A Hymn to the Machine of my Body

Tytus Czyżewski, ‘A Hymn to the Machine of My Body’ Jednodńuwka Futurystuw
First published: 1921


telephone of my brain
three three three
one two three
machine of my body
function turn

Extract translated by Juliette Bretan

Telephones are certainly not the only symbol of modern life to feature in Tytus Czyżewski’s futurist poem/electro-anatomical diagram ‘Hymn do maszyny mego ciała’ [‘A Hymn to the Machine of My Body’]—but the reference to telephone equipment in the last stanza symbolises the new-found relationship between machine and body in the modern world.

The full poem consists of four stanzas—comprising individual words and phrases about parts of the body and machinery—which are arranged around a vertical line in the centre of the piece. At first glance, this appears to be dissection, or dissociation, in action: the words splay out, amputated from their forms and from each other – and although there are references to connecting things throughout, such as ‘wire’ and ‘coils’, the poem seems to lend itself to a more staccato than free-flowing reading.

But the text never fully fragments, with the words still laced together by the tight mise-en-page—centred around that vertical line, which acts as a magnet for the fragmented stanzas, as well as implying a sense of progression. And where else could the line lead, except straight to a telephone? Here, finally, the poem reaches a crescendo, as physically, verbally, and futuristically, the machine and the body come together.

by Juliette Bretan