Poetry Issue 21

ISSUE 21 : JANUARY-JUNE 2015

Raymond John de Borja

What Happens to Emotions if Collage

Today is not July 26, 1972. But we are with it presently, where “Time is thin
around the cause and dense around the effect,” where On Kawara quotes
the Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kozyrev,
when today is Dec. 28, 2011 and we forget present and past,
and persist only in July 26, 1972.

This occurs on Dec 28, 2011.
This occurs in July 26, 1972.

This in January –

A period of intense and demanding work begins with the letter J in an elongated, white, Gill Sans. If a painting is not finished by the end of the day, he destroys it.

Or a period of intense and demanding work begins, and is interrupted by oneself: “Now I have arrived at a brilliant means of articulation in the field of reproducing nature,” Kurt Schwitters writes to Helma Schwitters. “You see, it is another that paints – I am not he.”


On Oct 8, 1983, while Schwitters is living as a refugee in London, the first Merzbau is destroyed by a bomb, in an air raid over Hannover, Germany.

On Dec 16, 1951, a second Merzbau, constructed from scratch, in Lysaker, Oslo, is completely consumed by fire.

While Schwitters does not refer to the cottage in Hjertoya as a Merzbau, it too is destroyed from neglect and by extreme weather conditions.

On Kawara destroys a painting of Nov.30.197

On Kawara destroys a painting of 30 Nov 198

In August of 1947, Kurt Schwitters begins work on a third Merzbau, which is left unfinished, and significantly damaged after his death.

“It was my prayer for the victorious end to the war, for once more peace emerged victorious again,” Kurt writes to Helma.


Dear Jean,

In attempting to erase an object’s original reference, its eigengift, Kurt Schwitters breaks things that are not broken, and fixes things that are, then glues and nails them together, and are Merz.

What happens to emotions if collage propels our chance meeting? Dear, Darling, We find us echoed in a letter.

Dear Jean, I write to you and illegibly in this pastoral are two persons.

Where we find a limit in the thinking of space-time as a reality, or as an abstraction.


On July 4, 1968, On Kawara sees Jovita Perez Franco, Luis Nishizawa, Adela Miazga;

Magdalena Hashimoto, Luis Urias, Alfred Frederic Wyttenbach, also on July 4, 1968.

Dear Jean, I write to you and illegibly, we are two pastorals in this person. Persons are refrains.

We know this from On Kawara’s “I Met” where he lists, every day, the names of people he meets from 1968 to 1979.

In a letter to Josef Albers, Helma Schwitters writes: “I do not know whether you know we are no longer allowed to exhibit abstract things here; nor can we show them to anyone, for you don’t know if your closest friend will betray you or not.”

In “I Met,” the presence of Hiroko Hiraoko appears on many days. Helma visits Kurt in Oslo, on June 2, 1939, and this is the last time they meet.


After years of demanding work building the Cathedral of Erotic Misery, Schwitters turns to his friends. “The Big E is finished. All that remains are details in a few places and for that I need material and this is why I am turning to you.”

In Kawara, a coherent, narrative, unfolding of a life is made legible through the friends he writes to or meets. A friend receives a postcard that says “I got up” or “I am still alive”

Such that one feels a limit in representations of space-time when thinking of Schwitters and Kawara, and one finds this limit in another person.

In Hiroko Hiraoka and Helma Schwitters.

What is missing in Wilhelm Redemann’s photographs of a Merzbau, which is the basis for the reconstructions by Peter Bisseger, is conversation among friends.

In some paradoxes, the limit is when friendship happens. Such that friendship is radiating space.