At The Risk Of More Competition…The Limerick Contest!

I have to tell you (I was just informed myself, as was my source, the good people at the OEDILF) of the International Limericks Competition. (And it is indeed “the” Limerick competition, based in Limerick, Ireland, as it is.)

Free to enter, up to three entries, must be original and in proper limerick form, with a cash prize of 1000 euros (if you are able to attend the final competition–that’s the bad news).

Deadline for entries is 30 July, so get busy!

Send Your Haiku To Mars! (or… not)

Have I mentioned that I hate Haikus? Not real haiku, but haiku as it has been translated into American.

I don’t speak Japanese–well, not much. Very little, but I have been told by a Japanese student that my pronunciation is remarkable. Which, I suspect, is only true in comparison to this student’s experience with other Americans. A low bar is easy to jump.

But I am told that haiku is Japanese like baseball is American. Yes, it has been exported, but not without transplant rejection. Haiku is, I am told, beautiful and perfect in Japanese; in American, haiku is counting syllables. Sometimes more than that, but only rarely, and oh my goodness is it difficult to tell.

But that’s not my point.

My point is, NASA is looking to send three haikus to Mars, with the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) mission. Three haikus. In English, which means 51 syllables in total.

And I think it is a horrible idea. If you are going to send haikus, have a Japanese competition (the current competition specifies haikus in English). If space (or rather, mass) is at a premium, send heroic couplets. Dirty limericks. Whatever. Hell, you are sending poetry to Mars! Why on Earth (yeah, ok, work with me) are you limiting yourself to 3 haikus? Don’t send it because you can, send it because you must–send poetry that belongs on Mars. That’s the way to do it.

Here’s mine. Spirit was the muse, so Spirit should get to read it.

(off topic… I was astonished at how good it felt not to write for a week or so. I honestly don’t know if that is a good or a bad thing. I am not really back yet, but drafts are returned, and final papers aren’t due for a bit, so I may be around for 2-3 days. Or not. I have discovered there is a real world, so I may explore it for a bit. If you are among those who have read this far… thank you for everything you have done for me!)

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 5: Salty Current

I have always loved the writing of the person I only know as SC, or Salty Current. Intelligent, emotional, well-crafted in prose and in poetry, her writing is always worth the reading (and always far more poetic than mine; I am far too chained to rhyme and meter, and SC is one of the few who makes me regret that). So I’ll direct you here, to a recent poem she quite incorrectly predicted I would hate. And then I’ll cheat a bit, and quote a separate poem, linked at the above, also written for National Poetry Week, and which I just absolutely love:

Three Dead Animals

The bullfighter, writer, and sportsman Ignacio Sánchez Mejías died
the morning of 13 August, 1934.

The bull Granadino died
around that time.

The poet Federico García Lorca died
in the same era.

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 4: Rikitiki

In my continued observance of National Poetry Month, a contribution from reader Rikitiki. There is something just plain wonderful about a good sonnet:

Legend says we are but that mid-span
‘tween airy angels and demons below:
Our nature wrestling itself ever so –
A battle that’s between the base and grand.
I’ve seen no devil from some fiery realm,
Felt no help, no seraphed beneficence:
Perhaps ‘tis so and I but lack the sense
To realize such fiddling at the helm.
Within, I feel my own duality:
Scoundrel or saint, that label is my own –
Perceived, I judge and measure all alone;
Fashion belief to make reality.
What clarion call becomes my true life’s voice
Is, in the end, determined by my choice.

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 3: Callinectes

In my continued observance of National Poetry Month, I present for your amusement and edification a verse by reader Callinectes, which I find wonderfully illustrates a problem that a lot of my students have. Of course, it does so by way of metaphor:

In the land of Pyrûn, an exporter of lead
Ruled by a king (who’s extremely inbred)
Homeland of giants, but the giants are dead
So the towns are beset by a dragon instead

You can only burn down and eat all a man’s stuff
So many times before he’ll say, “Enough!
It’s time for the dragon to see that we’re tough,
Our knight will extinguish that piteous Puff!”

So out rode their champion, in gleaming steel armour
Bearing his shield with its heraldic llama
To be the right hand of the force they call Karma
(At this point it’s safe to assume there’ll be drama)

And drama there is, but you’ll have to click through to read it. Delightful, in my opinion. Enjoy!

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 2: richardelguru

In my continuing observance of National Poetry Month, I present my second guest poet–too modest, but I am a sucker for a new verse form:

I’m more of an essayist, but I once (possibly) invented the Hairimeraku.
There are essays explaining the structure and the necessity of them fulfilling “both the exacting requirements of the Japanese haiku, and the even more exacting requirements of the Irish limerick… the best of them having both seasonal and salacious aspects as befits their combined ancestry” here and here, but I’ll add the verse here to save you the disappointment of visiting my site.

I’d visit anyway–it’s actually a pretty cool story of the invention of the verse… but since he added them, here they are: [Read more…]

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 1: Kate Jones

It is, as I said earlier, National Poetry Month (here in the US, anyway). I am very happy to present my first guest poet, Kate Jones:

The two appended pieces were originally created for the bi-annual Gathering for Gardner (honoring Martin Gardner) in 2010 and 2012, the 9th and 10th such congresses of writers, thinkers, mathematicians, magicians, scientists and philosophers (and occasional rabble like me). I have presented these two pieces in various modified forms at other venues. The current embodiments have stripped all illustrations, leaving the essential text. Should you be curious to see the decorated editions, they are here:

I strongly urge you to visit–while I love these poems in the stripped down version below, it is even better to see them as originally envisioned–my own verses are only very rarely accompanied by any sort of visual… anything. It makes a difference; I am going to have to learn from this Kate.

For those too stubborn to click the links and see the poems as originally intended, the bare versions are after the jump: [Read more…]

April Is (US) National Poetry Month

… and I know that I have many poets among my readers (and many who appreciate poets). I don’t have a really big soapbox here, or a really loud megaphone, but it’s bigger than it used to be, and bigger than a lot of personal blogs where people are writing amazing and beautiful things that only a very small number of folk get to read.

I’d like to promote some of those people, if I could–if they want me to. Some of you, I am very well aware of your writing, but I would never shine a spotlight on you without knowing you are ok with that. So… what are your favorite (especially modern, living, even unknown or little-known) poets? What are your favorite poems (I especially ask this of the poets themselves)? Send me your favorites, and with permission, I will happily feature them and link to your site.

I am a big believer in poetry, and in verse–constrained writing is thoughtful writing; creativity and novelty arise and flourish in these conditions.

And since it is Poetry Month, not just Atheist Poetry Month (or Science Poetry Month, or any such animal), there are no limitations on what sorts of poetry you can submit. Heh… as if I could stop you.

Code Blue Limerick Emergency Alert!

Ok, people, this one is serious. Spread the word to anyone you suspect might help, or anyone you suspect knows people who might help.

One of the cooler projects in the history of humankind is the OEDILF—the Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form. I first wrote about them here. Their goal is

to write at least one limerick for each meaning of each and every word in the English language. Our best limericks will clearly define their words in a humorous or interesting way, although some may provide more entertainment than definition, or vice versa.

Seriously. Think about that. Every word in the English language. Suddenly I don’t look nearly so obsessive, do I? And, to top it off, they are doing this in alphabetical order. They won’t get to “Nantucket” until maybe 2020. And these are limericists! There are contributors with thousands of limericks to their credit—one author with over ten thousand submitted!

Anyway… I just got an email: for whatever reasons, their limericists are slacking off. (Full disclosure: I’m at least partial author on… wait, really? … on over 100 limericks. I honestly thought it was at least a score fewer. I stopped in 2009 or so because I started this blog instead. So, yeah, I am one of the slackers.) They are currently well below their historic levels of limericks.

You can help. If you read my blog, you are a rare creature. And you are likely to hang around with other rare creatures. So please… spread the word.

Join the OEDILF movement. Start writing limericks. Tell your friends. Especially the ones who have fun with limericks.

I mentioned above, the OEDILF team are moving through the dictionary in alphabetical order; they don’t open up a new set of letters until they have completed a certain percentage of the previous words. Thing is, a substantial number of the uncompleted words happen to be highly specialized—scientific or philosophical terms. You know—the stuff my readers eat for breakfast.

So you are the perfect solution.

You can save the OEDILF.

And you should. It’s worth saving. It is the very definition of a quixotic crusade (they may not get to “quixotic” in my lifetime; that should tell us something).

Ok, a bit of backstory. A good many of my early proposed limericks… were terrible. The people at OEDILF are the best of the best. Their limericks are not forced. Their rhymes are not “close enough”. They have a workshop process that winnows out bad limericks, and improves good ones. Like I said, these people are the best.

When I started submitting limericks at the OEDILF, I arrogantly assumed my verses were good enough. No. My limericks included some forced rhymes, and some metric no-no’s. They’d have been fine for Carl Kassel to read on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’s “listener limerick challenge”, but those tend to be really clunky limericks serving a different purpose.

So anyway, don’t do what I did, and just assume that the workshopping process will fix your limericks. Take the time to polish your work before submitting it, and take pride in being part of a really cool global act of obsession.

And hey, it’s fun!