Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NPM Celebrations - National Scrabble™ Day

April 13th is National Scrabble™ Day. In 1931, Alfred Mosher Butts invented a game where players use lettered squares to make words in a crossword puzzle manner.  First called Lexiko, then Criss-Cross Words, it was eventually renamed Scrabble™. This celebration falls on the day that Alfred Mosher Butts was born in 1899. Today Scrabble™ is sold in more than 120 countries and comes in 29 different language versions.

Since Scrabble™ is all about word play, today's poems focus on letters and words in interesting ways.

A Voweller's Bestiary: From Aardvark to Guineafowl (And H), written by JonArno Lawson is a collection of lipograms. (A lipogram is a piece of writing that avoids one or more letters of the alphabet. You can read more about lipograms at A.Word.A.Day.) The poems in this book use cues from the titles to determine the vowels left out. For example, the title Fly, Lynx contains only the vowel y, so the poem contains only words with the vowel y.

Fly, Lynx
by JonArno Lawson

Lynx: 'Fly, fly.'
Fly: 'Why, lynx?'
Lynx: 'Try.'
Fly: 'Why try?'
Lynx: 'Shy, fly?'
Fly: 'Shy??!! Bzzzzzz! Zm! Zm! Zm!'
Lynx: 'Tsk tsk! My my!'

Not only does Lawson restrict himself to using only words containing vowels from the poem's title, but he also restricts himself to using only those words that include ALL the vowels in the title. Here's another example.

by JonArno Lawson

Successful ventures
elude luckless turtle.

turbulent, unexpected undercurrent
pushes turtle further under.

Turtle gurgles, unnerved.
Blunders rudderless,

suffers, unsure.
Fumbles, tumbles,



Poems © JonArno Lawson, 2008. All rights reserved.

Well Defined: Vocabulary in Rhyme (2009), written by Michael Salinger and illustrated by Sam Henderson, offers poetic definitions for a number of "two-dollar words." These are not your run-of-the-mill dictionary definitions, but clever, memorable twists of phrases that get to the heart of the matter.

Brevity gets right to the point
doesn't dawdle, dicker, or delay
always short and sweet whenever
there is something to do
or say
brevity comes in handy when you
are subject to a chewing out
a bout of the flu
a pain in the neck
or waiting in line for the loo
in fact, this poem has gone on so long
that its recital
would no longer qualify
as an example of its title

[brevity: conciseness of expression shortness]

Poem © Michael Salinger, 2009. All rights reserved.

Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word (2011), by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Nancy Doniger, is a collection of poems described as "part anagram, part rebus, part riddle." As the jacket flap says, "this brand new poetic form turns word puzzles into poetry. Using only the letters from a single word, each of the poems in this collection capture a scene from daily life and present a puzzle to solve." This means that this book is also a collection of lipograms. Raczka used the letters from each poem title as the ONLY letters allowed in the poem ABOUT that word. 





Poem © Bob Raczka, 2011. All rights reserved.

This typed poem is a bit of cheat really, as interpreting the poems as they're written on the page is so important. You see, the letters in the poem actually align to the letter placement in the word. Because of this, the visual is important. Here's what the poem above actually looks like. (Click to enlarge.)
To see more images from the book, check out the Macmillan Books' photostream.

FEG: Ridiculous Stupid Poems for Intelligent Children (2002), written by Robin Hirsch and illustrated by Ha, is a collection of delightful, witty, guffawable (is that a word?) poems about homonyms, word roots, puns, idioms, phrases, and all sorts of weird occurrences in the English language. Each poem is accompanied by a footnote of explanation.


Feeling suddenly unusually rich
I threw open the door until it lay
     flat against the wall
There on the ground lay
     five cards of the same suit
Boy, was my face
     the color of a heart or diamond
I ran into the bathroom
     and threw them down the toilet
     (does a toilet belong in a poem?)

And here's an excerpt from the footnote that accompanies this poem.
Now, just to make things more interesting, flush is neither a graph nor a phone, it's a nym—a homonym, which means having the same name. In other words, in all its multiple meanings, it has the same spelling and the same pronunciation. So it appears to be the same word both to the eye and to the ear. Out of context even the brain has a hard time figuring it out—you need a context to flush out the meaning (whoops, sorry!)
Poem and Text © Robin Hirsch, 2002. All rights reserved.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

1 comment:

  1. I love that there's a SCrabble Day! All the excuse I need to hunt people down for a game. FEG sounds like an AWESOME book! I can imagine my fifth graders completely losing their little minds over it. They would've loved it.