“While most people approached the postwar years as a time of reconstruction, Isou wanted to push the destruction of culture still further. His trans-historical theory of culture took the will to create as its primary axiom. Not Marxist necessity, not Sartrean freedom, but creation was the highest form of human activity. Creation takes us from the spit of unconsciousness to the eternity of a consciously created history, for while the artist creates within history, the act of creation touches the eternal. All forms—aesthetic and social—move from a stage of amplification to one of decomposition. In the amplification stage, a form grows to incorporate whole aspects of existence. The amplified form shapes life and makes it meaningful. During the period of decomposition, forms turn on themselves and become self-referential. Forms fall from grace and from history. As the form decomposes, so does the life to which it once gave shape. Form becomes unreal, and language becomes tame: “Tarzan learns in his father’s book to call tigers cats.”

Isou applied this theory to all forms, from art to cinema, but poetry had a central place, for he was interested in both the history of poetry and the poetics of history. In modern French poetry, Victor Hugo took the amplification stage as far as it could go. Its decomposition then advanced, phase by phase, through Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and Tzara. Dada rendered all existing forms worthless. Dada was conscious decomposition. Isou’s self-appointed task was to complete the reduction of the word to the letter, through a deliberate chiseling of poetry down to its bare elements. By creating a new alphabet, a new language would be possible, which would reconstruct, amplify, and retell the story of the world. Isou’s mission was to gather disciples for an all-out attack on spent forms, and the creation in their place of a fresh language.”