September 1, 2014
[click to enlarge]
The Name of the World
In search of memory –
The first word, my last breath,
The name of the world,
The world without us.
One of these, you may have spotted, is a library book, while another appeared in an earlier bookmash and I still haven’t read it. I discussed Buñuel’s book in a recent post on curses and adjectives; Kenneally’s featured some years ago in a brief post on language evolution.
Other than that, I have nothing to add except my customary thanks to the authors: Lawrence Block, Eric Kandel, Christine Kenneally, Luis Buñuel, Denis Johnson, and Alan Weisman; also to Nina Katchadourian.
Older bookmashes and links to other people’s are browsable in my archive of book spine poems. Join in if you like.
June 28, 2014
A new book spine poem. My shelves have been nudging me.
Useless Crazy Heart
All about love, the devil I know,
Style, solace, the entwining truth,
Conquest of the useless crazy heart,
The pleasure of finding things out.
Thanks to the authors: bell hooks, Claire Kilroy, Joseph M. Williams, Belinda McKeon, Richard Condon, Peter Temple, Werner Herzog, Thomas Cobb, and Richard Feynman; and to Nina Katchadourian for the idea.
Want to join in? Do – it’s all sorts of fun. Upload a photo and post a link in the comments, or put it on your own site, etc. If you’d like to see more of these, there are lots in the Sentence first bookmash archive.
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.
The 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:
Read the rest of this entry »
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:
Hints at a hidden truth: the
Glamour of grammar.
go way back: school just refines
the work of infants.
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.
March 4, 2014
From ‘An Irish Childhood in England: 1951’ by Eavan Boland (full poem on my Tumblr):
let the world I knew become the space
between the words that I had by heart
and all the other speech that always was
becoming the language of the country that
I came to in nineteen fifty-one:
barely-gelled, a freckled six-year-old,
overdressed and sick on the plane,
when all of England to an Irish child
was nothing more than what you’d lost and how:
was the teacher in the London convent who,
when I produced “I amn’t” in the classroom
turned and said—“You’re not in Ireland now.”
I grew up in Ireland using expressions and grammatical constructions that I took to be normal English, only to discover years later that what counts as normal in language usage can be highly dependent on geography and dialect. I amn’t sure when I realised it, but amn’t is an example of this.
Standard English has an array of forms of the verb be for various persons and tenses with a negative particle (n’t) affixed: isn’t, wasn’t, aren’t, weren’t. But there’s a curious gap. In the tag question I’m next, ___ I?, the usual form is the unsystematic am I not or the irregular aren’t I (irregular because we don’t say *I are). Why not amn’t?
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February 18, 2014
A new book spine poem (aka bookmash):
Skating to Antarctica,
Desolation island –
A place apart where
The wasteland ends;
Soul on ice into
The silent land
The other side of you.
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.
December 7, 2013
A new bookmash. It has been weeks since I made one.
[click to enlarge]
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.
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.