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.


  1. It’s a contemporary version of the Duke’s remark in Huckleberry Finn
    “There,” says he, if that line don’t fetch them, I don’t know Arkansaw!”

  2. John Emerson says

    Tardos lived with Jackson Mac Low for 25 years. That seems to fit.

  3. Kári Tulinius says

    That’s an amazing poem! Thanks!

  4. Piers Kelly says

    If you put “Yentsia bakoondy eeleck, ta-dee-doo-dah, bentsey la cozy fen-fen.
    Bit baloon timi zin zah, timi zin zah, zimbudah.” into Google Translate and select ‘detect language’, it says comes back with “We are not yet able to translate from Azerbaijani into English.”

  5. I like taking seriously the question in 20:
    What makes you think that living is not dying?
    What would make you think that?? What would make you think there isn’t a difference??

    Spellenigmas: “Haley’s Comet” (6). “elyptical” (14).

    The numerology is a divertingly direct connection to the poem’s meaning(s): 9 x 9 words per stanza; 27 stanzas; 1 + (3 to the seventh power) + 27 + 2 words total; that’s 2217 words total. The Number of the Yeast.

    It’s a “May-December” poem, which is poignant for February Hyperconsumption Day.

    It’d be interesting to compare what one thinks are the golden lines from the dross now with the same distinction one will make in, say, a year, or n years.

  6. Jeremy Wheeler says

    Re: Yentsia bakoondy eeleck, ta-dee-doo-dah, bentsey la cozy fen-fen.
    Bit baloon timi zin zah, timi zin zah, zimbudah.
    I’m working on a theory that this is, in part at least, Hungarian. Yentsia, Bakoondy, Budah, Timi, and possibly La cozy, could be phonetic renderings of Hungarian names (Jenci, Bakondi, Buda, Timi, Rakoczy) Eeleck is possibly elek, which means ‘I live’. It’s a bit of a long shot but not entirely unlikely. Any other Hungarian speakers out there with a view on this?

  7. I like the theory, because she spent time in Budapest and learned Hungarian; “a bit of a long shot but not entirely unlikely” is about right, pending further ID.

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