Sunday, June 27, 2010


Check out this poem from Richard Jones' new book The Correct Spelling & Exact Meaning. I think it is pretty terrific. I love the way this poem interrogates the language we use; and, at a deeper level, leads us to wonder about our various and conflicting motivations for writing poems in the first place:


In the dictionary one finds the word
lucubrate, meaning “to study
by artificial light late at night
that one might express oneself
in writing,” on the heels of luciferous
“bringing sorrow” — and this immediately
preceded by lucrous, which, of course, is
“pertaining to lucre” and suggests “avaricious.”

To the right of lucubrate is ludibrious
“subject of mockery” —
and the familiar ludicrous
all that which is “laughably absurd.”

And in the far-right column, variations
on two small words, luff and lug,
“to bring the head of a ship
nearer the wind,”
and “to pull and tug heavily and slowly,”
two tiny words that describe
what I am doing
writing at my desk late at night,
turning the pages of the dictionary to find
the correct spelling and exact meaning
of lugubrious.

— Richard Jones


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