Poet or artist? No one more than Jean Arp, so acutely defies categorization. With him, no one can resolve the issue. The poem, though less immediately perceptible as it may be, isn't in the background – certainly not from Arp's point of view. He attained, with an intensity equal to that of collage, relief or sculpture, a decisive region of interior depth. If Arp was an artist and a poet from the beginning, he was a unique poet, able to express himself in both German and French. His own position places him there. Arp was Alsatian, and therefore neither totally French nor totally German, but in fact, potentially both. He used both languages as mother tongues, treating neither like an acquired form of expression. However, with French as the language of family life and German the language of academia, the former would always seem fresher to him, and more favorable to surprise. His contribution is as stunning as it is simple. Arp appeared as the most accomplished of the double-creators, who were largely claimed by the fine arts sphere, even if in Arp's case, very quickly things seemed less simple. It is rather significant that even while studying the decorative arts, Arp published his first poems in a review. Attracted by artistic expression, he anticipated original forms and joined up with movements that incarnated rupture, including Der Blaue Reiter and Der Sturm. He paid careful attention to the dual voice of Kandinsky, whose compositions and poems both comforted Arp. During his stay in Paris in 1914-1915, Arp frequented artistic and literary avant-garde circles, the other pole of his pre-Dada steps. In Zurich, when Dada was establishing and finding a name for itself, Arp was one of its pillars.
Yves Peyré, 'Jean Arp / Poetry', translated from the French text, published in the catalogue Dada (Editions du Centre Pompidou : Paris 2005) 100-101. The translation was part of the Press Kit, published by MNAM Centre Pompidou 2005, p. 75-76 [Courtesy MNAM Centre Pompidou].
Cover Hans Arp Die Wolkenpumpe. Die Silbergäule; 52/53 (Paul Steegeman Verlag : Hannover 1920) [Collection Zentralbibliothek Zürich]