Monday, January 24, 2011

Sir Gawain, possums, hippopotamuses

1. Last night I came up with a new poem project; it's going to be in the Gawain and the Grene Knight form -- which I've always been a fan of -- and will involve possums, the breakup of Gondwanaland, and the Great American Interchange. (A look at the first stanza of Gawain -- the Mod E translation follows the text -- will suggest how these things fit together.) Currently the poem is meant to be a setpiece in the "novel" I'm supposedly writing with Marina Weiss; this bit is titled, for now, "A divagation, concerning possums" (yes there's a dreadful pun in there); but it might not belong in the novel in the end. If the novel ever gets written. And if the poem ever gets written.

1'. The next few weeks are going to be horribly busy; I have to give a seminar at UVA in a week, and finish up two papers by the APS meeting in Dallas in late March. Blogging will (hopefully) be sporadic. Unfortunately I tend to be a self-starting worker; times when I'm getting work done are also times when I just really want to blog and tweet and write and do other stuff, and fallow spells tend to be fallow on all fronts. But we'll see how this goes.

1''. On the topic of Gawain, Michael Berube (via Geoffrey Chaucer hath a blog) has posted my favorite passage in the poem. My favorite lines are not the same as his, though.

2. Perhaps relatedly, I was plagued last night by dreams -- "dreams" is perhaps the wrong word -- involving hippopotamuses, their classification, etc.; I seemed to think I'd made some deep connection between the taxonomy and the etymology... Anyway I cleared it all up on Wikipedia just now, I was getting hippos mixed up with rhinoceroses, the point is that rhinoceroses and horses are both odd-toed ungulates (unlike, say, antelope) whereas hippos are even-toed ungulates.

2'. Naturally this post wouldn't be complete without drawing out the "muses" in hippopotamuses, and linking to the three obvious poems: Lewis Carroll's "Mad Gardener's Song," T.S. Eliot's "Hippopotamus" and the neat little four-liner by Hilaire Belloc.


Jenny Davidson said...

Re: hippopotami, do you know the Flanders and Swann song?

Zed said...

I didn't, but do now! That's amazing, thank you very much. Among other things, "inamorata/garter" is quite the rhyme.