Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Devil's Dictionary




Jan van der Heyden - Still-life with Rarities - WGA11397



Devil’s Dictionary


It’s good
to shut the red
book and be
myself again
after the delirium,
to no longer be

a vade mecum
for obstreperous
demons, tauntingly
misquoted,
a dictionary
for devils;

to see the colors
unprismed from
your illusive illustrations,
random wind ruffling pages
not your spirit’s soft
secret fingers;

to feel my hair
an animal’s satiny pelt
and not a misprinted
text of memories
written across
your hands.

It’s good,
this stillness, good
even to grow old
reading my
next words 
from a
blank sheet.

July 2011





A little nostalgia. This was originally posted for the Grand Opening at dVerse Poet's Pub on their  first Open Link Night, (and for the concurrent closing of the inimitable One Stop Poetry) back when I had the privilege of working with Brian Miller, Claudia Schoenfeld, Natasha Head, Joe Hesch, and the rest of the original staffers. It was an exciting and memorable time. Due to various life and health issues, I've been unable to keep up with the ever-growing community at dVerse, but I wish everyone, new and old, all the best tonight, on the first OLN of the pub's third year.


Also posted for the Last OneShotWednesday at One Stop Poetry
which closed its doors with this final event.

The original Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce, was a collection of satirical definitions posing as an actual dictionary, and contains some of the sharpest wit in the English Language. I have used the term here in what I intend as a completely different context, but felt I ought to reference Bierce's work. You can read it online here at Project Gutenberg.

Image: Still Life with Rarities, Jan van der Heyden, 1712, oil on canvas
Jan van der Heyden [Public domain], via  wikimedia commons


32 comments:

  1. "Reading my next words from a blank sheet"

    That's what you call extemporaneous!

    ReplyDelete
  2. smiles...nostalgia indeed...i miss you joy...i mean i read like everytime you post...but i miss the behind the scenes emails on tuesdays...ha...you know the ones...grins...oh my...but it is all for a reason you know...know you are loved...even if you made me look up words tonight...noisy demons...ha...my fav stanza is the difference between feeling the pelt and not just misprinted memories across the hands...

    ReplyDelete
  3. beautiful, Hedgewitch. i don't think i've read this one before, thanks for sharing it again. i didn't weather the transition from One Stop Poetry and honestly cannot believe that was two years ago. time flies when you're farting around on the internet! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fun read! A favorite line: "... misquoted, / a devil's/dictionary". I can imagine the words in that!

    Wishing you well.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very cool poem. You made me look up vade mecum. ;) Before I read your post script I thought of Bitter Bierce.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A great read, and for me who didn't write poetry myself when this happened it's new. The second stanza was a wonderful play with words.. and mecum I had to look up.. reminded of a mouthwater we had called Vademecum :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Why am I not surprised that would reference Bierce's classic dictionary?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I remember this poem from One Stop, Joy Ann. It is as delicious as it was the first time. I was quite happy to see you amongst the folk at dVerse this evening.

    Pamela

    ReplyDelete
  9. First, just a wonderful wonderful poem. Really enjoyed, very impressed. (Imp-pressed.) I find it so effective - we are so often (i) imprinted by important figures around us in very devilish ways; and (ii) labeled, defined, take on the labels and definitions, however warped, of these imp-ortant others. So great to be a blank slate, even if the vellum seems a bit on the pelt side.

    Second - what a good idea to post an old poem. I am just beset these days. I think much is good - beset by the positive things to be done as well as burdensome - but no little corner of my own for a bit, but I really do hate to miss the holiday. I think all at dVerse really miss you even though you are still there to be visited, of course. But you definitely raise the bar! Hope you are feeling better. k.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you imp-plying there could be deviltry afoot--or a-cloven foot--here? Quite right. Yes, I have had years where writing was just a bit of journalizing or a scrap of a poem once a month because life was so pressing, and not always in a bad way, I agree. It will smooth out at some point for you, k. (I am doing better--ups and downs,but that's life.)

      Delete
  10. There is a certain symmetry in re-posting this, Joy. I don't remember it, perhaps I didn't read it, but there are so many fine details. Especially liked "your spirit's soft secret fingers...hope you are well."

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for the share, a bit of nostalgia and a really great poem too.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey that's a great link thanks - and great poem.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "good even to grow old reading my next words from a blank sheet" - oh yes, it is that!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I don't think I knew you and your fabulous words then, so I am glad to have a chance to read this. I am always so glad to read your work, I just love the way you write.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'd love to know how this "good" feels. I think I can get glimpses of it, for moments at a time. Something to look forward to....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It comes and goes--probably why it's good. Thanks for reading Mark.

      Delete
  16. I loved One Stop Poetry and really like dVerse - just hard to keep up with everything - especially in the summer. I like "this stillness" at the end of all that craziness.. and the calming blank page. Some fear a blank page, but I have a feeling artists see boundless possibilities!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I remember this! And, I still love it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Lovely to hear a little bit about the founding of the Pub. And always a pleasure to read your poetry.

    ReplyDelete
  19. An audible sigh permeates from beginning to end.. and I thoroughly enjoyed the texture and imagery of your language. It's always a treat to read your work.

    The idea of not being:

    'a misprinted
    text of memories
    written across
    your hands.'

    is particularly powerful for me on this reading. Thanks hedge.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I've missed reading your poems Joy. I haven't written a thing since February. I am hoping to rejoin the staff and write the occasional article but life has interrupted as it will do to us all. I think about you often and I am still of the mind that you are one of the finest poets I have ever read, anywhere, anytime. I count myself as your number one fan. This poem is powerful, deep, worthy of many reads, constantly unfolding nuances. It is in other words a poem of yours! G.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Gay. I know how life can be, but we have not much choice about living it. I hope you're able to write again soon--that is a difficult place.

      Delete
  21. To be emancipated from the addiction of writing? I vastly enjoyed the read, but my own addiction is much to strong. Words dance across the 'blank page' demanding I pin them to the sheet and cry, write me! Write me! And I comply.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is not about the addiction of writing, but thanks for reading.

      Delete
  22. I hope your health has improved and thank you for all the work you did. Love this poem. The last line left me stunned.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Your spin of wind ruffling pages and animal's satiny pelt just had me relaxed and at ease in this. There is often much red delirium (which I admit fuels my thoughts). It is wonderful to ease with supreme lightness here. That certainly was a fast two years, wasn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  24. To be oneself again--a marvelous note to mark the moment of moving from a version of the past to an unknown future, guided only by that blank map on the next page. It's nice to find a semblance of peace and quiet, but that red delirium can be the root of so much fertile expression. This was published a few weeks before I joined up with the dVerse crowd. I'm sorry to say I wasn't present at the creation, but have nonetheless enjoyed many satisfying ONLs at the pub. Thanks for all your thoughtful comments during that period.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I love the painting.
    Every mantle should have a stuffed armadillo.
    The verse...?
    Didn't get it then, don't get it now...:-(
    (But then of course you weren't writing this for common folk)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's just about starting over--I can't help it if I talk like this. ;_) And I totally agree on your decor assessment--a stuffed armadillo is exactly what every mantlepiece needs for that certain je ne sais quoi.

      Delete
  26. Like this alot. "even to grow old
    reading my
    next words
    from a
    blank sheet."
    What could be better than that.


    ReplyDelete

'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg