Mina Loy: Taking in an itinerate surrealist

Insel panted into my place all undone, despairingly waving a sheet of blue paper.

“Das blaue Papier,” he articulated hoarsely, ducking his head as if the Papier was one of a shower of such sheets bombarding him in his dash for escape.

“Something the matter? Have a porto. Sit on a chair. Whatever it is—out with it!” […]

Well, it turned out that the blue paper was a summons for rent involving the evacuation of his studio.

Insel’s system in such emergency was this:

Never to pay. To work himself into an individualistic kind of epilepsy whenever served with a summons or notified to appear in court to explain why the money was not forthcoming. Computing illusory accounts to find the exact sum he could promise to pay by a certain date, knowing full well he would not be able to pay anything at all, in order to scare himself into fits awaiting the fatal appointment.

Now one could watch him following the path of pursuit at an easy canter, having proved he had something definite to flee from.

His role was helplessness personified. So here he was without a roof. In spite of the ceiling a pitiless rain seemed to be falling upon him already.

Whenever I have seen poor people asleep on stone seats in the snow, like complementary colors in the eyes, there arise in my mind unused ballrooms and vacationers’ apartments whose central heating warms a swarming absence. To the pure logician this association of ideas might suggest a possible trans-occupation of cubic space, while mere experience will prove that the least of being alive is transacted in space, so much does sheer individuality exceed it; that providing a refuge for a single castaway brings results more catastrophic than a state of siege.

So I kept saying to myself, “Remember, you don’t care a damn what happens to this thin man…” 

Read more in Little Star Weekly


Poet and painter Mina Loy’s life spanned the avant gardes of several generations and continents. When barely in her twenties, having abandoned her education to study painting, she took up with Gertrude and Leo Stein’s salon in Paris, soon decamping to join the Futurists in Florence and then the Dadaists in New York.  Throughout her life she continued to experiment with novel forms in art and literature and reject the comforts of the establishment. In writing she is best known for her highly unconventional poems, collected in Lost Lunar Baedecker, but for many decades she labored on a novel, Insel, based on her friendship with the surrealist painter Richard Oelze and featured over the next few weeks in Little Star Weekly. It was never published during her lifetime and appears now as part of Melville House’s excellent Neversink Library. (Loy had a walk-on in the account of the sensation surrounding Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain at the Exhibition of the Society of Independents in New York in 1917 by Beatrice Wood that we featured in our March 14 issue, and many of her friends show up in Max Jacob’s Paris in our current print issue.) The Neversink edition includes as an afterward an archival chapter depicting the author in conversation with her skeptical daughters, which invites us to wonder, poignantly, whether the narrator’s anxiety over whether her houseguest was a hapless vagrant or a rare spirit might not apply also to herself …







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