treid90 asked: I really feel as though I could break into this style of writing comfortably but whenever I complete something that I feel is appropriately absurd--it then feels pretentious and ill-guided. I don't think I understand it and it frustrates me because its so entertaining to read. Does one write this intentionally or unintentionally?
Great question. I appreciate your genuine curiosity. Don’t feel bad—you are by no means the first writer to be befuddled by surrealism’s call to irrational juxtaposition. Nor are you far off the scent by scrutinizing and doubting the quality of the results.
Two things. First, commit to writing automatically. You are detecting pretentiousness in your writing because you are self-conscious, which reflects from the normal, Romantic model of writing we are trained to believe in. Automatism says discard that. Write unselfconsciously. The price you pay for this freedom is that you don’t get to claim credit for the results—or at least not in the same way. Automatism is the opposite of intentionality and control. This is why I promote the use of rules, prompts, seed texts and chance methods. Arbitrary parameters limit your ability to control the writing. And then you don’t have to worry about it being pretentious, because it wasn’t you, in your subjectivity, writing the poem. You are only a vehicle for language. Accept this, and you are poised to be a surrealist.
Second, trust in contradiction. If you’re seeing the results as pretentious and ill-guided, it is likely because you’re reading for continuity. Read (/write) for discontinuity. The disruptions, contradictions, juxtapositions and strange incongruities are where the sublimity of the text happens. Breton gave this concept a special term, the “marvelous.” If you know you are trying to open yourself to the marvelous during the writing process, you’re less likely to censor these interesting contradictions out of your writing.
More could be said (about revision, “authenticity,” etc.), but these are the basic and essential starting point.
Good luck! And feel free to submit the results!