A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Amanda McKittrick Ros

Well, a week has already gone by, so I guess it's time for more really bad poetry.

Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), author of the novels Irene Iddesleigh, Delina Delaney, and Helen Huddleson, the short story Donald Dudley, the books of verse Poems of Puncture and Fumes of Formation, among other works, has the distinction among many critics of being the worst author in the English language (and possibly the most alliterative as well). Amanda didn't like critics any better than they liked her, calling them "evil-minded snapshots of spleen."

Delina Delaney begins with this impenetrable phrase: "Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?" And continues in like vein for 301 pages.

Here's a sample of her verse:

On Visiting Westminster Abbey

A "Reduced Dignity" invited me to muse on its merits

Holy Moses! Have a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer,
Some of whom are turned to dust,
Every one bids lost to lust;
Royal flesh so tinged with 'blue'
Undergoes the same as you.
Famous some were--yet they died;
Poets--Statesmen--Rogues beside,
Kings--Queens, all of them do rot,
What about them? Now--they're not!

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French or German?

Spotted at the Mattoon Street Arts Festival on Saturday: this beautiful black Standard Poodle, age one and a half years, name Babette.

I made the mistake of calling Babette a French poodle, and friend Donna immediately set me straight. German poodle, she said. Our word "poodle" is, in fact, from the German pudel. (The French word for poodle is caniche.) It's an old breed--Roman stelae feature dogs that looked very much like modern poodles--and its origins are shrouded in the mists of time. But experts tend to think the breed did originate in Germany.

Although Babette is beautiful and spirited, and possibly impeccably trained, she couldn't do the dog show circuit with her current hairdo. Only the Continental cut (with the familiar lion's mane), and the equally-pompomed English Saddle clip are recognized for adult dogs. Babette looks like she's sporting the informal, pet-grade kennel clip.

The Standard Poodle was originally a water retriever. The traditional clip was designed not to be frou-frou, but practical. The "lion's mane" kept the dog's vital organs warm when he swam in cold water. The "bracelets" kept the joints warm; the puff on the tail was a flag so he could be spotted while swimming. The rest of the coat was shaved to keep him from getting water-logged, and to prevent sticks and mud from accumulating.

Practical, but also elegant. And if anyone can appreciate elegance, it's the French. Small wonder they appropriated the poodle.