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the shortest word in the language containing all the vowels, (it means beautiful thinking), it's (possibly) been superseded by Iouea, not only a shorter word, but one that still manages to have four syllables.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.  

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