified by the kind of visual/verbal experimentation it practised, with its emphasis on chance, dreams, automatism, collaboration - all contributing to lack of rational, authorial control. This does not depend necessarily on group action or public statement, and there was, may even still be, a conviction that works of art challenging readily accepted conventions, reason, and "reality" (is reality television, in its own way, equally as oppressive as the worst propaganda machine?) could actually have social impact. It would be hard to find many people now actually suggesting that irrationalist works may bring about social and political revolution, as the Surrealists did in the twenties and thirties, but there are some who act on the conviction (often with a sardonic awareness of staking their standard of living on it) that Surrealist-oriented work is still valid, still necessary in a world addicted to mind-numbing banality.

Here Ray quotes a section of my bio:

WILLIAM A. DAVISON - "it should be noted that [ these examples of 'Recordist word art' ] are the result of a fairly pure form of automatic writing and are presented here in exactly the same manner as they were written, without editing or censoring. No claims are made to artistic merit; these works, like all Recordist works, are merely the recorded results of certain creative processes." 1

And the footnote to above (leaving in the spelling mistakes):

1 Davidson and his partner Sherri Lynn Higgins, working in many genres, call themselves Recordists, acknowledging their connection to Surrealism. For the record, in 1971 I had the privilege of speaking with the painter André Masson who mentioned in passing, how surprised, even shocked he was when, writing the collaborative Martinique charmeuse de serpents with Breton as they were on their way to the United States during the war, he saw Breton actually editing his automatic texts. It was a contentious issue at the time.

Ray talks about my writing in the following excerpts:

Les champs magnétiques, published in 1919 by André Breton and Philippe Soupault, is usually considered the first Surrealist work, and it contains a variety of texts, from long prose passages to fairly regular lined poems. The Paris literary review Change published a set of marginal notes that Breton wrote in his copy of Les champs magnétiques in 1930. The notes are fascinating because Breton asserts that what he wanted to do was write a "dangerous" book. He distinguishes the passages written by Soupault and himself, he points out sections he was proud of, and, most important, he distinguishes five speeds of writing and explains how varying the speed can result in different "sparks". "[I]t's undeniable," he notes, "that deciding to write very quickly or a little more slowly could influence the character of what was said. It seems, in fact, that the decision is crucial because an a priori choice of subject is not absolutely incompatible with a pace highly accelerated beyond the normal writing speed, but one can't push the pedal to the floor indefinitely without completely destroying any sense of subject. It may be that the movement from subject to object, which is at the heart of every modern artistic preoccupation, cannot be more dramatically and concretely shown than in this process." 2
The Davison selections in Surreal Estate suggest to me this experimentation with speed of writing. There's a big difference, for example, between the breath-length lines of "A fly for a doctor" ("This stinging / And the disease it occupies / Under my chin / I fly tomorrow / For a doctor / Or a dog of volcanic ash . . . .") and the breathless, apparently high-speed gush of "Yesterday I think":
The helping hand launch pad lift office grab baggage stop go backwards Neoist lunch shit package go to the weird railway station and be inverted over truck cap laughpad you can't tell me to go pull the wool over your eyes said backwards man to the Penelope calliope organ grinder finder weather veins bulging in gray sky demons eyes in the back of my truck I said to the mother assistant that very day she wore her blue nylon windmaker and it windy it really windy too you said I could look for brass hooks real tarnish varnished bananas cabanas for tune fortune in the room of gloom boom he goes crack back to the black sack for the clap trap rat carcass rotting in my teeth crack snacks for big mutant bastards hullabaloo glue.

And footnote #2:

2"En marge des Champs Magnétiques," Change 7 (1970), 10.


Ray Ellenwood, "Surrealestatement" and other texts