Sunday, May 27, 2012

Not avoiding the I

The following poem (which may yet go through some further revisions) is based around the idea of starting each line with the letter that the previous line ended with...I've only cheated once, I think, in the second half. (To my surprise, the poem neatly sorted itself out into two halves of twenty lines each.) 

It also alludes to the idea of limiting yourself to a single vowel, but that's beyond me at this stage of my career. However, two writers who've done work in this way, Georges Perec, and Christian Bök, both get a look in [that's Bök in the photo].  Christian Bök was apparently named, as a newborn, 'Christian Book,' but altered the spelling of his surname to avoid 'unseemly confusion with the Bible.' 

Not avoiding the I

‘You forbid yourself use of a vowel,
legislatively avoiding every I -
if possible.’ However, this poem
makes no attempt to avoid that letter,
rapidly realising that too many words
solidly take their place only because
each one has an I in it.  And
don’t let it imply that I’m referring
generatively to the first person pronoun;
no, I definitely mean the letter itself,
furnishing space for definitely or
realising, words that without those
eyes (as they sound) would come straight
to a halt. Definitely would sound
dismal as though missing the
echoing roof of the mouth, or
realising would struggle to be
even a fragment of itself, the mutter of
fatheads incapable of voicing the
exalted English language. 

Such restriction inhibits stiffly;
you amplify, in individual lines, utility,
intensifying I increasingly until as
sky far as the I can see a diatribe of that
third vowel swimmingly impinges, and
dismisses different vowels, so that
the I who’s hardly there in ‘in’ sees
some of what you’re up to, grows boastful,
latterly insists on an univocalic spirit.
This is soon declined by vowels impartial,
leniently none reminding I of Perec’s
singular E-voided novel,
La Disparition, or the Perec
counterparting work Les revenentes where
E appears alone.  And lonely.
Yet think, too, you vowels, of Christian
- nee Book (too close to biblical) - Bök
kindly offering his univocalic
cinque-chaptered Eunoia, where
each holy vowel receives pre-eminent place.

Note, though Eunoia is supposedly the shortest word in the language containing all the vowels, (it means beautiful thinking), it's (possibly) been superseded by Iouea, not only a shorter word, but one that still manages to have four syllables.  There's a delightful article about the word, which relates to a fossil sponge, and has a New Zealand connection.  The word was invented by M. W. de Laubenfels, but the name for the particular sponge may have been replaced by a newer name.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Zen Poem

Playing again with found/collage lines to form a poem.  Here the lines came (mostly ready-made) from a variety of cuttings I have on file, including several poems.  In a few instances I've dropped a word or changed the tense or a pronoun.  I've called it a Zen Poem because it's somewhat reminiscent of that Zen approach in which a non sequiter often seems to follow a straightforward question.  However, the 'wisdom' that appears here may not be quite on a par with the tradition of Zen.  And it's possible some responses could be shifted to answer a different question....

Zen Poem

Why are you washing and smearing windows?
Sometimes you catch your face in a mirror.

What happens if we bring all the little pieces together?
The dawning awareness of the thinness of disembodied life.

Where was easily the most exciting game you ever played?
In the online ecosystem I’m inhabiting.

When is the placebo helpful, and when is it not?
Always in the supermarket, and out and about.

What are the usual superficial divisions between Right and Left?
A team snaps out of its streak and wins a bunch of games.

Why won’t attempts at control be abandoned?
The subjectivity of others is confirmed by a failure to point.

Why do you court silence as prayer?
Everything I do is instantly news.

What if you were patient and could spare the time?
I view relationships as based on utility and exchange.

Would you self-impose a moratorium?
Nothing so conclusively proves one’s ability to lead.

What if change was discontinuous with the past?
The depression years take up large chunks of my story.

Have you been reduced to doling out slops to pigs?
What I really want is someone rolling around in the text.

What is the sweet heat made from two bodies in the bed?
Despair, a side of mutton, roaming the slaughterhouse.

What if you became a hunch-backed old man?
I accept that we just have to live with sandflies.

What if I asked: what is it like to drown?
Vigilante tactics, smashing illegal stills, flogging drunks.

What is it about correlation and causation?
You can’t tell the story of rage in soccer without talking about managers.

Is solving for motivation the wrong solution?
In dreams of reason you may drink of life’s streams.

Are you going to die having missed nearly everything?
You can still get out of jail free.

The body returns...

The body returns to gravity
after lying deep in a
long hot bath

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Twitter Collage Poem

In the past I've written found or collage poems, with varying degrees of success.  However, it occurred to me that Twitter provides a fruitful place for picking up interesting 'found' lines (rather like the abbreviated messages on postcards).  The following is one possibility formed in couplets that may or may not have connections.  And thanks to all the Twitters who inadvertently gave me lines to work with...I've acknowledged those I could retrace below. 

Twitter Collage Poem

He gets to the sandwiches at the lock-up first
fruitlessly to find meaning in spilled coffee grounds.

Sing out if you want to spend a bit of time -
in my youth my patience is limited.

Shivers of unendurable glee
brutally encased in formaldehyde.

It ain’t just the Aussies who produce dire pop songs;
feel free to send info on must do’s in Israel.

Off to drink Sangria in the park, then I’m off to the zoo -
they’ve been given an order and are openly insubordinate.

Everybody already has their lines prepared and it’s
these carry me along on a stream of sporadic notes.

Vaguely shaped like a rack of ribs: if I’m not interested in
something anymore then no one else should be interested either.


Sunday, May 20, 2012


This is an older poem that first appeared online here.  I've altered a couple of words.  (Please note, the first part is tongue-in-cheek, something that wasn't recognised when it was first published.)

Grandparents are best kept in separate houses.
Each pair thinks their mutual grandchild is theirs
And theirs alone. 

Sharing is a no-no, and the thought that others have
Input on a grandparent level is
Disturbing, to say the least.

It’s a strange thing that we two grandparents
Can give our whole hearts to our grandchildren
And yet, four other sets of grandparents
Have also given their whole hearts away.
Why aren’t the grandchildren
Swamped with all that love? 
Wouldn’t you think that the parents’ love,
And the paternal grandparents’ love,
And the maternal grandparents’ love,
And, in at least one case,
The great-grandparent’s love
Would be like a huge enveloping balloon,
A blimp full of love that made it hard to breathe?
Apparently not.
With childlike ease the grandchildren
Absorb it all and have room for more.

Phew!  Love like a whole world.
Phew!  Love like the universe expanding.
Phew!  Love as broad as eternity.

It’s just as well for grandparents to stay
Otherwise the rest of the world might begin to
Soak up all that love and set itself alight.

Thursday, May 03, 2012


I came across this wonderful German word yesterday, and its even more wonderful meaning.  It's pronounced - if my long-distant German lessons serve me right - Bark fie fen gay zicked.  (Please note, this is extremely approximate!)


English speakers have no word for
a face that badly needs a punch.

The German compound word is

Which could easily seem to mean
a face like a smelly drain

Though transliterally it’s close to
a back-pipe face, which isn’t

Complementary.  And
on the face of it, the word looks like

Bagpipes make me sick¸ though
since I have a friend who’s learning

To play the bagpipes, using

In a pretended translation
seems likely to bring me to a

Place where I might well have
a face that badly needs a punch.