Wednesday 21st January at 7pm
Bring along a poem to read aloud to the rest of the group by an author who is not yourself. We will then talk about these poems and poets.
El read an extract from ‘Eunioa’ by Christian Bök
Cushla read William Carlos Williams ‘ I just want to say’.
Becky also read William Carlos Williams ‘ To a poor old woman,’ and ‘To Elsie’
Marianne read an extract from ‘Sleeping with the light on’ by Stephen Rodefer
Nick read David Markson, ‘ History and Theory of Art’, ‘The youthful poet’s unspoke response to a woman talking too loudly in his favourite bookstore’, ‘To a Lady.’
‘I am going to read an extact from a book called Eunoia by Canadian poet Christain Bök, which was the winner of the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize.’
The word ‘eunoia’, literally means ‘beautiful thinking’, is the shortest word in English that contains all five vowels. Directly inspired by the Oulipo (l’Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle), a French writers’ group interested in experimenting with different forms of literary constraint, Eunoia is a five-chapter book in which each chapter is a univocal lipogram (the first chapter has A as its only vowel, the second chapter only E, etc.). Each vowel takes on a distinct personality – the I is egotistical and romantic, the O jocular and obscene, the E elegaic and epic (Bök actually retells the entire Iliad in Chapter E)
Hassan balks at all sacral tasks – a mass at Sabbath, a fast at Ramadan: “what Kabbalah and Brahmana can match blackjack and baccarat?” Hassan brags that a crackajack champ at cards lacks what knack Hassan has at craps. A cardsharp, smart at canasta, has a scam: mark a pack, palm a jack. (A cardmatch can act as a starchart that maps fata arcana.) A shah hazards all cash, stands pat and calls. A fatal pall wracks a casbah, as a charlatan fans a grandslam hand (“damn, darn, drat” rants a braggart). A rascal salaams and thanks Allah that a bank can award a man a stash that dwarfs what alms a raj can amass.
Hassan drafts a Magna Carta and asks that a taxman pass a Tax Act – a cash grab that can tax all farmland and grant a dastard at cards what hard cash Hassan lacks.
The empress … sheds her velvet dress; then she lets repellent men pet her tender flesh. Her lewdness renders even these lechers speechless. She resembles the lewdest jezebel.
Whenever Helen seeks these perverse excesses, her regretted deeds depress her; hence, Helen beseeches Ceres (the blessèd Demeter): “let sweet Lethe bless me, lest these recent events be remembered” – then the empress feeds herself fermented hempseed, her preferred nepenthe. Whenever she chews these hell-bred seeds, the hempweed skews her senses. The hemp, when chewed, lessens her tenseness (hence, she feels serene); nevertheless, the weed, when needed, renders her dependent. She enters the deepest sleep – the nether sphere, where sleepers delve the secret depths.
Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism, disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks – impish hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Isn’t it glib? Isn’t it chic? I fit childish insights within rigid limits, writing shtick which might instill priggish misgivings in critics blind with hindsight. I dismiss nitpicking criticism which flirts with philistinism. I bitch; I kibitz – griping whilst criticizing dimwits, sniping whilst indicting nitwits, dismissing simplistic thinking, in which philippic wit is still illicit.
Pilgrims, digging in shifts, dig till midnight in mining pits, chipping flint with picks, drilling schist with drills, striking it rich mining zinc. Irish firms, hiring micks whilst firing Brits, bring in smiths with mining skills: kilnwrights grilling brick in brickkilns, millwrights grinding grist in gristmills.
A lipogram (from Greek lipagrammatos, “missing letter”) is a kind of constrained writing or word game consisting of writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is missing, usually a common vowel, the most common in English being e . A lipogram author avoiding e then only uses the 25 remaining letters of the alphabet.