Sunday, April 12, 2009

How the heck did I miss this one?

Yes indeed, how the heck did I miss this one?

Just a few months ago, I posted here in the glade about two small books published last year – Naturalistless, by Christopher Rizzo, and Aaron Tieger’s The Collected Typos of Aaron Tieger – that consisted entirely of intentionally or accidently made-up words (click here to check it out, if you please).

Well, what do you know: just a few months before that post of mine, Xerox Sutra Editions published texistence, by Geof Huth & mIEKAL aND (the lower case title, ampersand, and reversed-from-normal majuscules on the second poet’s name are how it is on the book’s title page), a book with three hundred (three hundred!) made-up words, and nothing but those three hundred made-up words.

When published in August 2008, the book was featured on co-author Huth’s dbqp: visualizing poetics blog, and on Crg Hill’s Poetry Scorecard. I didn’t see either, unfortunately, and also missed Greg Ingersoll’s December, 2008 mention of the book on his Dare I read? blog. Ingersoll’s post includes a few of his favorite words from the book, and notes, I think rightly, that the made-up words in texistence can be used to construct one’s own definitions or for just looking at and thinking .

Well, since I can’t hit the rewind button and return to the weeks or months immediately after texistence first appeared, all I can do is get on it now. So let’s go:

My oh my this book’s a bonanza for bonkered bozos such as me, who loves poets who at least on occasion, or even habitually, throw open the neologic window and let the winds of invention blow what they will onto the page. (I feel the same, by the way, about poets who unscrew the syntactic doors from their jambs such that words can enter and exit as they please.)

A short note on the copyright page of texistence explains that he authors call their made-up words “pwoermds,” Of course, the term is itself what it describes, here a jumble of “words” and “poems” (or “words” and “poem”). The explanatory note also explains that the two authors wrote the words over two days in June 2008. The publisher’s webpage has a further note, explaining that the two poets collaborated on each of the three hundred words, with the authors trading off who first supplied letters and who then completed each word.

Huth’s & aND’s pwoermds are far out. Fun for the whole family, I’d imagine, or even for the isolatos out there, bless their lonely souls, looking for something a little different. With 300 examples, it’s quite possible to not only stare long and hard at each one, and to do so for quite some time, but also to make entire sentences by pulling together several examples. Here are 23 pwoermds from texistence, which I've arranged into five sentences:
Wharn ompiallo yeorem helmth lascade. Lopious qualmishion demagogo platation. Ewebabble din’t rejict azzle-addled endglyph. Tetrum swalter obrastic, podgy shidrick subpremely gumptatious. Mulljam plumn.
With three hundred words, the combinatory and permutational possibilities are vast; an exact calculation is beyond me, but I’d guess my fingers would become blistered from all the typing before the delicious revelatory neologic nonsense was exhausted.

It’s not just the words themselves that are different in texistence, but also their arrangement on the pages. Although always one to a page (thus a three hundred page book, with the vast majority of each page left blank), the words are neither centered nor even located in the same place page-to-page. Instead, on the versos (left side pages) each word is placed hard against the left-side margin, and on the rectos (right-side pages) they’re placed against the right margin. On the verso, the first page’s word is placed at the very bottom, and thus the left corner of the page; on the first recto page, the word is at the top, and thus at the top right corner.

Then things start to move. On each succeeding page, the word is placed one line above (on the versos) the one on the previous page, or (for the rectos) one line below the preceding page. And when after a dozen or so pages the words on the respective margins have hit the top (or bottom) of the respective pages, the process is reversed. The up (and down) shot of this arrangement: the book, both front-to-back and vice-versa, can be quick-read as a flip-book, with the words as you go falling and/or rising on the respective margins, as well as (when both the verso and recto or viewed at the same time) coming closer to or moving out of alignment with each other. It’s fun!

Of course, I’ve fallen deep for certain of the pwoermds. It’s not fair to all the others, I know, but such attractions can’t be denied. The first one I really, really like is very Saroyanish (Aram), if I may invoke again (click here) the work of the pioneer of the one-word poem, including especially of the type in which the one word is slightly but profoundly altered (e.g., lighght).

As with every Saroyan altered single-word poems, the Huth & aND creation I spotlight here looks great as an object on the page, even if pronunciation and meaning – what it might signify – are difficult to pin down. It’s an adverbial suffix with an extra letter “l” added to the front, which was then allowed to multiply almost to the point of running amok. Doesn’t that whet your eyeballs? Here it is (I've centered the word here, and those that follow, to create a clean look):


Another favorite maybe isn’t as beautiful a signifier-object as the one above, but nevertheless strikes deep both because it seems almost real (although the dictionary and spellchecker say it isn’t) and, real or not, is rich with connotations of crazed biological horror, given the similarities in soundand spelling to words (psychotic and zygote) that most anyone can hear and see. I think this one has a real future:


My most-favorite pwoermd in texistence – geez, my enthusiasm sometimes sounds sappy, don’t it? – is similar to the words made by Christopher Rizzo in Naturalistless, in which the end letters of one word are joined with the starting letters of another, such that two familiar words are seamlessly combined to form an unfamiliar, yet oddly not so unfamiliar, new word. Here’s Huth’s & aND’s big winner, at least to the ol’ softie romantic within me:


Awwww, ain’t that something? I’m just in hypnolove with that one, thank you very much.


texistence also works as an arrow, pointing to related works by Huth and aND. I’ve put a check in the mail to Runaway Spoon Press, which published the Huth-edited Ampersand Squared (2004), an anthology of pwoermds that includes an introduction by Huth concerning poet-made newwords. I’ve also PayPal-ed money to Xexoxial Editions, for three publications by mIEKAL aND that, from the publisher’s description, contain almost entirely invented words: Voyage 1984 Greta Garbo Box (1983), Introgic Enclodiacy (1985), and Euy (1986). The latter is described as “A zaumist biography of Alexei Kruchenykh, each page a single invented word . . . .”

Also grand – maybe the ne plus ultra of the invented word adventure, assuming you want definitions attached to the newwords – is a website curated by mIEKAL aND called (misspelling in the original, and obviously intentional) The Internalational Dictionary of Neologisms, containing more than 2500 of the things (click here to go)!

And so the reverie-fun shall continue . . . .


brian (baj) salchert said...

There was a time when I was visiting Huth's site nearly daily; so I knew about Huth's visit to aND's place and their project. On occasion I have used concocted words in poems. Blogger word verifications—when I encounter them—have intrigued me lately. Sometimes they are actual words, such as "sings" and sometimes they are tantalizing words, such as "undepsi" and "latedu" and sometimes they are almost recognizable words.

Steven Fama said...

Hi Brian,

Dang good and interesting point about the word verifications on blogger.

It's an apparently endless source of newwwords, and the real wild thing is that it

And the wild thing is that all of them -- actual, close, almost or totally unrecognizable -- are called "words" by blogger!