Monday, August 03, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Dictionary Poems

On my two week vacation my reading time was largely devoted to reading aloud to my son. We finished HP2 and started HP3. There was little down time during the days, but when I did have a chance to read, I found myself immersed in Sage Cohen's book Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry. In it she introduced me to Lohren Green's work and his Poetical Dictionary. The poems in this gem of a book are written in the form of a dictionary entry (pronunciation, etymology, and definition). Here is an excerpt from the entry on glee.
I've been thinking a lot about this form and have a list of words I want to try. Will you join me in trying to write your own poetic dictionary entries? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.


  1. I've never seen anything quite like this -- clever! :-)

  2. Not sure this formatting will work at all:

    Pal·ette n.

    A board, typically with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which colors are mixed.

    [French, from Old French, small potter's shovel, diminutive of pale, shovel, spade, from Latin pāla "spade, shoulder blade."
    1622, "flat thin tablet used by an artist to lay and mix colors” Sense of "colors used by a particular artist" found first in 1882.

    A board and hole, wholly used, abused with color, from the choler of cadmium red to the dead black, lacking luster to the mustard and browns of soil, burnt sienna, burnt umber, the colors of the Palantine Hills, the palettined hills, the swirl and whirl and whorl of color all dug up and plastered on to the canvas with the help of the little spades.

    ©2009 Jane Yolen

  3. Nope--format didn't work at all. Sorry about that. Written paragraph style it looks like James Joyce on a bad day.


  4. Jane,
    If you put / in for your line breaks, I can format it in the post. (If, of course, you feel like it!)

  5. Eureka! Jane, your comment came through e-mail with the formatting intact. I'll use that version for the round up.

  6. Thanks--though I didn't know I sent email.

    Signed, one totally confused Luddite

  7. I don't know if this works, but here is my attempt.

    levi·gate (lev′i gāt′)
    to grind to a fine powder
    or paste, to smooth as a verb levigated -·gat′ed,
    or make smooth [ L levigatus, pp. of levigare] levigating -·gat′·ing
    like the potter who
    suspends his clay in water, separating
    fine particles from course,
    keeping only the middle
    to make his homogenous forms.
    Some would say that clay so pure
    is apt to crack when
    under stress, though
    most potters prefer
    for its soft and easy

    Diane M. Davis

  8. Cool challenge! I posted a short poem here:

    Thanks, Tricia. I missed the Poetry Stretches while I was out of town.

  9. Underword

    Chthonic [from the Greek, meaning "under the earth," or simply "earth"]

    Drags your tongue down unless
    you let go of the ch; if not
    the pull extends to your head,
    your neck and your chest,
    your limbs. The dark
    waits, the heavy blanket of earth
    with its wriggle of worms
    belying the wait of dead rocks
    beneath, and farther still
    the great deep with its subtle river,
    its silent ferryman, its triple-headed thug
    of a dog, then a god
    with a burning black crown
    and stony eyes not-shining
    a welcome.

    --Kate Coombs

  10. Oh. Could you fix my poem's header as follows for clarity?

    [from the Greek chthonios, meaning "under the earth," or chthon, simply "earth"]

    Thanks! And thanks also for letting me know If the World Were a Village has a new edition; maybe I'll replace the earlier copy I have.