I do what I don’t If I can’t and then could. I wouldn’t say won’t When I mustn’t but should.
Do I never need not Any time that’s all now? Should I get what I’ve got Nowhere here but not how?
When the whos turn to whom As I do till I die, I will rumor the room And stop asking why.
David Galef writes: “Nohow, besides being a homage to Cummings, is the kind of celebration of sound and sense that people always seem to enjoy. First published in Blue Unicorn.”
David Galef has published over two hundred poems in magazines ranging from Light and Measure to The Yale Review. He’s also published two poetry volumes, Flaws and Kanji Poems, as well as two chapbooks, Lists and Apocalypses. In real life, he directs the creative writing program at Montclair State University. www.davidgalef.com
Lucy Vickery runs a competition in the British weekly The Spectator–a truly venerable publication which recently reached its 10,000th weekly issue. Its politics are a bit too conservative for my taste, but the competition is in a class of its own (The New Statesman having dropped its similar competition a few years ago).
The most recent challenge was this: “In Competition No. 3163 you were invited to submit well-known poems encapsulated in four lines.” The gorgeous responses prompted Lucy Vickery to call the results “Paradise Lost in four lines”, after this entry by Jane Blanchard:
Satan found himself in hell — Eve and Adam also fell — Good gone bad got even worse — Milton wrote too much blank verse —
(which exactly reflects my feelings, having had to waste too much of my A Level studies on Paradise Lost at the expense of more interesting poets such as John Donne and Matthew Arnold.)
My personal delight in The Spectator’s competitions is in seeing so many Potcake Poets there (in this case not just Jane Blanchard, but also Chris O’Carroll, Martin Parker, Jerome Betts, George Simmers and Brian Allgar), and in identifying more poets to keep an eye on for possible future chapbooks.
Anyway, if you want to see nice condensations of famous poems, have a look at that specific competition’s results. My favourite is Martin Parker’s take on e.e. cummings’ ‘may i feel said he‘: