Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, was a master of the art of word play. His prose is chocka-block full of invented nouns and verbs, rhymes, and what I call, gorgeous and greatly terrifying words.
As a child I was afraid of him.
His poem, Jabberwocky, published in 1891, used invented words like “mimsy’, a “Tumtum tree”, “slithy toves”, and “snicker-snack”. The literary critics liked it so much they created a new genre for it, literary nonsense.
Children who read the poem (always aloud because children are very smart that way), love Jabberwocky, but are also deliciously terrified. Children are smarter about these things than grownups. Some people over the age of twenty (you know who you are) read Jabberwocky as if it’s nothing more than a bit of fun. As usual, grownups are hopelessly oblivious.
Ah well….what can you do.
Jabberwocky tells the story of the Jabberwock’s slaying. He’s a truly terrible monster with “eyes of flame” and his story is not for the faint of heart. If you are a grownup and haven’t read Jabberwocky, well, I don’t know what will happen…you might give it a go if you think you can hold your breath for at least twenty-eight lines or until the Jabberwock is slain. Whichever comes first.
Hold on. Give me a minute.
Yes, read it. If you didn’t have just the right amount of Jabberwocky in your childhood, it could be why you’re so snuffly all the time.
If you are awfully snuffled and you love to read and you wish to befuddle your head or perhaps unfuddle your head, check out Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and while you’re at it, introduce yourself to e.e. cummings. He’s another poet who loved to play with gorgeous and invented words. Follow this link to read a poem by e.e. cummings called [hist whist].
If you’re a journal writer or any sort of writer, wordplay offers a fun and inventive warmup that can get past your stodgy censor (you know him; he’s the guy with his arms folded. He points to the white page and says in that snooty-stopped up voice of his- that is not a real word.)
Sigh. Poor stodgified fellow.
Here’s my warmup from a few days ago: It’s all unpolished prosey-poem nonsense so please, go easy-peasy on me if you will.
The only rule is that you have to read it aloud.
(Best read aloud in private for reasons that will soon be obvious.)
The Old Sea Salt
Motoring along the Beach Road, all topsy turvey
due to the Old Sea Salt torn down
and The New Wave tarnishing
the way things used to be,
Tom put his back paw on the pedal of the Pontiac,
surging forward, nonetheless,
because hope springs eternal!
and they were both, Tom and his wife, Tam,
feeling fleshy, fish-hooked, filleted, and fork-ready
if you want to know the truth.
In other words. They needed this vacation.
Not that Tom would have said so,
not that Tam would have said so,
not that Tam would have said Tom would say so.
No, it wasn’t proper or pithy, well…
it wasn’t apoplexy either that stopped them up like corks in a bottle.
No it was the age is all,
both of them feeling older than
The Old Sea Salt, older than dirt,
older than Jonah’s whale on a Wednesday,
mid-week, mind you,
You know how it is. Don’t tell me you don’t.
Insulting! The hump hitching its way to Highway One before anyone,
especially Tom, especially Tam,
knew that it was gone,
all stoopy-shouldered and dreary drossed in every which way.