An interpretation of "Fish's Night Song" poem from 1905


Above: Christian Morgenstern’s 1905 poem “Fish’s Night Song.”

Heinrich Plett in Literary Rhetoric, points out the obvious: “the referentiality of this isographemic configuration is polysemous.”

Fish's Night Song

Shakespearean Hokey Pokey


A bit of genius unsourced net.stuff: if Shakespeare wrote the Hokey Pokey. "The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt/Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about."

Update: And we have a source! It's from a "Washington Post Style Invitational contest that asked readers to submit "instructions" for something (anything), but written in the style of a famous person. The winning entry was The Hokey Pokey (as written by William Shakespeare)", "Written by Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls, Maryland, and submitted by Katherine St. John." - Thanks, princessalex!

Shakespeare Teaches the Hokey Pokey

Poem which uses all 100 Scrabble tiles


From the year 2000, Ben Engelsberg sez, "Mike Keith forumlated this brilliant poem using all 100 scrabble tiles for each of 6 verses in iambic pentameter."

A Scrabble-Tile Poem (Thanks, Ben!)

Robert Browning's "Sordello" was not received well

Please read Robert Browning's Sordello and let us know if you agree with the sentiments expressed below.

Screen Shot 2012 06 15 at 9 25 14 AMRobert Browning spent seven years composing Sordello, a 40,000-word narrative poem about strife between Guelphs and Ghibellines in 13th-century Italy. It was not received well.

Tennyson said, “There were only two lines in it that I understood, and they were both lies: ‘Who will may hear Sordello’s story told’ and ‘Who would has heard Sordello’s story told.’”

Thomas Carlyle wrote, “My wife has read through ‘Sordello’ without being able to make out whether ‘Sordello’ was a man, or a city, or a book.”

Douglas Jerrold opened the book while convalescing from an illness and began to fear that his mind had been destroyed. “O God, I AM an idiot!” he cried, sinking back onto the sofa. He pressed the book on his wife and sister; when Mrs. Jerrold said, “I don’t understand what this man means; it is gibberish,” her husband exclaimed, “Thank God, I am NOT an idiot!”


Futility Closet: A Glass Darkly

Step Gently Out: kid's poem illustrated with gorgeous macro-photo portraits of backyard bugs

Step Gently Out is children’s picture book in which poet Helen Frost’s verse accompanies the incredible garden insect photographs of artist/photographer Rick Lieder.

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Pentametron

"With algorithms subtle and discrete, I seek iambic writings to retweet."

Nursery Rhyme Comics: Great comic illustrators do Mother Goose

FirstSecond’s new Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists is one of those rare parental treasures: a picture book that kids and parents can really enjoy together.

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GOPokemon: an odd poetic quotation from Herman Cain

GOP candidate Herman Cain at last night's debate: ""A poet once said, 'life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it's never easy when there's so much on the line.'" That poet? The lyricist for the themesong to Pokémon: The Movie 2000, recorded by Ms Donna Summer. Who knew retrogamer chic was a Republican value?

The Mystery of Herman Cain and the Donna Summer Lyrics (via Reddit)

Choral work based on Robert Frost poem repurposed after copyright problems

Boing Boing pal Andrea James writes, "Interesting backstory. The original choral work "Sleep" was set to Robert Frost's 'Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.' Then came the legal tussle. Eric Whitacre explains..."

After a LONG legal battle (many letters, many representatives), the estate of Robert Frost and their publisher, Henry Holt Inc., sternly and formally forbid me from using the poem for publication or performance until the poem became public domain in 2038. I decided that I would ask my friend and brilliant poet Charles Anthony Silvestri ... to set new words to the music I had already written.
"So," Andrea writes, "Silvestri created a poem with the exact cadence of the Frost work. The result is this. I always love these kinds of crowdsourced art in response to these kinds of creative disputes!"

New Shel Silverstein book scheduled for September

A new Shel Silverstein book, Everything On It is coming this September; it's the first new Silverstein book since the posthumous publication of Runny Babbit in 2005. Not much info yet, but the publisher says, "With more than one hundred and thirty never-before-seen poems and drawings completed by the cherished American artist and selected by his family from his archives, this collection will follow in the tradition and format of his acclaimed poetry classics."

Pre-order Everything On It

New Shel Silverstein Book Drops In September

(Thanks, Palka!)

Fair use for poets, demystified

Pat from American University's Center for Social Media sez, "We're excited to announce the launch of a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry, cofacilitated by WCL-AU's Peter Jaszi, UCB's Jennifer Urban, Kate Coles from the Poetry Foundation, and Center for Social Media's Pat Aufderheide. The hashtag is #fairusepoetry"
Why would poets need fair use? Consider:

Mark Taylor has been asked by a major press to assemble a collection of the essays on poetry he has written over the years and add several more to make a book. He can't decide what selections he needs to license, and which ones he can use under fair use. If he licensed everything, he would be paying thousands of dollars more than he would ever see in royalties.

Julie Blake decides to do erasures--taking words out of existing poems, and so making new ones--of the poems from her own collection of sonnets. She thinks the new work is both an evolution from and a critique of her earlier work. When she places the collection with a new publisher, the publisher of the sonnets claims copyright infringement. Does she have a fair use claim to do what she did?

Kurt Flanagan is a collage poet, making poems out of bits and pieces of existing work. His new work addresses war in the first decade of the 21st century. His book-length collage poem draws on news sources and also on literary sources, including but not limited to poetry. One of the poets whose work has been used in fragments sues for copyright infringement. Does he have a fair use argument?

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry (Thanks, Pat!)

Weird Tales-inspired poetry from a 73-year-old retired civil servant

Tavie writes,
Fred Phillips is a Fan. A lifelong lover of gothic horror and weird verse, his favorite author is H.P. Lovecraft. He grew up in the Bronx with parents who were suspicious of his Fandom, his obsessive book-collecting, his poetry. They frequently disposed of his comic books and told him he was wasting his life.

He didn't waste his life. He took up with science fiction Fans, and joined up with the Society for Creative Anachronisms. To most of the world he was an oddball, kind of a loser. He talked too much. He probably had Asperger's. A Lehman College dropout, he worked at a bookstore. In 1968 he met Dorothea Nissen, and they married and eventually had twin daughters.

He got a low-level civil service job clerking at the NY Dept of Labor. It was drudgery, but he had his poetry and he had his girls and he fancied himself happy. He clerked for 30 years. He wasn't what you would call successful, and but he worked hard for his family and lived largely in his head. His Fandom kept him sane.

And then he retired, and he still wrote his poetry and discovered e-mail and then something marvelous happened. He met a man called Derrick who ran a publishing house specializing in scholarly criticism of HP Lovecraft, and Derrick really liked Fred. So at the age of 73 Fred Phillips' poetry was published.

And his daughter Tavie is very, very proud of him.

From the Cauldron by Fred Phillips (Thanks, Tavie!)

Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children: gross poetry from MST3K's Trace Beaulieu

Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Trace Beaulieu and Geek-a-Week‘s Len Peralta have teamed up to produce a delightfully grody book of nasty children’s poetry, called Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children.

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How to Be Alone: a poem with music and video

"How To Be Alone," a beautiful poem by Tanya Davis, turned into a video by Andrea Dorfman. I spend an awful lot of time alone -- alone at the office, writing; alone in a hotel, catching up on email on tour (greetings from beautiful Braunschweig!). I like being on my own mostly, though there are times in groups when there's that amazing wonderful nigh-telepathic connection to a big conversation when I am mildly poleaxed by the realization that there's something to this "other people" stuff.

When you are comfortable with eat lunch and run, take yourself out for dinner. A restaurant with linen and silverware. You're no less intriguing a person when you're eating solo dessert to cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger. In fact some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.

Go to the movies. Where it is dark and soothing. Alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.

And then, take yourself out dancing to a club where no one knows you. Stand on the outside of the floor till the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one's watching...because, they're probably not. And, if they are, assume it is with best of human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you're sweating, and beads of perspiration remind you of life's best things, down your back like a brook of blessings.

How To Be Alone (via Kottke)

Dr Seuss in Yiddish -- vey iz mir!

Yiddish House press has translated several classic kids' books into Yiddish, a curious and wonderfully expressive language spoken mostly by Jews of Eastern European descent. I just picked up their Eyn Fish Tsvey Fish Royter Fish Bloyer Fish, a translation of Dr Seuss's classic One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Sholem Berger.

Dr Seuss works improbably well in Yiddish. Yiddish's strength is its onomatopoeic expressiveness; and it contains a lot of Germanic words that are cognates for their English equivalents (such as "bloyer," which means "blue;" and "fish," which means "fish!"), but they're pitch-bent enough to make them sound a little off-kilter, which makes them perfect for a Seussian rhyme.

Berger's translation is funny and tight, his rhymes are as sweet as Seuss's originals. The text is written in both Hebrew script and Latin-alphabet transliterations (which is good, since I read Hebrew at the rate of about three words per hour).

I grew up speaking Yiddish, having learned it at the Workman's Circle center in Toronto in after-school classes. It was my father's first language, and the language spoken by my grandparents and their friends. I love its eye-rolling irony and humor, and can't think of a better text to appear in Yiddish translation. You don't have to speak Yiddish to enjoy the sheer poetry of Seuss rendered in it, either. I read bits out to my wife (who speaks some Welsh, but no Yiddish), and she concurred.

Eyn Fish Tsvey Fish Royter Fish Bloyer Fish