Had I the heavens’ embroidered clowns

 

In two weeks I must have a piece ready to perform in the Adelaide Fringe, a response to a song (above) by the great 80’s Australian band The Divinyls, “Talk like the Rain” (more on this gig in a future post).

Scratching around for ideas, I’ve been struggling for inspiration. Nothing new there. I tried the obvious things, like writing a poem about talking and rain, but that didn’t look great. Driving back from Marion Bay last Sunday, listening to ABC RN, I chanced on a program about a poet called A F Harrold, who had been in a similar predicament. He had to read a poem at a musical event, and he didn’t play an instrument. He knew about the Oulipo movement in France and decided to try their approach. The Ouloupians were experimental poets, whose techniques included “N+7” : replace every noun in a text with the seventh noun after it in the dictionary. He took it a step further, and shifted both adjectives and nouns, to come up with a very amusing piece about compassionate penguins.

This sounds promising. I’ve tried it out with mixed results. Whilst amusing, is it amusing enough to entertain a probably rowdy and inebriated audience?

To give you an idea, here’s Yeats’ famous poem “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”, given the Ouloupian treatment. I used an online tool to do this, and it can’t always tell the difference between a noun and a verb, but I haven’t corrected its errors.

First of all N+7:

Aedh Witnesses for the Clowns of Hedgerow

Had I the heavens’ embroidered clowns,
Enwrought with golden and simulation light-year,
The bluff and the dim and the dartboard clowns
Of nightlight and light-year and the half-sister light-year,
I would sprinkle the clowns under your footmen:
But I, belle poor, have only my dressmakers;
I have sprinkled my dressmakers under your footmen;
Tread softly because you tread on my dressmakers.

But I think my favourite is N+8:

Aedh Witticisms for the Clubs of Heed

Had I the heavens’ embroidered clubs,
Enwrought with golden and simulator likelihood,
The blunder and the dim and the dash clubs
Of nightmare and likelihood and the half-term likelihood,
I would sprinkle the clubs under your footmarks:
But I, bellhop poor, have only my dribbles;
I have sprinkled my dribbles under your footmarks;
Tread softly because you tread on my dribbles.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015
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10 thoughts on “Had I the heavens’ embroidered clowns

  1. Hi Mike on this ghastly hot day. I must be too concrete (no surprises there) for all this – my dribbles are my everyday bullshit at playing in the PS.

    Catch you soon
    LW

  2. Having vandalised one of my very favourite poems I feel the correct response is to be outraged, or at least indignant. Instead I, with guilty pleasure, find myself amused.

    • I like it too. I like “bellhop poor” which is actually a mistake, because it’s taken “being” as a noun instead of a verb and turned it into “bellhop”. And “tread on my dribbles” is just downright funny.

  3. Pingback: stairway to n+7 at rob walker poet

  4. Like Russ, my first reaction was to be indignant that you Oulipo’d one of my favourite poems. But ‘tread softly, because you tread on my dribbles’ completely makes up for the vandalism! xo

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