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[ Lipogram: a composition from which the writer rejects all words that contain a certain letter or letters. ]
JonArno Lawson, addict of wordplay and lover of children's poetry, has created a collection of lipograms written for children. The idea behind A Voweller's Bestiary is a simple one: an alphabet book based on vowel combinations, rather than on initial letters. This is vowel language applied to the animal kingdom.
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I've worked on this book guiltily for several years. My troubled conscience (I have two children; economic imperatives are always asserting themselves) has worked on a justification for the book as long as I've worked on the book itself, which I offer below.
Others have played beyond the restrictions of the A-is for Apple, B-is for Bee type of alphabet book before -- one of the most memorable being Dr. Seuss with his brilliant On beyond Zebra!, another being Richard Wilbur's The Disappearing Alphabet. While the work of bpNichol has been indispensable in pointing me in this direction, and Christian Bök's Eunoia was a direct inspiration, a short quote from David Pendlebury's afterword to his abridged translation of Hakim Sanai's Walled Garden of Truth (The Octagon Press, London, 1974) underscores the reason why I wished to attempt something in this form:
`This is perhaps a good moment to question the assumption that because in our culture the fascination of secret codes, rhyming, punning, spoonerisms, etc., tends to wane with the onset of puberty, such activities are inherently childish and immature. Indeed when we find a culture, like Sanai's [12th century Ghaznavid Persian, in which these preoccupations persist, in correspondingly more sophisticated forms, right into adult life, we may even begin to wonder why this capacity seems to atrophy so soon in the West. Far from having outgrown an infantile mode of behaviour, it may be argued that we have failed to develop its potential adult stage -- a very valuable counterweight to the hypnotic power of linear verbal communication. Naturally our thinkers write and speak words -- and yet everything is ruthlessly excluded from their communications which might serve to remind us that what is actually being communicated is not thought, but mere words. Language has become for us like water: a tasteless, odourless, colourless medium; and like fish we are only aware of its existence when for some reason we are suddenly deprived of it. We are effectively anaesthetized to words; and perhaps precisely for that very reason we have been more enslaved by them than any other culture in history.'
Oddly, while some of these concerns have been addressed in adult poetry in the thirty years following the publication of Pendlebury's afterword, it's less and less a part of the poetry published for children.
Addict of wordplay and lover of children's poetry that I am, it seemed a shame to me that there wasn't a collection of lipograms anywhere written for children in particular. Few, aside from Ross Eckler's amazing lipogrammatic variations on `Mary had a little lamb', seemed to have been written within hearing of children, and I wanted to help remedy this.
It interested me how etymologically unrelated synonyms and antonyms often shared exactly the same vowels (Magician/wizard; happy/angry, eavesdrop/overhear; companionable/cooperative/hospitable, etc.). (Less interesting to me was the fact that they often don't ...).
The idea behind A Voweller's Bestiary is a simple one; an alphabet book based on vowel combinations, rather than on initial letters. I used the lipogrammatic rule of excluding certain vowels from each set (the sets being a, e, i, o, u, ae, ai, ao, au, ei, eo, eu, io, iu, ou, aei, aeo, aeu, aio, oiu, aou, eio, eiu, eou, iou, aeio, aeiu, aiou, eiou, aeou, aeiou, y).
BUT -- I also followed my own extra rule of including each of the included vowels in each word. I don't think anyone has ever come at it this way before. If you know of someone who has, please resist the urge to inform me; I'd rather that you not spoil my happy illusion of having done something a little bit original.
The little H section at the end was simply to play about with H's strange transformative function when it falls after certain letters. David Sacks has written a marvelous book called Language Visible, Unraveling the mystery of the alphabet from A to Z which has a fascinating discussion of the history of the letter H (and of all of the other letters as well).
You may notice that Y is used once as a consonant, but I excluded it as a vowel, except in the poem `Fly, lynx'. It's possible, at a stretch, to make lines for the `AY' (angry jays play abysmally)`EY' (veery, they're everywhere, veery eye prey), `IY' (silly grizzly bicycling timidly) `OY', (Booby's nobody's boy), `UY' (Hurry furry husky puppy!) or even `OEY' sets, but I couldn't find enough matching animals or words (OEY was almost Osprey or Donkey -- but I couldn't get much further than `Osprey enjoys donkey's tomfoolery', or `Monkey's poetry destroys osprey's decoy ceremony').
In any case, my real hope with this strange little book is that someone reading it will say, `Wait, I have a betteAbout the Author:
Born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised nearby in Dundas, JonArno Lawson's most formative experiences as a child occurred in Florida which he visited for an extended stay at the age of eight. Happy to be missing almost an entire year of school, he filled his days at the beach digging holes and collecting shells and coconuts, travelling in glass-bottomed boats and touring nature parks that featured free-roaming monkeys and parrots. He wore a ship captain's hat at all times, and a green pouch in w
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Book Description Porcupine's Quill, 2008. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0889843007