New bookmash! This one’s a bit conflagrationary.
Albright goes on to give a similarly forthright account of the poet’s spelling and punctuation, excerpted below. While acknowledging his debt to Richard Finneran, who oversaw a different collection of Yeats’s poems, Albright parts company from him in two ways:
First, he is more respectful of Yeats’s punctuation than I. He supposes […] that Yeats’s punctuation was rhetorical rather than grammatical, an imaginative attempt to notate breath-pauses, stresses, and so forth; and that the bizarre punctuation in some of Yeats’s later poems is due to the influence of experimental modernists such as T.S. Eliot and Laura Riding. I suppose that Yeats was too ignorant of punctuation to make his deviations from standard practice significant. Although Yeats surely wished to make his canon a text worthy of reverence, he conceived poetry as an experience of the ear, not of the eye. He could not spell even simple English words; he went to his grave using such forms as intreage [‘intrigue’] and proffesrship. His eyesight was so poor that he gave up fiction-writing because the proof-reading was too strenuous. Finally, Yeats himself admitted, ‘I do not understand stops. I write my work so completely for the ear that I feel helpless when I have to measure pauses by stops and commas’.
Bookmashing, for the uninitiated, is when you stack books so the titles on their spines form a poem, or a mini-story, etc. It also has the more transparent name book spine poetry. It’s a fun game – and challenge – for word lovers, and a great excuse to browse your bookshelves. You’ll see them in a new light.
I’ve made several bookmashes over the years, and would do them oftener if most of my books weren’t in storage. Usually there’s no special theme, but some have been explicitly linguistic, e.g. Evolution: the difference engine, Forest of symbols, The web of words, Ambient gestures, and Cat and Mouse Semantics. So today I imposed the restriction of only using books from the ‘language’ shelf:
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Unlocking the language
And the madman
Defining the world,
Unlocking the English language –
Is that a fish
In your ear?
Thanks to the authors Simon Winchester, Henry Hitchings, Keith Houston, Robert Burchfield, and David Bellos. (I’ll try to be less gender-skewed next time.)
I got the idea originally from artist Nina Katchadourian, and it has spread to public radio and around the web. Last year a British drama group ran a bookmash competition, and now Jump! Mag (an educational magazine for children) is holding one for young readers.
Millie Slavidou, who set up the contest, has put several bookmashes on her Glossologics blog, which I wrote about last year. Seeing the idea featured in Jump! Mag prompted today’s simple effort, and I look forward to seeing any competition entries they make public. New players are always welcome.
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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.
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.
It’s a while since I’ve made a bookmash, i.e., a book spine poem. Here’s a new one:
Periodic Tales from Hell
tales from hell:
The night torn
mad with footsteps.
This year it
will be different.
Thanks to the authors: Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, Lorna Sage, Patrick McCabe, Charles Bukowski, and Maeve Binchy; and to Nina Katchadourian for the idea.
My bookmash archive has more of these and links to other people’s.
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: