A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, January 25, 2010

Poem of the Day: Margaret Blum

Three Double Dactyls
Busily-buzzily,
Emily Dickinson
Sipped from a flower and
Got drunk on dew.
Judge Otis Lord asked her,
Semicensoriously,
"If you're a bee, honey,
Must I be too?"

Clickety-clackity,
Anna Karenina,
When she discovered her
Love was in vain,
Sobbed not nor wept, but quite
Unceremoniously
Stripped off her mink and jumped
Under a train.

Preachily-teachily,
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Felt he no longer could
Cope with Communion.
Then spoke the pastor, not
Untranscendentally,
"Peace! With the Over-Soul
Seek a reunion."

--Margaret Blum
The double dactyl, that odd spawn of the limerick and the clerihew, was like catnip to the late Margaret Blum. Known as Peggy (there seem to have been a lot of Peggys in my life), she was the office manager for the English department at Southern Methodist University when I arrived there as an assistant professor so many, many years ago. She was a great friend to Susan and me, and everyone who knew her misses her.   

Peggy was an occasional composer of occasional poetry. Her great love was Alexander Pope, and she delighted as well in the tricky wordplay needed to write verse in rigid forms -- the sestina, the villanelle, the pantoum and so on. She published a few of her verses in journals for English teachers, but mostly circulated them around the office, the subjects being things like the renovation of the building where we worked. They were clever and delightful, if a little too in-jokey for general appreciation, and with some encouragement from us, she self-published a little book called Verses From Dallas Hall, which I treasure. (Unlike a lot of memories of my academic career.) 

These double dactyls are the result of a little writing competition among several of us in the English department. My own entry in the competition included this one:   

Frigidly, frostily, 
Eleanor Roosevelt 
Said to her husband, "My  
Passion's quite gone.   
Seeing your crutches is 
Anaphrodisiac."
"Strange," said her husband,  "They 
Turn Lucy on."