A closer look at Karawane

Hugo Ball interested me because he was crucial to the avant-garde movement. I also study linguistics, so the idea of phonetic poetry intrigued me. Is Karawane gibberish? What does it all mean?

jolifanto bambla o falli bambla
großiga m’pfa habla horem
egiga goramen
higo bloiko russula huju
hollaka hollala
anlogo bung
blago bung blago bung
bosso fataka
ü üü ü
schampa wulla wussa olobo
hej tatta gorem
eschige zunbada
wulubu ssubudu uluwu ssubudu
kusa gauma

Part of the idea of the Dada movement was to make something out of nothing. Ball’s “Karawane” would require interpretation by the reader for meaning, because there are no real words; just nonsense. This type of phonetic poetry encompasses the exact idea of the avant-garde genre. Poetry is commonly considered a written form of art, Ball makes it verbal and phonetic. This displays the experimental style of the movement.

When listening to clips on youtube, I don’t find any meaning with the jibberish. With the rhythm and musical nature, some notice”the trumpetings and slow movements of a caravan of elephants” (Hopkins, 6). This interpretation would create some meanings behind the non sense. However, Dadaism as a movement didn’t want any meaning in their art. Hopkins states, “Both movements prioritized the poetic principle and downplayed the concept of art, endorsing the avant-garde wish to merge art and life” (28). I don’t think Ball intended for his piece to have meaning, but he intended to create a piece that dismantled the enculturated idea of art. Is Ball’s piece here, anti-art?

After researching, I found two interesting points. The first, people use software and binary code to digitally analyze this poem (see movingpeoms.com link at bottom of page). The second point is that we hear Ball’s Piece as a translation. Translation could affect how things are said and what they mean (if anything).

“jolifanto bambla o falli bambla.” 

These are words in the first line of the work.There is speculation that the sound of these words represent that idea of the elephant caravan, as noted in the title of the work. In my opinion, I think that this was more of a statement piece for Ball. I don’t think it is about a caravan of elephants makes that sound. I think these words have no meaning and it is a representation of the power of words and how they are interpreted. This brings up the question of author intentions vs. reader interpretation, who is in control?

The fact that we even thought of what his work could be, means that he succeeded in spreading his ideology. The simple idea of “sound” poetry was innovative and if it is Ball’s goal was to go against the pre-defined rules, he certainly did, and gained a following while doing so.





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