Thursday, April 20, 2017

There's a word for that #NPM17

April 20, two-thirds of the way through this year's National Poetry Month. Suggestion number 20 of 30 ways to celebrate The Month is to "Read about poems titled “poem.” The introductory essay does a nice job of explaining that such poems aren't simply circular reasoning. The list at the bottom of the essay is extensive (although, at the time this was written, I encountered some nonfunctional links, which I reported). I was pleased to see that, although the essay doesn't discuss it, the list does include one of my favorite poems, one I've printed, framed, and have sitting on my desk, The Prose Poem by Campbell McGrath.

I've run into a few problems recently trying to research things by title. I wanted to read a poem by Lillian Robinson, titled In the Night Kitchen. Unfortunately, that title is shared by a popular children's book by Maurice Sendak (of "Where the Wild Things Are" fame). Robinson's poem was published in a magazine or anthology titled Beefsteak Begonia. An internet search on that phrase yields link after link to nurseries and garden supply shops, but no poem. Imagine the challenge of looking for a poem titled "poem" on the internet. I suppose it's not much better trying to find one of Emily Dickinson's poems by its number. Original works can be and are protected by copyright, not so titles. We are once again brought face to face with the importance of naming and the creation and use of lexicons. Have you yet encountered the Lexicon of Sustainability?

fern croziers
Spring time fern croziers
Photo by J. Harrington

So, we have lexicons, glossaries, dictionaries and other terms of terms. How to tell them apart? See if this helps. Poets (and others) often create new words, as well as using existing ones. Old words, through disuse, can disappear. The reality those words name sometimes remains, sometimes disappears itself. (Will we know icebergs 1000 years from now?) There's also the confusion created by using the same word for very different things, simply due to a similarity of appearance. There's a bishop's staff crozier which looks sort of like the fern head crosiers pictured above, but serves a different purpose. Language and reality have a messy relationship, don't they. Poetry helps that?

Eschatology of the Lexicon


By J. Allyn Rosser


They come down to us
rounding the corners of centuries
at an innocent jog, shedding letters
and most of the grand old meanings
to take on the sleek new hide
our day demands, a snappier
nap that can repel the stare
of a rather less tactful sun;

they come down to us com-
pounding, bounding in idiot
joy, they come with that trustful
tired old mutt look, that soft woof,
warm doggie sigh on the knee,
hoping for what? Some reason,
no doubt, to continue sounding.
Give me one good reason,

they come down to us saying,
as if we could have one without them.



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