I was scanning wood s lot (one of the reliable pleasures of the LH morning) when I was stopped in my tracks by a brief excerpt from a longish poem, “Nine,” by Anne Tardos (home page, Wikipedia). It turns out she was born in France and lived in Budapest, Vienna, and Paris before moving to the United States, which explains the multilingual aspect of her work (“Zinguer je je zinguer je, mich dich Villa nicht“) but not its irresistible variety and exuberance. The excerpt impelled me to click through to the poem, and I found myself reading the entire thing with growing pleasure. Like all writing worth a damn, it’s about love, death, and language, embedded in an unpredictable framework that turns out to be just what was needed. The first line sensibly announces the framework: “Nine words per line and nine lines per stanza.” The next nonsensically revels in the arbitrariness of it: “Pink fluffy underwater kangaroo fuzzy free manic rabbity thing.” And the third ties together sense and nonsense: “Sense and nonsense similarly writer’s block clogged and unblocked.” That excerpt fairly represents the whole poem, in the manner we have learned to call “fractal” (“The fractal pattern of which we are a part”); if you find it frustrating but intriguing, I suggest you take a look at the whole thing. You may find yourself, as I did, reading it all the way to the end, laughing with delight more than once. It’s nice to be reminded that good poetry can be fun.
Here, more or less at random, is a pair of lines that struck me enough to want to copy them:
Miles Davis says play what you don’t know.
Everything we seek is guided by what is sought.
And here’s another, in a mysterious language:
Yentsia bakoondy eeleck, ta-dee-doo-dah, bentsey la cozy fen-fen.
Bit baloon timi zin zah, timi zin zah, zimbudah.
Sense or nonsense? If you know, please speak up.