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September 26, 2006


The fifth of Seamus Heaney's "Ten Glosses" reads (in its entirety) as follows:

"Overheard at the party, like wet snow
That slumps down off a roof, the unexpected
Softly powerful name of Wilfred Owen.
Mud in your eye. Artillery in heaven."

In his own way, Owen is a Lorca-figure (or prefiguration): a youn poet, the voice of a generation, remarkable in life and even more so in death.

All the best at the reading.

Ooh. Sobering warnings! :-) Now someone must get hold of the Hat, or at least of the OED, and tell me, did "mawken" exist before this essay was written?

Good luck with the reading, Beth, wish I could be there. Hope there will be photos. How about an MP3 sound file we can all listen to?

Good quote from Thomas -- I'll have to re-read that essay (I have the book). Personally, I feel you have to read your poems with passion, but as if you were encountering them for the first time (as most in the audience will be doing). Also, if time permits, I like to begin with a poem by someone else, and then try to read my own poems as if they, too, were by someone else.
I hope you get a good audience tonight, Beth. I happen to know that the material you're reading is terrific, and I imagine you have a warm reading voice, so I dare say anyone who's able to attend will be richly rewarded.

Thanks for the good wishes. They're appreciated.

Dale - I wondered about "mawken" too! Will try to ask the Hat if he doesn't come by on his own soon!

I have an OED and I know how to use it.... "mawken" isn't in it. The shorter edition, anyway. But "mawk" is - it's a maggot. And "mawkin", a variant of malkin.

You learn something obsolete every day!

Have you read Leonard Cohen's "How to Speak Poetry" (a different vein)? Wish I could be there. Break a leg!

"Mawkish" means boringly sentimental, at least over here in the UK but I haven't heard it or seen it in print for some time so maybe it's gone out of fashion. And I never heard it used as a verb - to mawken - that was probably Dylan's apt invention.

Yes, mawken as a verb meaning 'to make mawkish' is his invention (and is not in the OED -- I guess they've finally realized the foolishness of including nonce creations just because they happen to be by famous writers).

But mawken does occur as a dialect spelling of malkin "A typical name (usu. derogatory) for: a lower-class, untidy, or sluttish woman, esp. a servant or country girl. In Scotland: an awkward or ungainly young girl." It can also mean "An impotent or effeminate man; a weakling," "A mop; a bundle of rags fastened to the end of a stick, esp. for cleaning out a baker's oven," "A scarecrow; a ragged puppet or grotesque effigy," and "a designation for certain animals (sometimes as if a proper name)." But my favorite definition is 1b:

Sc. The female genitals. Cf. MERKIN n. Obs. rare.

1602 (1554) D. LINDSAY Satyre (Charteris) in Wks. (1931) II. 191 Gif that our mawkine cryis quhisch. 1800 R. BURNS Merry Muses 68 When maukin bucks, at early f-ks, in dewy glens are seen, sir.

Thanks!! and especially for that last bit...

Thank you, Venerable Hat.

Me, I just love noncing. Sometimes the word you want is simply not there. Either there's no synonym, or the available ones have the wrong specific gravity. In such cases, I just slip in an invention of my own, something with the right shape and sound, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The shorter and more Anglo-Saxon-seeming the word is, the less likely that an eyebrow will be raised.

But I'm careful not to overdo it. I don't want my poetic license suspended.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.