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When Wordplay Approaches Jabberwocky - Roy Jerden's Blog

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When Wordplay Approaches Jabberwocky

Blog Posted:1/12/2014 8:26:00 AM
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

I suppose that there is a continuum of poetic wordplay, on one end the simple, straightforward, perhaps pedestrian, lexicon of Cowboy poetry, and on the other end the schizophrenic semiotics of nonsense. (I'll give a pass to Jabberwocky, as it actually utilizes portmanteaus, and though appearing to be nonsense, isn't.)

However, it does illustrate the fact that nonsense can sound poetic, when placed in a grammatical context, i.e. “Something is in the something, and does something in some way”. It's grammatical, but is nonsense, because it has no meaning.

So when does poetry pass the line of interesting, but meaningful wordplay and enter the tenebrous realm of nonsense?

I am definitely in favor of wordplay that creates imagery and does that by pushing the envelope slightly, utilizing unusual and ambiguous combinations of words to stretch your mind.

However, when I see combinations of words that make no sense (except perhaps to the author), I can only think that they are just creating a bit of word porn. It looks pretty and exciting, it sounds totally cool, has great rhythm, and might even be considered “poetic”, but when analyzed, is often bereft of meaning or values, and hence in the end, leaves me unsatisfied, and ultimately, bored. 

Like a one trick pony.

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Date: 1/13/2014 11:23:00 AM
ahhh the one trick pony! #1 is to make yourself familiar with enough forms to chose the write one for the content of your verse #2 is to write within reason to the form you have chosen #3 if the content is boring it won't matter - how true Roy
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Date: 1/13/2014 9:06:00 AM
Ok, I re-translated the poem form its Latin forn with the help of many scholarly scholars and it seems I made a mistake below. The poem actually translates as so....Boogers is brown. Boogers is green. Boogers art salty. Perchance they clean. Thee diggest with thy thumb. Thee diggest with thy pinky. There art boogers in there. Thee startest to thinky. Thy father gets angry. When thou hast eaten thy boogers. Declares thy mother shant give thee...no more bedtime sugars.
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MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 1/13/2014 6:41:00 PM
Nosing/ through the blogs -/ The Booger man ---- my new blog series will be called mimicry. Haiku for you :D
Aechtner Avatar
Chris D. Aechtner
Date: 1/13/2014 5:27:00 PM
Haaaaaa! Caleb, this is one of my favourite Soup poems. And now it is even translated from its original Redneck Latin. This poem is a masterpiece!
Hunter Avatar
Painted Hunter
Date: 1/13/2014 9:07:00 AM
from its Latin form....typo
Date: 1/12/2014 6:08:00 PM
Roy, I don't frequently use this type of wordplay, but have... I personally think its about taking language and bending its ear... I think of it like.. hmm... fantasy or science fiction. Prior to Star Trek, what was a Vulcan, a Klingon or a Tribble? I believe that a good poem of this sort can .. hmm.. create a world where these words are somehow not just understood by the intellect, but identified by emotion. I was inspired by Chris's On Wings of Moogsmoorwood and had some word play back for him Whispers of Moogsmoorwood was such a satisfying write for me, trying to stay true to a world created by another, adding to the language, keeping its heart, letting the pen dabble freely. I LOVED it!
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MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 1/12/2014 10:19:00 PM
(cont) whether that poem be haiku or a sonnet, a ballade or a rondeau. Good poetry is more than spit and polish, it is heart and soul... hell, sometimes it is blood and tears.
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 1/12/2014 10:17:00 PM
I agree with you, Roy. I feel that a poet can write a verse that keeps to its form, has a fair share of devices, is grammatically flawless and yet, if this poem is overly rigid, puts form before voice or genuine emotion, the poem will fall flat.
Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 1/12/2014 7:04:00 PM
Good point Cyndi. However, when one enters into a created world with its own lexicon, the expectations are different than in general poetry. I am a huge fan of SF and have been since I was 12, hence 55 years. I cut my teeth on Asimov, Norton, Bradbury, and Heinlein. I 'grok' you. Perhaps the essence of what I want to say is that style without substance is "All hat and no cattle" as we say back home.
Date: 1/12/2014 11:08:00 AM
Clarification: Intentional "Jabberwocky" can be quite amusing and a real "tour de farce". Loved the "Aficionadog" example of the type. It's the poems that try to be "deep" and "mysterious" through their wordplay that end up jumping the shark.
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Date: 1/12/2014 9:14:00 AM
when I see this kind of poetry, I get so turned off. I can't even stand to look at it, let alone read it! if people are telling such poets that the poems ROCK and are amazing, it's very sad!! Cowboy poetry, on the other hand, can be mighty interesting!!
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Williams Avatar
David Williams
Date: 1/12/2014 9:31:00 AM
Hi Andrea yep Bob Hinshaw is a master at cowboy poetry...
Date: 1/12/2014 8:41:00 AM
Excellent Blog Roy...I fully agree...It is not much use trying to be clever with words if no-one understands and the poem then is lost...
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