Encoded documents and images are derived from manuscripts in the Papers of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in Special Collections at the University of Maryland, College Park, Libraries. In addition, individual pages or leaves of manuscripts are identified by the corresponding reel and frame numbers of the microfilm edition of the Freytag-Lorinhoven Papers.
Published by Tanya Clement.Office of Digital Collections and Research (DCR), University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven's poetry is printed here with the support of the University of Maryland Libraries. Permission to reproduce images of Freytag-Loringhoven's manuscripts has also been generously granted by the libraries.
This poem and manuscript drafts are available from this site for demonstration purposes only. Though the intellectual property of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven is in the public domain, all annotations and editorial commentary are copyrighted. They may not be reproduced without explicit permission from the copyright holder. For copyright information, please contact Tanya Clement.
DTD constructed from TEI P5 poetry base with tagsets for parallel segmentation, linking, figures, analysis, transcr, textcrit.
Line breaks have not been preserved in prose sections in order to facilitate parallel segmentation procedures.
An element of chance that depends on audience participation is highest in poetry that uses more abstract or non-referential elements. The reader is essentially given license to read the poem in different ways, a point that is highlighted when considering Irene Gammel’s very different reading of “Matter Level Perspective” in which the form is a body with a head and the spirals resemble sperm-like lines instead of cathode rays. The interplay of scientific and creative forces in this poem, however, also point to themes inspired by Freytag-Loringhoven’s fellow Dadaists. For Dadaists and modernists alike, science and technology functioned in opposition to the elements of chance that were associated with creative impulse. Indeed, technological precision is at the heart of Duchamp’s Large Glass, for which he took meticulous notes on the mathematical and geometric dimensions of the piece. In writing math equations for her poem "Hell’s Wisdom," the Baroness wrote to Barnes that the poem is "cristall [sic]" in the "conciseness" of its "arithmetic." Likewise, the Baroness was interested in precision that science and technology afforded.
"Matter Level Perspective" appears much like a diagram meant to represent moving parts in which words such as "immured," "craft," and "spirit" are simply points on an unbroken line in motion. Here, the words are used to emphasize the movement of the lines much like in the machine drawings that Picabia drew for 391 and the Zurich magazine Dada in 1919 and in a special Picabia edition of The Little Review in 1922, in addition to the sketches that Marcel Duchamp used in his notes for The Large Glass. In "Matter Level Perspective," the Baroness uses sketches that resemble an early Cathode X-Ray tube. The poem begins with "matter" from the "Matter Level Perspective" and continues through the coils or "spiral" of "life" and "art" before coming together as "spirit" and "craft," but then the break down of these essential elements into their particle and electromagnetic state is the result of the poems movement through the "cathedral," which functions not only as a play on the word "cathode" and as a comment on the negative affect that institutionalized religion (symbolized by the institution’s edifice itself) has on the spirit and therefore one’s craft but also on the "catholic" rigor of the scientific method for breaking a human down into her particle parts. At the end of the poem, we find the word "immured" trapped and contained in a "circle container" as waves that are still embodied within the circle, but are disembodied from their original "perspective" or form and in danger of being released and therefore disintegrated into the world.
The first page of the first version has the number "2" written in the upper right-hand corner as if it the "final version" had been sent somewhere. In any case, it does nto exist in the manuscript archive. Perhaps, the Baroness sent the poem to Djuna Barnes. It is mentioned in the following letter to Barnes, dated between 1924 and 1927:
. . . WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT: "PERSPECTIVE" - "PERPETUAL MOTION" - AS DRAWINGS? I DO NOT MEAN AS "ART" - IT IS NOT ART - IT IS SIMPLE MATTER OF FACT ILLUSTRATIONS TO MAKE MEANING PLAIN - I LIKED THAT COOL MATTER -OF - FACTNESS ABOUT IT - AND THOUGH ALSO THE TWO DESIGNS IN THEIR PLAINNESS _AS_ DESIGNS - INTERESTING I COULD MAKE THOSE DESIGNS AS THEY _ARE_ - _MUCH_ _MORE_ DELICATE IN _LINE_ - BUT - I HAVE NOT THE MEANS - IN PAPER AND INK - AND SHOULD NEED A CIRCLE. EVEN THESE I SUCCEEDED AFTER MANY BAD TRIALS. DO YOU LIKE THAT "PERSPECTIVE" OF NEARER CONCERN ABOUT FRANCE AND AMERICA? TRUE IT IS - AND NEVER SHOULD I HAVE KNOWN IT -WITH MY TRADITION HAZED EYES - FOR HAVING RETURNED _HERE_! SHALL THAT _CLEAR SIGHT_ COST MY OWN SELF? WHY -FOR _WHAT_ IF _I_ GO AWAY WITH IT? HAPPEN THIS WILL - ANYWAY OF COURSE - BUT WHY MUST _I_ _LEARN_ THAT WIDSOM - AND PERISH FOR IT? x OH DUNA PLEASE I GO IN A CIRCLE - BECAUSE I CAN NOT LET _ROAM_ MY IOMAGINATION FREE - IN JOY! . . . . [UMD reel 2, frame 124]