The Cabaret Voltaire nightclub was launched in Zurich in February 1916 by an international group of poets and artists, including those mentioned on this program: Raoul Haussman, Kurt Schwitters, and El Lissitzky, who laid out its dynamic typography. Its programming, including the matinee advertised on this leaflet, included not only experimental poetry, lectures, improvisational dance, and music, but a variety of Dada pranks from which the audience was not immune.
The event advertised on this flyer included a reading of Schwitters’s poem “Anna Blume.” Originally published in August 1919, the poem incorporated fragments of found text and presented the perspectives of multiple narrators, bringing Schwitters both fame and criticism. Some appreciated its absurdity, while others found it to be pure nonsense. Still others considered its themes of love and longing sentimental and saccharine. Schwitters’s primary concern was with form rather than meaning. “Elements of poetry are letters, syllables, words, sentences,” he said. “Poetry arises from the interaction of those elements. Meaning is important only if it employed as one such factor. I play off sense against nonsense. I prefer nonsense, but that is a purely personal matter.”