Book spine poem: Grand Central Station

September 28, 2016

A new (and characteristically overdue) bookmash! Also known as a book spine poem. Here goes.

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Grand Central Station

By Grand Central Station
I sat down and wept:
Spill, simmer,
Falter, wither,
A Belfast woman a far cry
from Kensington.

The leaves on grey,
The introvert’s way,
The woman who talked
to herself:
If you leave me,
Can I come too?

The joke’s over –
The song is you.

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stan-carey-book-spine-poem-grand-central-station

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Book spine poem: Mice

May 19, 2016

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Mice

White jazz in a café:
Nocturnes, still life –
The mouse and his child
Loitering with intent.

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stan carey book spine poem mice

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How rare soever it may be

July 27, 2015

Muriel Spark - The Abbess of Crewe - Penguin book coverChapter 3 of Muriel Spark’s witty novel The Abbess of Crewe (1974) begins with a lingering description of an object that proves centrally significant to the story unfolding in loose parallel to Watergate, the events of which Spark satirises.

One word in one line in particular interests me, and is underlined, but the whole paragraph is a pleasure to read:

Felicity’s work-box is known as Felicity’s only because she brought it to the convent as part of her dowry. It is no mean box, being set on fine tapered legs with castors, standing two and a half feet high. The box is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and inside it has three tiers neatly set out with needles, scissors, cottons and silks in perfect compartments. Beneath all these is a false bottom lined with red watered silk, for love-letters. Many a time has Alexandra stood gazing at this box with that certain wonder of the aristocrat at the treasured toys of the bourgeoisie. ‘I fail to see what mitigation soever can be offered for that box,’ she remarked one day, in Felicity’s hearing, to the late Abbess Hildegarde who happened to be inspecting the sewing room. Hildegarde made no immediate reply, but once outside the room she said, ‘It is in poison-bad taste, but we are obliged by our vows to accept mortifications. And, after all, everything is hidden here. Nobody but ourselves can see what is beautiful and what is not.

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Redundancy in the prime of ‘like’

February 18, 2012

From Muriel Spark’s novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961):

Meanwhile Miss Brodie said:
  ‘And Mrs Lloyd — is she a woman, would you say, in her prime?’
  ‘Perhaps not yet,’ said Sandy.
  ‘Well, Mrs Lloyd may be past it,’ Jenny said. ‘It’s difficult to say with her hair being long on her shoulders. It makes her look young although she may not be.’
  ‘She looks really like as if she won’t have any prime,’ Sandy said.
  ‘The word “like” is redundant in that sentence. What is Mrs Lloyd’s Christian name?’
  ‘Deirdre,’ said Jenny, and Miss Brodie considered the name as if it were new to her . . .

Like is indeed redundant in that sentence, and you could equally say as if is. There’s nothing inherently wrong with like as if, but it has too colloquial a feel for the formal register Miss Brodie encourages in her students — more “proper” speech being advantageous in conservative society. COHA shows like as if used mostly in casual language.

Note also the recurrent use of said to report dialogue. Some writers are suspicious of its ordinariness, readily replacing it with such words as replied, spoke, enquired and exclaimed, but these draw more attention to themselves and hence away from the story.

Related links:
Omit needless criticisms of redundancy
Jessica Love on quotative like


Bookmash: Making love, getting busted

September 30, 2011
[click to enlarge]

Making love, getting busted,
Memento Mori;
Leaving Las Vegas
In guilt and in glory.

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Featuring Muriel Spark, John O’Brien, David Hanly, and (in lines 1 and 2) a host of poets of erotic verse, and people who have been arrested in the U.S.

Maybe the recent limerick contest has rubbed off, but this is the first bookmash I’ve made that rhymes in the traditional manner. To see earlier, non-rhyming efforts, click here; and here for Nina Katchadourian’s original Sorted Books.