Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Dictionary Definitions


Wow, I can't believe how many words I managed to find in response to this brief which I did not know the meaning of. I love exploring language, and so this for me was as much an academic exercise as it was an opportunity to write poetry. When I looked through my Collins dictionary, I noticed that many of the words I was unaware of were foreign in their origin, of which there were simply thousands (and how many are not noted in this particular dictionary?). I don't know how many new words are added each year to our English vocabulary, but clearly as we have progressed through our history new words inevitably come into use, older words become less and less known, and in short there is bound to be a turnover in our use of language. That, for me, is fascinating in itself. We are changing our conception of our own world and our own self, which is reflected in the words we use each and every day. I was inspired to write my poem after this thought. (Please note that I haven't looked up the meaning of these words as requested in the brief - I'm hoping I haven't unknowingly written lines which mistake nouns for verbs, adjectives for nouns, etc, as I have no idea what their meanings are...)

Leaves wafer thin, finger licked to peruse another letter's offerings,
This book represents all that I can conceive myself to be.
And how much, therefore, do I not know about my own being and my own roots,
if I do not understand the meaning of all these combinations of letters,
with their multiple origins, phonetic pronunciations, cultural derivations.

Take anopheles, or anoa, or anserine.
And cyanosis, cybernating contumaciously.
Which parent gave birth to these mysterious children?
Did I know their naturalized forefathers, foreigners adopted in this familiar land,
their brothers irregular inflections who will forever remain anonymous to me?
Or was it native scientists who defined their variant spellings,
who lie placarded infamous for all time,
their life celebrated to the end?
Did an astronomer reach into the sky and pick out an orphaned definition,
scrimmaging for the cuspid teratoma of a keloid loculus,
and finding that its particular face pleased him?
Or was it the social commentator who noted the derogatory nature
of some of these new additions to our word family,
the offensive connotations attached to their employment with us?

And what does one do when one impolders or noddles;
have I ever been guilty of those particular acts?
Who or what is 'nerine' anyway; are they nasty, nebulous, naughty, neat?
Am i eidetic, a quoin, razoo, falderal?
Parent-volume, now reveal to me my brethren's little known secrets.

16 comments:

Crafty Green Poet said...

This is fun and thoughtful at the same time, great combination and I love the phrase: 'Did an astronomer reach into the sky and pick out an orphaned definition'

Beaman said...

I must say, this is quite wonderful. The words you found are indeed rich and the way you have used them in this piece are incredible. This is a very successful poem in my view. Good work.

Clockworkchris said...

It looks like you had a good time writing this. I loved the first stanza. Especially "This book represents all that I can conceive myself to be." Great job!

DewyKnickers said...

I am so confounded by all the words you used. I like how they all flow though in a natural progression that makes sense. I found myself nodding and saying, yup, that makes sense.

Rose

xo

amy said...

That's great! I agree with Crafty Green Poet, the astronomer is my favorite.

Norma said...

I love the way you've brought into the poem all the contributors to the language over the years. I think I read somewhere that English has more words than any other European language because of all the borrowing and usurping that's gone on between the Romance and Germanic and Asiatic languages.

My PT is up.

split ends said...

Oh, this is fun! I love how you wonder about impoldering or noddling. This poem really speaks to the bigness of language. Great job.

writerwoman said...

I like it. It's a writer's poem- meaning anyone who loves words would love it. I like how you explore their meaning, orgins, and connotations.

gautami tripathy said...

That is some lexicon you have here. I enjoyed going through it..

gautami
Aphasia

Carolee said...

you so wonderfully tackled this and not only included one new word but several. it's filled with intrigue and wonder. i love poems with questions and love the line about parents birthing the words.

wendy said...

You really made the beginning of your poem do it's job..hooking the reader in, so that when you started introducing the myriad of word I did not know, I felt kinship, rather than ignorance. You highlighted wll the ego and arrogange of words. The staying nature of words. imortality, so to speak.

Very well done!!

Mary said...

I like that you maintained a big "vocabulary" even when talking about the other unknown words. It balances out the poem. And those are some pretty neat words you picked out. Good poem.

Rethabile said...

Nice poem. The metaphor about words as immigrants that get naturalised is refreshing. Cool.

desert rat said...

I love the feeling of wonder and exploration in this poem. I felt just that way with this prompt too. I ended up spending quite a long time roaming about the pages of our dictionary, finding odd unfamiliar words like secret hidden easter eggs. Nicely done.

Left-handed Trees... said...

Playful and dangerous somehow all at once...I love what you did with this prompt.
--D.--

Sean said...

This poem made me gurgle with delight, and chortle further more second time round. I'm not going to learn the meanings of those choice words so well placed in your poem, I wish to remain ignorant - probing would only spoil the fun.

Yet again, another corker of a poem. No supprise there. Great job!