Friday, January 20, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Chaos

A delight for those of us who love words, and anyone who has ever struggled with English spelling and pronunciation! This brilliant poem* was originally written by a Dutch teacher and amateur linguist, Gerard Nolst Trenité, as a part of his book Drop your foreign accent. The book went through eleven editions; the poem appeared as an appendix to the fourth edition and then continued to grow and change –you can easily imagine how new verses must have presented themselves to him once he’d gotten started on the project. There are apparently a number of regional variations as well and I suspect others may have contributed their own bits of inspiration to Trenité's original.

I’ll include just a couple of stanzas here to give you a taste of it.

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tearin eye, your dress you'll tear;
Queer,fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, hear and heard,
Diesand diet, lord and word.

I hadn’t heard of this poem until someone started sharing iton Facebook a couple of weeks ago. In case you missed it there, here’s a link to the whole poem and detailed notes about its origins and the development of this particular version.

Libravox, bless them, offers multiple versions of the poem, a downloadable file of the entire book, and several audio files so you can enjoy different readers’ approaches to the poem. Great fun.

*Purists will argue that this is not actually a poem, as it is devoid of any kind of metaphor or other imagery, and that a rhyme, no matter how clever, does not a poem make. Which is of course true, so The Chaos is perhaps better termed a brilliant exercise of doggerel. But then there is an argument about whether doggerel, done intentionally, is not a form of poetry?

Poetry Friday is being hosted this week at Wild Rose Reader.

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