Palindromic poems and related wordplay

April 1, 2014

As a child I was very taken with anagrams and palindromes and similar wordplay. The interest waned or mutated over the years, but not fully, so when I stumbled upon Howard W. Bergerson’s book Palindromes and Anagrams (Dover Publications, 1973) in Charlie Byrne’s bookshop, available for all of €2, I quickly picked it up.

palindromes and anagrams - howard w bergerson, book coverThe book contains most or all of the well-known palindromes, like Madam, I’m Adam, Able was I ere I saw Elba, Live not on evil, and (maybe most famously) A man, a plan, a canal – Panama; to which, incidentally, J. A. Lindon wrote a parody: A dog, a pant, a panic in a Patna pagoda. Other enjoyable one-liners include:

Drab as a fool, as aloof as a bard.

Hell! A spacecraft farce caps all, eh?

Did I do, O God, did I as I said I’d do? Good, I did!

I saw desserts; I’d no lemons, alas no melon. Distressed was I.

The next three invited combination into a cryptic mini-narrative:

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The glamour of grammar-day haiku

March 12, 2014

In a March 4th post on the use of amn’t in Ireland, I mentioned that it was National Grammar Day – or as I think of it, International Grammar Day.

Among the traditional events on the day is a grammar haiku contest, carried out mostly on Twitter and won this year by Nancy Friedman. Mark Allen has helpfully collected the entries, which are always fun to browse. These three are mine:

Etymology
Hints at a hidden truth: the
Glamour of grammar.

Grammar essentials
go way back: school just refines
the work of infants.

Editors around
the world have many more than
Forty words for “Phew!”

The glamour of grammar echoes a certain T-shirt, the second is an old refrain for anyone scolded into thinking their native grammar is “bad”, and the third plays on the prototypical snowclone of Eskimos having forty words for snow. (Or even six billion.)

Comments in haiku
Are especially welcome,
But don’t feel obliged.


Book spine poem: Antarctica

February 18, 2014

A new book spine poem (aka bookmash):

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Antarctica

Skating to Antarctica,
Desolation island –
A place apart where
The wasteland ends;
Soul on ice into
The silent land
The other side of you.

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stan carey - book spine poem - antarctica

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I planned to include The White South but didn’t find a satisfying spot for it. Thanks to the authors: Jenny Diski, Patrick O’Brian, Dervla Murphy, Theodore Roszak, Eldridge Cleaver, Paul Broks, and Salley Vickers; and to Nina Katchadourian for the idea.

Many more in the bookmash archive: have a browse, or make your own.


Book spine poem: A Pagan Place

December 7, 2013

A new bookmash. It has been weeks since I made one.

[click to enlarge]

stan carey - bookmash book spine poetry - a pagan place

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A Pagan Place

The idea of prehistory, a pagan place –
Land of milk and honey, the white goddess;
Cows, pigs, wars and witches,
Women, fire, and dangerous things.

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Again this one is top-heavy with non-fiction – I tend to notice the ratio only after putting them together. See my previous one on language evolution for stats on fiction vs. nonfiction.

Thanks to the authors: Glyn Daniel, Edna O’Brien, Bríd Mahon, Robert Graves, Marvin Harris, and George Lakoff; and to Nina Katchadourian for the idea.

For more like this, see my archive of book spine poems (25 at last count), which includes links to other people’s. If you want to join in the fun, do – send me a photo or put a link in the comments. Remarks about, say, my inconsistent use of the serial comma are also welcome.


Yan tan tethera pethera pimp — an old system for counting sheep

November 27, 2013

If any lightfoot Clod Dewvale was to hold me up, dicksturping me and marauding me of my rights to my onus, yan, tyan, tethera, methera, pimp, I’d let him have my best pair of galloper’s heels in the creamsourer.
—James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

Though I grew up in the countryside, I’m not of direct farming stock, which may be why I learned of yan tan tethera only quite recently (courtesy of @vencut2 on Twitter). It’s an old counting system used traditionally by shepherds in parts of the UK, and also in knitting and fishing and so on, or by children for their own amusement.

stan carey - herd of sheep in Ireland, spring 2009 - yan tan tethera

Metheradik (=14) sheep in the west of Ireland (photo by Stan Carey)

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Book spine poem: a language evolution special

October 24, 2013

Someone once told me it was harder to make a book spine poem, aka bookmash, from non-fiction titles. I don’t know; I hadn’t really thought about it before, and I’m never conscious of it when constructing them.

But it led me to look at my earlier book spine poems and see what pattern emerged. Fiction/non-fiction ratios (in reverse chronological order) are as follows: 5:5, 7:2, 8:2, 4:4, 2:5, 6:2, 2:4, 4:4, 2:4, 2:4, 2:5, 3:2, 3:4, 4:3, 2:1, 0:4, 1:4, 0:3, 2:2, 4:2, 1:2, 4:4, 7:9.

That’s 75 fiction vs. 81 non-fiction. I was surprised that there were more non-fiction, and that the totals ended up so close. Two are exclusively non-fiction but none contain only fiction. (New challenge!)

I don’t usually set out with a theme in mind, but this time I wanted to make one about language/linguistics, which was always going to skew heavily towards non-fiction: 2:7. Non-fiction surges ahead – for now.

[click to enlarge]

stan carey - book spine poem - bookmash - evolution the difference engine

Evolution: the difference engine

Words words words ad infinitum –
The power of Babel,
The languages of the world.
Human speech: the articulate mammal enigma,
Evolution: the difference engine.

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Thanks to the authors: Diarmaid Ó Muirithe, Nicholas Ostler, John McWhorter, Kenneth Katzner, Richard Paget, Jean Aitchison, Robet Harris, Carl Zimmer, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling; and to artist Nina Katchadourian.

More in the bookmash archive.


Treason’s Harbour (a book spine poem)

October 4, 2013

I’m a day late for National Poetry Day, so this post can serve to suggest its year-round continuation in practice – even for elliptical found poems assembled from book spines. Click to enlarge:

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stan carey - book spine poem - treason's harbour

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Treason’s Harbour

Explorations of the marvellous
Mazes and labyrinths by salt water:
Treason’s harbour.
Quarantine the sleepwalkers,
The Sufis, the inheritors,
Nothing happens in Carmincross.

Thanks to the authors and editors: Peter Nicholls, W. H. Matthews, Angela Bourke, Patrick O’Brian, Jim Crace, Arthur Koestler, Idries Shah, William Golding, and Benedict Kiely.

More book spine poems, aka bookmashes, in the archives. I see the Lakeside Theatre at University of Essex is having a bookmash contest for tickets to a radio writing workshop (it links to mine for illustration). Good luck to the entrants!


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