Saturday, April 26, 2008


Try mixing up the words, she says.
Mixing up words
words mixing.
I can do it in poetry but not prose.
Poetry words go out of order
and still make sense and nonsense,
prose takes words and makes words make order,
prose orders words,
orders words to do what?
Keep writing words
so words keep writing.
Nonsense and sense.
White words write spaces
means nothing to say something.
White words,
blank thoughts,
busy nothingness.
Feels good
feels not me.

Inspired by "Writing Down the Bones" & "Wild Mind" by Natalie Goldberg.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Originally posted 9.04.2004 on Limes with Orange

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, lough, and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead--
For goodness' sake don't call it "deed"!
Watch out for meat and great and threat.
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.)
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there's dose and rose and lose
Just look them up--and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart--
Come, come, I've hardly made a start!

A dreadful language? Man alive!
I'd mastered it when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn't learned at fifty-five.

by T.S. Watt (1954)

I was reminded of this poem today while reading "Inglish (iz a tuf languaj to spel)" in the September edition of Saturday Night magazine [update May 30, 2007: this magazine is no longer in publication]. It's about the spelling reform movement that promotes simplification of the English spelling system to better reflect the phonetics of the language. My knee-jerk reaction was to reject reformation out of hand. The three arguments that I subsequently formulated to support my reaction were:


(1) The proper spelling of a word can give you an idea of its origins, which can help you figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word.

(2) What about all of the existing printed matter? Will future generations taught spelling-reformed English be able to understand anything written in pre-reform English?

(3) With all of the dialects within the English language, whose phonetics would we use? I'm thinking that British spelling reform would look far different from American spelling reform.

Well, all of these points were mentioned in the article to some degree. Apparently my first point is proof of my intellectual elitism. Hmm... an uncomfortable, but possibly accurate, assessment. So let's put that one aside for now. The second and third points were acknowledged as obstacles to spelling reform. But apparently there are far more people than you might think trying to overcome these challenges. So maybe someday spelling reform advocates, such as the Simplified Spelling Society, will have answers to those questions that will satisfy even me. But I'm not holding my breath.

Ironic Epilogue: It was with a certain amount of embarrassment and amusement that I found myself reflecting on my strongly held opinions against spelling reform while I was working on my cryptic crossword and realized that I hadn't the faintest idea of how to spell "rutabaga" [the plural of which was the answer to "Turnips in a sack one put in furrows (9)"].

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Think Like a Poet

This is an excerpt from a something I wrote a while back:

As poet Gwendolyn MacEwen writes:
Poetry has got nothing to do with poetry.
Poetry is how the air goes green before thunder,
is the sound you make when you come, and
why you live and how you bleed, and
The sound you make or you don't make when you die.
(From "You Can Study It If You Want", Afterworlds)

So this exposition has nothing to do with the study of poetry, nor is it a how-to-write-poetry manual. It is about knowing (in a deep down remembering way) that words speak images and images speak words... it's about casting aside controlled, censored, logical thought and looking at the world in an unexpected way. Askew. It is about what is out there in the large dark and the long light. Breathing.

So how do you unleash your poet's heart?

For my answer to this question, read: Think Like a Poet

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Friday, May 18, 2007

The Death Bed

My favourite poets include (but are not limited to) Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Siegfried Sassoon, Ranier Maria Rilke and Syliva Plath. So far, I've written guides about Yevtushenko and Rilke. Now I'm thinking it's time to do one for Sassoon. What sparked this thought? Believe it or not, it was the TV show Numb3rs. They quoted part of Sassoon's "The Death Bed" tonight. So I decided to post it here in its entirety.

The Death Bed

He drowsed and was aware of silence heaped
Round him, unshaken as the steadfast walls;
Aqueous like floating rays of amber light,
Soaring and quivering in the wings of sleep.
Silence and safety; and his mortal shore
Lipped by the inward, moonless waves of death.


Someone was holding water to his mouth.
He swallowed, unresisting; moaned and dropped
Through crimson gloom to darkness; and forgot
The opiate throb and ache that was his wound.
Water--calm, sliding green above the weir.
Water--a sky-lit alley for his boat,
Bird-voiced, and bordered with reflected flowers
And shaken hues of summer; drifting down,
He dipped contented oars, and sighed, and slept.

Night, with a gust of wind, was in the ward,
Blowing the curtain to a glimmering curve.
Night. He was blind; he could not see the stars
Glinting among the wraiths of wandering cloud;
Queer blots of colour, purple, scarlet, green,
Flickered and faded in his drowning eyes.

Rain--he could hear it rustling through the dark;
Fragrance and passionless music woven as one;
Warm rain on drooping roses; pattering showers
That soak the woods; not the harsh rain that sweeps
Behind the thunder, but a trickling peace,
Gently and slowly washing life away.
. . . .

He stirred, shifting his body; then the pain
Leapt like a prowling beast, and gripped and tore
His groping dreams with grinding claws and fangs.
But someone was beside him; soon he lay
Shuddering because that evil thing had passed.
And death, who'd stepped toward him, paused and stared.

Light many lamps and gather round his bed.
Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live.
Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet.
He's young; he hated War; how should he die
When cruel old campaigners win safe through?

But death replied: 'I choose him.' So he went,
And there was silence in the summer night;
Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep.
Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.

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1 part shy intellectual, 1 part edgy chick, 1 part sophisticated woman, 1 part mental patient (after all, sanity is a type of conformity)... what's your mix?