When I was around ten years old, my father introduced me to this poem:
It was an inflection point for me. Until then, I had always thought of poets as creative people who expressed themselves in verse when caught by the muse; as artists who penned off heaps of poems in seconds flat as and when the mood took them. I had never considered the possibility that some poets worked at structure and tone and metre and scansion. A whole new world opened up for me, suddenly and with no warning, a world I liked as much as the world of “normal” poetry. I loved it, there was something satisfying in knowing that some poetry was worked on with perspiration rather than created by inspiration, without effort.
As a result of looking for the unusual in poetry, I found out more, not just about mnemonics and acrostics in verse, but also about satire. I learnt to enjoy Joyce Kilmer’s Trees (I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree/A tree whose hungry mouth is prest/Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast) while still being able to enjoy Ogden Nash’s variant Song of the Open Road (I think that I shall never see/A billboard lovely as a tree/Indeed, unless the billboards fall/I’ll never see a tree at all). Similarly, I could enjoy the Lewis Carroll Father William as much as the Robert Southey one. And all because my father introduced me to Alliteration, or the Siege of Belgrade. [At least that was how the AA Watts poem was taught to me].
Which brings me to this BBC article that told me about Christian Bok’s Eunoia. A book of five chapters, with each chapter dedicated to the use of one vowel and no more than one vowel. Gimmicky? Artificial? Yes, but so what? It’s the kind of offbeat thing I enjoy.
Incidentally, while looking for the Siege of Belgrade piece (which I found here, my thanks to Poet’s Corner), I also came across this offbeat site, Abecedaria, which introduced me to the delights of Tamil unicode. Now I must admit it never occurred to me to Google that.