Text: Solveig Hansen
“Is she paralyzed from the waist up? No… she does Irish dancing.”
Pat Ingoldsby’s (born in 1942) poems span from the quirky and queer to the rough reality of street life. He used to host children’s TV shows, write plays, publish short stories, and work as a newspaper columnist. In the mid-nineties, he withdrew from the mass media to write poetry, which he sells on the streets of Dublin. Look for him on Westmoreland Street.
I first heard about him while on assignment in Dublin a couple of years ago. Before leaving, I dropped by a book store and asked for a contemporary Irish poet. The young girl behind the counter hesitated for a second, and then she said, “Pat Ingoldsby.”
Mr. Ingoldsby has found his own characteristic and humoristic style for which his readers love him. He draws inspiration from overhearing people talk on buses, from people he observes and talks to while selling books, and from things they say to him (“Keep an eye on the bike will you”).
He takes something ordinary and makes it slightly surreal. I have heard the Irish describe Irish dancing, but not like this: “Is she paralyzed from the waist up? No… she does Irish dancing.” Another typical word-picture is:
The bicycle knelt forward
because its front wheel
The classic Vagina in the Vatican is a comment to certain aspects of the Catholic Church and depicts a vagina sneaking into the Vatican. Nobody stopped it because no one knew what is was – except for a few, who pretended they did not know. Then the vagina had tea with the cardinals.
Among the more somber poems is Last Supper, in which a homeless man makes a picture of the Last Supper from the white bird droppings on the pavement. He then wanders into the picture and eats the bread and drinks the wine and falls asleep with his arms stretched out, like a cross.
One favorite of mine is Part of the reason why Lord Livingston Cotchineal left his wife and went to live in an enclosed order – the publisher kindly gave me the permission to publish it.
Vagina in the Vatican is from How was it for you Doctor (1994). The other poems are from If you don’t tell anybody I won’t (1996).
Text: Solveig Hansen
When letters in a pangram start falling off a memorial plaque, the letters are banned, with harsh punishments for those who use the forbidden characters. This is the plot in Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Written in 2001, the story is a commentary on issues like censorship and freedom of speech. It is also a fable for lovers of words.
First, some facts and history: A pangram is a sentence that contains all the letters of a given alphabet, at least once. A perfect pangram uses each letter only once. The opposite of a pangram is called a lipogram, in which one or more letters are omitted. Today, pangrams are typically used to display samples of typefaces on computer screens.
The best known English pangram is The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, first used at the end of the 19th century as writing practice. Later, it was used to test typewriters and teleprintes.
Another well-known and more recent pangram is Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs, originating from the novel by Mark Dunn, Ella Minnow Pea, in which the search for a shorter pangram is part of the plot.
Ella Minnow Pea
In the novel, the pangram The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog is credited to Nevin Nollop, a fictitious inhabitant of the equally fictitious island of Nollop, off the coast of South Carolina. The pangram is written on tiles on his memorial statue. When the letter tiles start falling off, the island’s high council bans the use of the fallen letters from all communication, written and spoken, and enforces a penalty system for using them. Neighbors are encouraged to spy on neighbors and report violations to the council.
The story is conveyed through mails and notes sent between various characters, and as the alphabet diminishes, the letters disappear from the novel. When the first letter, z, falls off, the heroine of the novel, Ella Minnow Pea, explains:
“To speak or write any word containing the letter Z, or to be found in possession of any written communication containing this letter, one will receive for a first offense a public oral reprimand… Second offenders will be offered choice between the corporal pain of body-flogging and the public humiliation of headstock upon the public square. For third offense, violators will be banished from the island. Refusal to leave upon order of Council will result in death.”
Then the letter q falls off and is outlawed. Ella writes:
“As luck would have it, there are simply not all that many words in the English language which claim this letter among its constituents.”
However, even the removal of the two least-used letters has its repercussions: the loss of radio and newspaper and recordings of music with lyrics.
When d falls, the days of the weeks are renamed:
In the end, only five letters remain, LMNOP (= Ella Minnow Pea, get it?). “Now onlee 5 remain at 12 o’time. Onlee 5. Onlee 5 remain,” Ella writes to herself in her penultimate letter.
The solution to restore their language and topple Nollop from his godlike stature, is to find a pangram of 32 letters, in contrast to Nollop’s 35. Ella saves the day by discovering this phrase in one of her father’s letters: Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs. The islanders are then again free to use all the 26 letters.
Originally posted on Friday Flash Fiction:
Folks called her Old Witch, and she was Timmy’s friend. He went to see her one day and she took him to a meadow.
“Would you like to fly?” she asked.
“Sure!” said Timmy.
“Then close your eyes and take off!”
He closed his eyes, she touched his forehead, and he seemed to grow light as a feather. In his mind’s eye he could see the meadow drop away, and the clouds grow near.
“Did I really fly?” he asked when he opened his eyes.
“Who’s to say?” she answered. “My eyes were shut, too. But I’m sure you did.”
Originally posted on The Global Human: Social Comments:
Text: Solveig Hansen
“The pen is mightier than the sword,” we frequently say, even more so after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The man to thank for this phrase is Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873).
Cambridge Dictionaries defines this idiom as “thinking and writing have more influence on people than the use of force or violence.” Isn’t that what writers aspire to: find the right composition of words that moves and shakes and transforms – or maybe puts a smile on the reader’s face?
The pencil & sword analogy is not a new one. In the biblical Epistle to the Hebrews, for instance, verse 4:12 reads: “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”
According to Wikipedia, “The pen is mightier than the sword” as a phrase was…
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