Who Knows: Poems and Aphorisms by Francis Picabia
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Madras. Hanuman Books. 1950. First English Edition, 1968. Small softcover with embossed paper jacket. Book Condition: Fine, tanning over time. Jacket Condition: Fine, slight shelf wear. 172pp. (cover ill. in colour).
Picabia's little book is a profound series of poems and aphorisms, bound together under the theme "Who Knows". As this title sets the stage for doubt, the book-object plays with the reader's first impressions: judging its size (it's tiny) and decoration (gold embossing, impressive type), one might assume it to be pocket prayerbook, or some handy jokes, or a photo flip-book of this man on a bicycle, the wind in his dog's ears. This uncertainty hints at the central paradox of Picabia's chapbook, in which earnest poems appear under chapters titled like, "TO SUSTAIN MY REPUTATION FOR NOT BEING SERIOUS." But Picabia's poems ring with cheeky honesty, in so little words and without permission––masterfully playing out that internal contest between a writer and their work, what one can and can't control.
Trans. by Remy Hall.
Cover Photo: "Francis Picabia with his new bike and Sizou", Golfe-Huan, 1940.
Pub. and Ed. by Raymond Foye & Francesco Clemente.