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Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Voweller's Bestiary, by JonArno Lawson. The Porcupine's Quill, 2008. $14.95 ages 10 and up

"Ants and Aadvarks

An ant's bad karma
has blatant drawbacks:

An ant's bad karma
attracts aardvarks;

vandal aardvarks that ransack
ant farms.

Aardvarks grasp that ants
can't attack back -
that ants lack spark;

that ants can't scram fast,
and that ants can't bark.

And ants that aardvarks can't catch?

Ants that aardvarks can't catch
clasp and match,
plan fast-track ant-farms
and hatch hatch hatch."

What an amazing way to get writers interested in language! It's an alphabet book, a book about animals (surefire hit!) and a poetic form called the lipogram. In an afterword, JonArno Lawson explains it this way:

"The idea behind A Voweller's Bestiary is a simple one; an alphabet book based on vowel combinations, rather than on initial letters. I used the lipogrammatic rule of excluding certain vowels from each set."

The poems are so inventive, original and almost mind-blowing when you get to the full reading. I cannot fathom the time it took to write them! The enjoyment and awe I felt as I read them once, and then again, was jaw-dropping. Our language really is a full course meal to be savored and explored. There is nothing else to say!

Once he has ventured as far as G, he veers to a small section that deals with 'h' and the way its sound changes when it falls after certain letters. Brilliant!


Whitehead's clawhandled wheelbarrow cartwheels.
Whitehead, overwhelmed, whimpers,
'Why, why?'
'What?' whispers Whykes.
'Why, why?' whimpers Whitehead,
while Whykes whistles whimsically."

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