William S Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Sinclair Beiles, Gregory Corso
Minutes to Go
Paris, France: Two Cities Editions, 1960
63 pp., 21 x 13.5 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown
The first book of cut-up poetry, by the artist who originated the process (Gysin), the author who popularized it (Burroughs), the South African beat poet who later helped Burroughs edit Naked Lunch, and the reluctant Gregory Corso. The slim volume serves as part poetry, part manifesto.
The first copy above is signed by three of the four authors, and additionally by the book's publisher, Jean Fanchette. The second is autographed by Gysin and Burroughs. Neither is signed by Corso, who did not attend the book's launch party at Gaït Frogé's English Bookshop on the rue de Seine, and who forcefully disassociated himself from the cut-up technique.
In a post-script to the publication, he repudiated his brief flirtation with the approach :"the poetry I have written is from the soul, not the dictionary," and "if it can be destroyed or bettered by the cut-up method, then it is not poetry I care for." Corso also noted that “Tzara did it all before.”
He was referring to Tristan Tzara's To make a Dadaist Poem (1920), which reads:
"Take a newspaper. Take a pair of scissors. Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem. Cut out the article. Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag. Shake it gently. Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag. Copy conscientiously. The poem will be like you. And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar."
Tzara agreed with Corso. The Dadaist met with Gysin shortly after the book was published, in the early sixties. Tzara was himself in his late sixties, and the last few years of his life. He demanded to know why Gysin and "his young friends" insisted on revisiting ideas that were covered in the 1920's. Gysin reportedly answered that they felt the process wasn't fully explored at the time. An angered Tzara replied "Nothing has advanced since Dada! How could it ?!?".
A second edition of the book was released in 1968, though even the original can be found for as little as a hundred dollars (somewhat surprisingly, given its historical significance). Copies in pristine condition, and copies like the above which are signed, are listed for between one and four thousand dollars.