Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Happy Cephalopod Awareness Days! For more about the history, see this post on the Cephalopodiatrist. Today is Octopus Day. For today I wrote a teensy poem and I’ll share this photo of a North Pacific Giant Octopus I saw at the Seattle Aquarium. I don’t know if it’s the geometry of the enclosure or if that octopus was just in a particularly feisty mood, but it was by far the most active octopus I’ve ever seen in captivity.


And now, my Octopoem

The tips of the tentacle could define
the vertices of a cube
a fleeting octagon
an umbrella that furls and unfurls,
furls and unfurls.

These teardrops are salt but not sorrow.
I can’t say who this flesh belongs to.

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I love poetry as much as I love mollusks, but I don’t think I could sustain a poetry blog. I was thinking about poetry today, though, mostly because of this video, which absolutely blows my mind:

My favorite thing about this video is that you can tell this kid loves the way the words feel in his mouth, because of how he articulates them so exactly, phrases like “crystal goblet” and “plentiful imagery.”

As luck would have it, one of our most canonical poets happened to be a lover of mollusks: Marianne Moore. She was strange and awesome, loved animals and baseball both, and at least two of her poems that I know of reference mollusks: “An Octopus” and “To a Snail.”

“An Octopus” is really about an ice field (inasmuch as a poem is really “about” anything), but it starts off with an aerial view of a glacier by drawing an analogy to our cephalopod friend:

An octopus

of ice. Deceptively reserved and flat,
it lies “in grandeur and in mass”
beneath a sea of shifting snow-dunes;
dots of cyclamen-red and maroon on its clearly defined
made of glass that will bend—a much needed invention—
comprising twenty-eight ice-fields from fifty to five hundred
feet thick,
of unimagined delicacy.

The phrase “dots of cyclamen-red” is particularly evocative to me, because I think of cyclamen as this color:

(thanks to noodlesnacks for that photo)

and that makes me think of watermelon snow, which is snow stained pink by this here algae:

Good match, yes? Who knows if that was her intention or not, but it’s certainly what I like to think of.

I couldn’t find a good image of glaciers that really said “octopus” to me, but I do have this photo I took in New Zealand that maybe says “tentacle.”


That’s the Franz Josef glacier on a lovely December day, and a memento of my first time in crampons!

The other well known mollusk poem of Moore’s, as I linked to, is “To a Snail.” What I love about that poem is how difficult the long sentence is to parse, thanks to judicious uses of extra phrases and punctuation. The last bit is lovely, though.

but the principle that is hid:
in the absence of feet, “a method of conclusions”;
“a knowledge of principles”,
in the curious phenomenon of your occipital horn.

The image of an occipital horn, of course, made me wonder if such a thing existed. Only the even-toed ungulates have true horns, and it seems none of those horns come out of the backs of their heads. If anyone’s going to try growing a horn back there, it would probably be a Jacob sheep, one of my favorite breeds. They’ve been known to get up to six horns (and in a stroke of gender equity, both males and females grow horns). Here’s a beauty from Meridian Jacobs, a farm I had the pleasure of visiting back in my California years.

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