Saturday, May 31, 2008

Opening Reminder: Written in the Sand, June 6

Our history is written in the sand...
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At least, that's what artists Peggy Dobbins, Gao Feng, and Dale Harris are telling us. Exploring lost cultures through pictographs and petroglyphs, these three artists (exhibiting at The Harwood June 6th - 26th) bring stories of creation from cultures spread out across the globe.

Investigate these collaborations at the opening reception for Written In Sand - Genesis in Pictographs and Petroglyphs. Opens June 6th and includes a live performance by Peggy Dobbins. Artists host a Special Poets Circle & Conversations in response to art on Friday June 20th, 6:30 pm.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Call for submissions: Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders

Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders is seeking submissions for Journal # 13.

Send 4-5 poems or 1-2 short stories or works of creative non-fiction (no longer than 10-pages total). Manuscripts must be typed, with writer's name and address at the top of each page. Also, please number your poems by placing a number at the top of each poem next to its title. Sin Fronteras does not at this time accept submissions by email. Writings are judged on merit, regardless of subject matter. Payment is one copy of the annual journal.

Submissions of poetry, one-act plays, fiction and creative non-fiction should be sent between April 1 and June 30, to Sin Fronteras, PO Box 3416, Las Cruces, NM 88003. Include SASE for a reply. Also, please include a cover letter, short bio, phone and email address. All manuscripts will be recycled at the end of our reading period. Final decisons are expected in mid-September.

SIN FRONTERAS: Writers Without Borders: Our reading series for this season ended at the Branigan Library in Las Cruces April with Larry Goodell and Ellen Roberts Young. Journal 12 was released in April. Submission for # 13 are now being accepted through June 30.

LUNAROSITY, presents in May: Poetry by Ann Applegarth, Gary Beck, Gary Brower, Taylor Graham, John Grey, Tammy Ho, Kevin Paul Miller, Steve McLary, James Penha, and David Rushing. Managing Editor Wayne Crawford with Joanne Townsend on Poetry and Rus Bradburd on Fiction. Posted are a few poems, and the new spoken word performance with musician Randy Granger

'Sharp Teeth': A Ferociously Good Read

Sharp Teeth is a novel in free verse, reviewed by Vivian Dent. Posted on AlterNet. May 29, 2008.

Toby Barlow's first novel, Sharp Teeth, starts out scary. Not because it's about werewolves -- in gangs, in Los Angeles -- though I guess that's part of it. No, the main thing is the free verse trailing down the pages. At first glance, it looks Odyssey of the Ancient Waste Land scary, a whole lot of hard work.
But then I started to read. And I thought, "Hey, this isn't hard at all! It's interesting. Kind of fun." And I did just what Nick Hornby did: "I looked at the first page, got to the bottom of it, turned it over, read the second page, and ..." kept reading. Faster and faster. Straight through to the end. And then I started flipping back through the best parts.

See, this book is really good. It's got Raymond Chandler atmosphere and James Ellroy tension, surfer dudes and drug smugglers and a nervous, not-yet-old lady from Pasadena. It's got blood and violence and betrayal and corruption, but it's also got all the loyalty that a pack of werewolves -- who, it turns out, sometimes have a lot in common with dogs -- can bring. It's got Anthony, a gentle guy from East L.A. who takes a job as a dogcatcher just as the werewolves are getting down to business. And because it's got Anthony, along with a lonely she-wolf, it's got one of the most entrancing love stories I've encountered in a long time.

And yeah, it's got poetry. Most of the time the taut language pulls you along, deeper and deeper into the narrative, making you wonder why we ever bothered with prose in the first place. But every now and then a passage stops you cold. Here's Barlow on incest:
The world, as a result, turned backward
where blossoms buried themselves while
roots reached like starving fingers
to the grey and fruitless sky.

If you like a meaningful story, told dazzlingly well, read this book. Don't waste time with "I don't like fantasy" or "I don't like poetry" or "Isn't that a little weird?" Take my word for it. Or David Mamet's. Or Scott Smith's. Or again, Nick Hornby's, who wrote that Sharp Teeth is "as ambitious as any literary novel, because underneath all that fur, it's about identity, community, love, death, and all the things we want our books to be about." It's that rare page-turner whose insights and imagery will resonate long after the book's back on the shelf, even when you can look again at the big dog snoozing at your feet and see just a furry companion who likes his ears scratched, just so.

Toby Barlow and reporter Rick Kleffel recently discussed the writing of Sharp Teeth for NPR's Weekend Edition. A transcript of the story follows.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Five Best: War Poetry

From May 24, 2008; Wall Street Journal: As Memorial Day nears, James Winn lauds these works of war poetry

1. The Iliad
Translated by Robert Fagles, Viking, 1990

For sheer, unblinking realism, no war poem can surpass Homer's "Iliad." When a man is "skewered . . . straight through the mouth," Homer unsparingly describes "teeth shattered out . . . both nostrils spurting, / mouth gaping, blowing convulsive sprays of blood." Homer's brutal honesty about warfare is apparent not only in these physical details but also in his treatment of the elaborate code of conduct that ancient Greek culture built upon the power of shame. "The Iliad" reveals the rules of that system and exposes its limitations. As Homer shows, the fear of being ridiculed or dishonored lurks beneath our clichés about glory and honor. Princeton classics professor Robert Fagles, who died on March 26, gave us an "Iliad" that comes close to capturing the speed, intensity and stark horror of the Greek original.

2. The Complete Barrack-Room Ballads
By Rudyard Kipling, Methuen, 1973

Rudyard Kipling's poems on warfare, once widely memorized, are easy to dismiss as imperialist but remain valuable for capturing the actual experience of the enlisted man. His soldier-narrators, despite their racist vocabulary, often express respect and affection for their foes. In "Fuzzy-Wuzzy," for example, the narrator calls his Sudanese opponent a "big black boundin' beggar" but salutes him as "a first-class fightin' man." In "Gunga Din," the similar narrator admits that a native water-carrier is "a better man than I am." The ballads, first published in 1892 and 1896, appear in this edition with a selection of Kipling's chastened, bitter "Epitaphs" on World War I, in which he lost his only son.

3. John Brown's Body
By Steven Vincent Benét, Doubleday, Doran, 1928

Although sprawling and uneven, this 15,000-line narrative poem on the Civil War has moments of lyric beauty and effective irony. In my favorite passage, a teenage sentry remembers ancient poems while guarding the tent of Robert E. Lee: "The aide-de-camp knew certain lines of Greek / And other such unnecessary things / As birds and music, that are good for peace / But are not deemed so serviceable for war." Through the ironic use of the word "deemed," the speaker labels the belief that poetry is unnecessary for war as received opinion, not his own. With his "inquisitive mind" and his "falling for romance," the sentry is a fantasy version of the short-sighted poet, who repeatedly tried to enlist during World War I and once almost succeeded by memorizing the eye chart. It took just three days for the Army to detect his handicap and send him home.

4. The Complete Poems and Fragments
By Wilfred OwenEdited by Jon Stallworthy, Norton, 1984

As he captures the unprecedented scale of the slaughter during World War I, the loss of countless thousands "who die as cattle," Wilfred Owen never forgets that the dead are also individuals, with "bugles calling for them from sad shires." His poetry celebrates the intense feelings shared by soldiers drawn close by combat, who are "wound with war's hard wire whose stakes are strong; / Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips; / Knit in the webbing of the rifle-thong." Read chronologically as the war unfolds, Owen's poetry shows rapid development and gathering power. His pointless death -- he was killed in action just days before the armistice -- deprived the 20th century of a major poet.

5. The Columbia Book of Civil War Poetry
Edited by Richard Marius, Columbia, 1994

In addition to reprinting wartime poems by Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville and many others, "The Columbia Book of Civil War Poetry" includes later poems that allude to the conflict. William Vaughan Moody's "An Ode in Time of Hesitation" (1898) denounces the grasping American invasion of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War as an insult to the nobility of the Civil War dead: "Those baffled and dislaureled ghosts / Will curse us from the lamentable coasts." Robert Lowell, in "For the Union Dead" (1963), wryly notices how a "commercial photograph" of Hiroshima has replaced the statues that once commemorated heroes. Beautifully selected, printed and edited, this collection demonstrates the continuing presence, in the American imagination, of our bloodiest war.

Mr. Winn, an English professor at Boston University, is the author of "The Poetry of War" (Cambridge, 2008).

Memorial Day

Test your knowledge of English Poetry Canon

Three little quizzes from the Oxford University Press to test our knowledge of the poetry drummed into (some of) us in school, courtesy of Michael and Diane Ravitch (The English Reader).

Test your knowledge of English Poetry Canon
found on book blog, The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Russian poetry: Timur Kibirov

From Book Bench, the New Yorker book blog: The Russian poet Timur Kibirov, whose work could not be published under the Soviet regime, wins the government’s straightforwardly named “Poet” Award, with a prize of fifty thousand dollars.

I've been looking for poems by Kibirov but finding mostly scholarly articles about his poetry. that is so not right I don't trust myself to expand on it. Suffice it to say, as a former denizen of those towers, yet another black mark against the academy.

Cited from Transformation of Kitsch
As civilizations fall, many poets hear the call for the art of memory that would preserve the traces of past life, but in the end few are chosen. Ostensibly a lyric, self-consciously sentimental poet, Kibirov is among the chosen few whose record of Soviet civilization is savoured by the post-Soviet reader.  Every poem in his collection may be used as a basis for a reconstruction of that world, as its clamour continues to resonate in the hearts of its former citizens.  Like a folk ballad or Homer's catalogue of ships, Kibirov’s poems appear telescoped into infinity, with variations piled upon variations, detail upon detail, nostalgically retarding the coda ad infinitum: 
You [Russia] know how to share the last ruble,
How to confiscate it, or to booze it away,
How to drown the great grandchildren
Of your great writers!

You can dance till you drop,
Compose verses till dawn,
And right there and then, tear
A sheet from the same notebook and-look-

You write a denunciation of your neighbor,
Quarrel over the communal garbage pale,
Send Frenchmen into space in a rocket,
Get stoned in the evening subway.

You strike demonstrators with shovels1,
You deride the stubborn Estonians2
And imagine that your cowardly soul
Makes for True Spirituality.

Dekulakized through and through, you weep from pity,
Deprived of Christ, you are busy painting Easter eggs,
You toil like a slave building factories and roads
To save up for a coat for the winter

Let the English fleas keep dancing,
We have no time to shoe them,
On Saturdays, we moonlight,
Can’t keep anything under control.

Oh your every last dive at the town gate,
Your every last coin clutched in the hand,
Your every last gulp of free booze,
Your Lenin lodged in every last head.

With sadness, you avert your eyes from the gallows
Pushkin3 had to cover your shame
1 A reference to the Tbilisi massacre of 1988 when paratroopers attacked with sapper shovels a crowd demonstrating outside the headquarters of the Georgian Communist Party.

2 A reference to the Estonians' stubborn insistence on restoring their independence from the Soviet Union during the last years of perestroika (1989-91).

3 By effecting a new synthesis between the three main ingredients of the Russian literary idiom -- Church Slovanic, Western European borrowings, and the spoken vernacular -- Pushkin created the language of modern Russian poetry. He was the first to use everyday speech in his poetry. His personal life was made difficult by his conflicts with the authorities who disapproved of his liberal views.

From Marijeta Bozovic on Timur Kibirov:
Criticism has yet to adequately catch up with Timur Kibirov’s popularity and significance in late 20th and 21st century Russian poetry. His highly meta-literary lyrics are rife with allusions, ironic quotations, paraphrases, borrowings and responses: the verses call into question accepted notions of canon and “literariness,” pulling apart Soviet, intelligentsia and general “Russian Literature” clichés alike. And yet for all the radical elements and irony in his work, Kibirov consistently demonstrates a profound knowledge of, debt to—and love for—the Russian poetic tradition. 

Bilingual anthology of Russian verse online, From the Ends to the Beginning

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Buffy Sainte Marie & Jimmy Santiago Baca at UNM

From NM Culture -  Perfect for a beautiful Albuquerque evening!

2 UNM Free Summer Sunset Lectures

June 7th, 7:00 p.m.
UNM Student Union Ballroom, Main Campus, Albuquerque
Singer, educator, activist
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "A Multimedia Life"

Universal Soldier, written "in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties" is about "individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all."
He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn't kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you

And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

And he's fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
who's to live and who's to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls

But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier and he
really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.

July 12th, 7:00 p.m.
UNM Student Union Ballroom A, Main Campus, Albuquerque
Poet, author, screenwriter
Jimmy Santiago Baca: The Power of Poetry on My Life"
When Life
Is cut close, blades and bones,
And the stench of sewers is everywhere,
Blood-sloshed floors,
And guards count the dead
With the blink of an eyelid, then hurry home
To supper and love, what saves us
From going mad is to carry a vacant stare
And a quiet half-dead dream.

More Baca poems


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email_sig Also blogging Mountainair from Mountainair Arts and Mountainair Announcements,

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


an online literary journal since 2001, seeks submissions of poetry for its fall issues. Please visit the site by following the link below to our guidelines. Also below are the names of poets who appear in the May 2008 issue--representing a lot of good reading! Lunarosity archives all poetry it has published, so you may find the work of previously featured writers in our index.

LUNAROSITY, presents in May: Poetry by Ann Applegarth, Gary Beck, Gary Brower, Taylor Graham, John Grey, Tammy Ho, Kevin Paul Miller, Steve McLary, James Penha, and David Rushing. Managing Editor Wayne Crawford with Joanne Townsend on Poetry and Rus Bradburd on Fiction.

Writers Without Borders: Our reading series at the Branigan Library continues the first Sunday in April with Larry Goodell and Ellen Roberts Young. Journal 12 is coming in April. Submission for # 13 will soon follow.

 Posted on MySpace - a few of Wayne Crawford's poems, his first and second poetry videos, and a blog.

Blogging from Mountainair NM at
Mountainair Arts,
Poets and Writers Picnic,
Mountainair Announcements,

Monday, May 5, 2008

Poets and poetry for el Cinco de Mayo

Plogging Cinco de Mayo with poetry by Mexican and Chicano poets...

Pobre poetas / Poor Poets  a/to Miguel Ángel Flores por/by Francisco X Alarcón

por las calles
rondan poetas
como pajaritos
caídos del nido

dan con los postes
del alumbrado
que de pronto
les salen al paso

les piden permiso
a las bancas vacias
de los parques

nadie sabe ni ellos
mismos por qué
en los homros
les brotan alas

un día quizá usen
por fin esa llave
que desde siempre
traen en el bolsillo
poets go astray
on the streets
like chicks fallen
from their nest

they bump into
light posts that
without warning
cross their path

courteous as ever
they ask empty
park benches
for permission to sit

nobody knows
not even they
why wings sprout
on their shoulders

maybe one day
they'll finally use
that key they carry
forever in their pocket

"Motion/Movimiento" By Octavio Paz, Translated by Eliot Weinberger, from COLLECTED POEMS 1957-1987, copyright ©1986 by Octavio Paz and Eliot Weinberger. Poem selected by Lars Rydquist, head librarian, Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy.


Si tú eres la yegua de ámbar
              yo soy el camino de sangre
Si tú eres la primer nevada
              yo soy el que enciende el brasero del alba
Si tú eres la torre de la noche
              yo soy el clavo ardiendo en tu frente
Si tú eres la marea matutina
              yo soy el grito del primer pájaro
Si tú eres la cesta de naranjas
              yo soy el cuchillo de sol
Si tú eres el altar de piedra
              yo soy la mano sacrílega
Si tú eres la tierra acostada
              yo soy la caña verde
Si tú eres el salto del viento
              yo soy el fuego enterrado
Si tú eres la boca del agua
              yo soy la boca del musgo
Si tú eres el bosque de las nubes
              yo soy el hacha que las parte
Si tú eres la ciudad profanada
              yo soy la lluvia de consagración
Si tú eres la montaña amarilla
              yo soy los brazos rojos del liquen
Si tú eres el sol que se levanta
              yo soy el camino de sangre


If you are the amber mare
              I am the road of blood
If you are the first snow
              I am he who lights the hearth of dawn
If you are the tower of night
              I am the spike burning in your mind
If you are the morning tide
              I am the first bird's cry
If you are the basket of oranges
              I am the knife of the sun
If you are the stone altar
              I am the sacrilegious hand
If you are the sleeping land
              I am the green cane
If you are the wind's leap
              I am the buried fire
If you are the water's mouth
              I am the mouth of moss
If you are the forest of the clouds
              I am the axe that parts it
If you are the profaned city
              I am the rain of consecration
If you are the yellow mountain
              I am the red arms of lichen
If you are the rising sun
              I am the road of blood

And a by no means inclusive sampler of Mexican / Chicano poets

Possibly Sor Juana's best known sonnet - a single sentence in Spanish, sometimes titled "la nada"

Procura desmentir los elogios que`
a un retrato de la poetisa inscribió
la verdad, que llama pasión

Este, que ves, engaño colorido,
que del arte ostentando los primores,
con falsos silogismos de colores
es cauteloso engaño del sentido;

     éste, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido
excusar de los años los horrores,
y venciendo del tiempo los rigores
triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

     es un vano artificio del cuidado,
es una flor al viento delicada,
es un resguardo inútil para el hado:

     es una necia diligencia errada,
es un afán caduco y, bien mirado,
es cadáver, es polvo, es sombra, es nada.

She disavows the flattery visible
in a portrait of herself, which
she calls bias

     These lying pigments facing you,
with every charm brush can supply
set up false premises of color
to lead astray the unwary eye.

     Here, against ghastly tolls of time,
bland flattery has staked a claim,
defying the power of passing years
to wipe out memory and name.

     And here, in this hollow artifice —
frail blossom hanging on the wind,
vain pleading in a foolish cause,

     poor shield against what fate has wrought —
all efforts fall and in the end
a body goes to dust, to shade, to nought.

Chicano poetry
is written by and primarily about Mexican Americans and the Mexican-American way of life in the society. The term "Chicano" is a political and cultural term of identity specifically identifying people of Mexican descent who are born in the United States, whether offspring of Latinos who either emigrated to the United States or descendants of those involuntarily included in 1848. It is written in English, Spanish, or any combination thereof (including Spanglish).

Just as Latin American literature is both diverse and possessing a unity remarkable for the many countries and geographic span it covers, Chicano poetry does not exist in isolated disconnect from either Latin American poetry or that splendidly mind-blowing body Latin American poetry.


Audiopoetry (pō'ĭ-trē) is a digital audio poetry anthology site run by Black Mamba, with poems sent in by Falstaff, Veena and n other contributing members.

See Black Mamba's original post about pō'ĭ-trē here.

What does pō'ĭ-trē mean?

It is just poetry read out loud.

po·et·ry (pō'ĭ-trē) pronunciation

  1. The art or work of a poet.
    1. Poems regarded as forming a division of literature.
    2. The poetic works of a given author, group, nation, or kind.
  2. A piece of literature written in meter; verse.
  3. Prose that resembles a poem in some respect, as in form or sound.
  4. The essence or characteristic quality of a poem.
  5. A quality that suggests poetry, as in grace, beauty, or harmony: the poetry of the dancer's movements.

[Middle English poetrie, from Old French, from Medieval Latin poētria, from Latin poēta, poet. See poet.] (from

Why audio poetry?

One, because we like poetry. Yeah okay, a couple of us will kill for poetry but the rest are normal beings. Two, we like listening to poetry. For some of us, poetry actually starts to make sense when we hear it recited.

Who runs pō'ĭ-trē?

pō'ĭ-trē is currently run by Black Mamba, Falstaff and Veena. All contributing members can send in recorded poetry and we will post your recording on the blog.

Why should I send in my recorded stuff?

Not only do you get to see your poetry recordings on this blog, you also get to see your name displayed on the sidebar as a contributing member. And our annual members' meet happens at our headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska every January. So what are you waiting for?

How do I make recordings?

There are a couple of different ways to do this:

1. Windows Sound Recorder. If you have a Windows PC, this should be readily available at Start -> All programs -> Accessories -> Entertainment (or multimedia) -> Sound Recorder.

2. Audacity – You can download this über-cool open source recorder We are always on the lookout for interesting recording software, so do let us know if you come across any.

Where do I send my recordings, requests, etc.?


Do you post only English poetry?

Nope, all languages are welcome. In fact, we would love to see some diversity here at pō'ĭ-trē. We also post translations if available.

Can I send in my own poems?

Nope, at this time we do not plan to post original poetry. Unless of course, you are Wendy Cope in which case you are more than welcome.

Poets & Writers (Inc, that is)

According to its "about us" page, Poets & Writers, Inc. is a source of information, support, and guidance for creative writers. Founded in 1970, it is the nation's largest nonprofit literary organization serving poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. The national office is located in New York City and the California branch office in Los Angeles. Including but not limited to:
  • Submission Calendar
  • Articles (from the print edition & exclusive online-only material)
  • Tools for Writers - Looking for accurate information? PW staff sifts through claims, statements, and announcements to compile resources.
  • Just Connect - discussions about agents, conferences, and contests in Speakeasy Message Forum; Directory of Writers to find contact info and publication credits for over 7,500 authors; Literary Events Calendar.
Note - area sections for "connect" list writers and events in the state. Nothing listed for NM. Maybe some erstwhile pwpista will step forward and submit something. If I can find the submit link, PWP and Workshop with go on it.

Blogging from Mountainair NM at
Mountainair Arts,
Poets and Writers Picnic,
Mountainair Announcements,

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Weird Words

.... because if the rest of the world can never be too thin or too rich, scribblers can never have too many words, the weirder the better. Besides, none of the pwp guest readers I invited to submit poems responded, let alone delivered, leaving me with a materials gap... your mission, should you choose to accept to compose a poem using one or (preferably) more of the following weird words

Weird Words from  World Wide Words

Pilcrow /'pIlkr@U/ - the paragraph sign.
    The word is delightful, not least because it gives no clue at all to what it means or where it might come from. The recently revised entry for it in the Oxford English Dictionary says that it is "now chiefly historic", which I rather dispute, since it's easy to find examples in current books on typography and it continues to be used in standards documents that list character sets.
    What makes it truly weird is that the experts are sure it's a much bashed-about transformation of "paragraph". This can be traced back to ancient Greek "paragraphos", a short stroke that marked a break in sense (from "para-", beside + "graphein", write). The changes began with people amending the first "r" to "l" (it appeared in Old French in the thirteenth century as "pelagraphe" and "pelagreffe"). Then the folk etymologists got at it, altering the first part to "pill" and the second to "craft" and then to "crow". The earliest recorded version was "pylcrafte", in 1440; over the next century it settled down to its modern form.
    The paragraph symbol, by the way, isn't a reversed "P" as you might guess. It's actually a script "C" that was crossed by one or two vertical lines. The letter stood for Latin "capitulum", chapter.

Recently noted: MALLERCISE
An article in the Guardian on Tuesday said mallercise
"is a craze sweeping the US and catching on here". You may perhaps not recognise it under that name - a newspaper search found only a few examples, all from the UK, the earliest being from the Scotsman in 2002. The US name is "mall-walking", a term that can be found in newspapers from the early 1980s. As it appeared in a guide, Safety & Health, issued by the US National Safety Council in 1988: "Mall-walking is growing by leaps and bounds. And lots of shopping malls want to get involved with it", it's wide of the mark to say it's a newly fashionable craze. It's obviously enough walking in shopping malls, a form of exercise especially suitable for older people or those with heart problems, since the malls are climate-controlled and free of wheeled traffic.

    Writing about oneself in an adulatory way. Autohagiography has the same relationship to autobiography as a publicist’s puffery has to objective truth. So far as I know it hasn’t yet reached the pages of any major dictionary, being one of those words that lurks unnoticed in the linguistic undergrowth, only occasionally emerging to startle the unwary reader. The first use of it I can trace is in the title of the book The Confessions of Aleister Crowley; An Autohagiography, which was published in 1970. I’ve also seen the adjective autohagiographical, but it seems to be rare to the point where it is reinvented each time it’s used. The root word hagiography comes from the Greek agios, “holy”, and was at first applied to books which described the lives of the saints. Such books had a marked tendency towards uncritical descriptions. So sometime about the end of last century hagiography broadened its sense to that of any biographical work that flatters or idolises its subject.

CACOGRAPHY /kæˈkɒɡrəfɪ/
    Bad handwriting or bad spelling. We should use this word more, it’s too useful and relevant to let it fade away. It derives from the Greek graphos, “writing”, prefixed with kakos, “bad”. We’re more familiar with this as the beginning of cacophony, “bad noises” (despite the association of ideas, it has nothing to do with our cack-handed, which derives from Old English cack, “excrement”). When cacography began to appear in English at the end of the sixteenth century it did so with the sense of “bad spelling”. It was beginning to be thought that the old way of spelling words by personal preference ought to give way to a standardised system; the introduction of printing had a lot to do with this. So cacography was seen as the opposite of orthography, “correct spelling”. In the following century cacography was used to mean bad handwriting as well, as the opposite of yet a third Greek word, calligraphy, “fine writing”. The word is marked as archaic in my dictionaries, though it still turns up from time to time. A typical usage was that by the horror writer H P Lovecraft, who described the manuscript of his novel Quebeck as “136 pages of crabbed cacography” (in reference presumably to the handwriting rather than the spelling). Someone who exhibits either failing is a cacographer.

Hairy at the heel
    The expression is characteristically English, but it was a term more of clubland, the upper middle classes and the landed gentry than of English people at large. It placed the speaker as much as the person being spoken about. The term came out of bloodstock breeding. It used to be said that it was a sign of poor breeding if a horse had too much hair about the fetlocks. It didn't take much to shift the saying, figuratively, to humans. Of course, it applied only to thoroughbred racehorses and to humans who aspired to belong to society's equivalent: working horses such as shires have very hairy feet, but then they're common as muck.
    The expression was rather variable, also appearing as "hairy in the fetlocks", "hairy round the heels", "hairy-heeled", even at times simply "hairy", though it doesn't seem to be connected to any of the many other senses of that word. Dating-wise, its heyday was of the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. You can still find it on occasion, but it's now outmoded, a term solely of elderly upper-class men remembering their youth.

Archive of weird words, turns of phrase and topical words

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Poetry Super Highway E-book Free-For-All

The 4th annual Poetry Super Highway E-book Free-For-All is on now. 64 e-books have been donated by poets from all over the world and they are now available to download for the next 24 hours for free. Click on "E-Book Free-For All" from the main Poetry Super Highway menu to get your free e-fill.

This is a limited time offer...the free download links will disappear tonight at midnight (The evening of May1st) and we'll post a new page letting everyone know how many times each book was downloaded.

So get to that e-book downloading's a free-for-all!
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