Friday, April 18, 2014

National Poetry Month: Harry Matthews

 Meeting of the Oulipo in Boulogne.

 "Shore Leave"
(Harry Matthews)
All roads lead to good intentions;
East is east and west is west and God disposes;
Time and tide in a storm.
All roads, sailor’s delight.
(Many are called, sailors take warning:
All roads wait for no man.)
All roads are soon parted.
East is east and west is west: twice shy.
Time and tide bury their dead.
A rolling stone, sailor’s delight.
“Any port”—sailor take warning:
All roads are another man’s poison.

All roads take the hindmost,
East is east and west is west and few are
Time and tide are soon parted,
The devil takes sailor’s delight.
Once burned, sailors take warning:
All roads bury their dead.

"Shore Leave" by Harry Mathews is an example of “perverbs,” the result obtained by combining proverb phrases in Oulipan poetry. From a recent post online at The Paris Review: The word perverb was invented by Paris Review editor Maxine Groffsky to describe the result obtained by crossing proverbs. If we join the first part of “All roads lead to Rome” to the second part of “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” we obtain the perverb “All roads gather no moss.” The remaining parts yield a second perverb, “A rolling stone leads to Rome.”

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