February 10, 2016
Last weekend I read The Long Gaze Back, a wonderful anthology of short stories by Irish women writers, edited by Sinéad Gleeson. I felt the book’s title – borrowed from Maeve Brennan’s novella The Visitor – could work in a book spine poem. So here it is.
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A Quiet Life
A quiet life
on Chesil Beach,
loving and giving
bliss, breath, broken
words, the broken shore,
The long gaze back
under Milk Wood.
Johnny, I hardly
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December 7, 2013
A new bookmash. It has been weeks since I made one.
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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.
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.
May 22, 2013
Edna O’Brien’s book Girl With Green Eyes has a romantic line involving bicycles in Dublin:
Ah, the bloom of you, I love your North-Circular-Road-Bicycle-Riding-Cheeks.
It’s a sweet declaration ending in an impressive hyphenated string (though if I were editing it I would separate cheeks from the compound and reduce the capitalisation: North-Circular-Road-bicycle-riding cheeks).
In a modest correspondence between books decades apart, Declan Hughes’s Irish detective novel The Dying Breed has another elaborate compound phrase constructed with the help of bicycle imagery:
I made a face at that, my d’you-think-I-cycled-up-the-Liffey-on-a-bicycle face.
When I tweeted that sentence I was treated to a few variations on the theme: Belfast’s D’you think I floated down the Lagan in a bubble? (@charlieconnelly), and Glasgow’s D’ye think ah came up the Clyde on a water biscuit/banana boat? (@ozalba; @Yanbustone).
There are many versions of this idiom, often beginning Do you think…, You must think…, or I didn’t… More (or less) familiar lines include: Do you think I came down in the last shower?, You must think I was born yesterday, and I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday.
I love the water biscuit one, but for some reason I relate most strongly to cycling on the Liffey – so long as I steer clear of Gogarty’s swans.
July 20, 2010
There was a minor avalanche here last weekend. I removed a book from its tower, which reacted by toppling unstoppably against its neighbour, and so on, with results that need hardly be described at length. Luckily there were no casualties: no toes were crushed or bodies buried beneath the tumbling piles, and the books suffered no broken spines or other lasting damage, apart from a torn cover getting torn a little more.
I took the hint and arranged them more stably than before. (And yes, I need a new bookshelf, or a dozen.)
The incident prompted me to carry out a modest plan that had just taken seed. Shortly beforehand I had come across Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project. Although I was unable to pick a favourite, I immediately knew it was something I had to try. The tangling of titles, the limitless possibilities of ‘found form’ and cut-up wordplay — as a game it was irresistible. I took photos of a few, and have written them as mini-poems for ease of reading and to see how they appear in verse:
How it is
How it is, the way that I went
Into the wild ancient world
Where the wasteland ends.
Chew on this moondust –
Good enough to eat.
Click for more book spine mashups