The Disordered House

A troubling narrative in six stanzas, composed of sets of sentences taken from J. Madison Watson’s 1876 National Elementary Speller: A Critical Work on Pronunciation; Embracing a Strictly Graded Classification of the Primitive and the More Important Derivative Words of the English Language, for Oral Spelling; Exercises for Writing from Dictation; Prefixes Affixes, Etc., Etc.

Image from a woodcut by Andreas Rosenthal.

abstract woodcut

Note the affinity of those articulate sounds.
Observe his agility, or activity.
Range your artillery on that gentle acclivity, and summon the city to capitulate.

The respondent made a laconic speech in favor of his remonstrance.
After taking the narcotic, I was unconscious.
I saw a large quantity of halibut on the quarantine grounds.

Her shyness and the dryness of his remark verified the report.
Her betrayer delayed his return.
His boyish freaks destroyed my enjoyment.

Rescind that prolix law.
Omit the quadrille.
There will be an eclipse of the sun within a month.

The scene is imaginable, describable, and comparable.
The question is debatable, and the decision reversible.
The fire is singeing that valuable dress.

There is a monstrous lobster in the hogshead.
I saw some holly in the forest.
I often offer a volume to the scholar.

The Disordered House

3 thoughts on “The Disordered House

  • April 18, 2005 at 5:38 am

    It’s the ” large quantity of halibut on the quarantine grounds” that cracks me up. Great found poetry!

  • April 19, 2005 at 9:47 am

    I was particularly fond of the halibut line, as well. And the lobster. But I hadn’t thought about sending it out — hmm — maybe I’ll do some poking around for online journals that do surrealist / avant-garde stuff. I think a big part of what it works for me is the fact that it comes from a guide to pronunciation, and so the sounds line up in interesting ways; I’d love to find a similar text from the eighteenth century, just to get that even greater distance from our current speech patterns.

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