Monday, April 02, 2007

A ______ of poets

Reading the Signs started it.

She was talking about a poetry group to which she belongs (and an apparently cantankerous member) and she wrote:

He also has a problem with seeing us described in promotional literature as “a group of poets”. I am trying to meet him in this by thinking up a new collective noun. A pride of poets might be good, but the lions already have that and the larks have exultation; an apology; a posse; Feel free to offer suggestions.

I loved apology, of course, and clicked into the comments to offer a few ideas of my own. I suggested a prose of poets, a ream, a verse, a leaf, a purse, an angst.

Refreshment was also suggested, as was pretension and then simply tension. All of these are very good collective nouns for poets.

For some reason, the thought stayed with me for days. I'd be busily working and suddenly I'd think "a bindle of poets." Then I'd usually go back to work, because my employer does not pay me to come up with possible names for a group of poets. He pays me instead to try and try to bounce a ball off of the floor of Good Thomas' office and into a paper cup on his desk against the wall. I think am starting to become fairly adept at this. The trick is perseverance, as the ball does not tend to bounce quite straight. It could go anywhere.

Anyway, the point is that dozens and dozens of possibilities kept announcing themselves, unbidden. I feared this would go on forever.

Last night, as I lay awake and smoking in bed, the answer to the collective noun conundrum struck me: all of them are the right one. These are poets. The collective noun should be anything that feels evocative at the moment of utterance.

The debate is therefore settled, for me at least. But I don't pretend that I am really a poet. To my way of thinking, songs and Monday morning haiku do not make one a poet. I flit around with the occasional verse, but I do not wrench myself into knots over meter and the like. I am a dilettante poet.

I am, if we're being honest, a dilettante lots of things.


Anonymous said...

I am, if we're being honest, a dilettante lots of things.

I can't imagine that most of us don't feel the exact same way, Maht. Dabbling is a heart-wrenching word for artists when it is applied to his or her beloved form of art, but better a dabbler than someone who just watches while others dabble, right?

Loud thunder... Yikes...


Chris said...

"as I lay awake and smoking in bed", let me put my Health & Safety hat on for a minute here (it's a UK thing). Did you not know that smoking in bed is one of the leading causes of fires in the home?

I worry for your safety, and health of course. That's what the Health and Safety hat is for.

Unknown said...

Yeah definitely don't try and light a cigrarette on a Gas hob and then smoulder off into bed.

Anyway, personally I like Bindle... but then you also seem to mention the word work and as I have a bunch of kids sitting behind me I guess I better do some.

Reading the Signs said...

You have hit the nail on the head, Mr. Maht-the-Moon - didn't Keats himself speak of the "chameleon poet"? And as the moon is the poet's anvil, are we not all words and none of them? The logician would say no, perhaps.

I am delighted by the notion of your employer paying you to bounce a ball in goodthomas's office.

The Moon Topples said...

Minty: I never said anything about dabbling. Otherwise, I suppose what you say is true. Did you really type "yikes?"

Chris: Smoking in bed is also one of the leading causes of my being able to eventually fall asleep at night or wake up in the morning.

Veri: I smoulder at all times. It can't be helped.

RTS: Yes to everything you've said. Nevermind the logician.

And that particular notion delights me as well.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I typed "yikes" in reference to loud thunder. Does that warrant some sort of a wit-lacking citation? I didn't know there was any shame attached to using the word "yikes" in a comment.

Noted. (My firing squad awaits me.)


This is why I mentioned dabbling:

dilettante \DIL-uh-tont; dil-uh-TONT; dil-uh-TON-tee; -TANT; -TAN-tee\, noun:
1. An amateur or dabbler; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially, or for amusement only.

Sorry if it wasn't clear. Sometimes I comment thoughtlessly.


The Moon Topples said...

Minty: I understood both words and their contexts. I just tend to associate the word "yikes" with Wile E Coyote, and am not used to seeing it in print anymore. It's a lovely word, though. No firing squad is about to descend upon you.

As to dabbling, I'm sure you can agree that dilettante has a much nicer connotation, even though their meanings are similar. As you say, "dabbling is a heart-wrenching word for artists."

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Ms Melancholy said...

Then I'd usually go back to work, because my employer does not pay me to come up with possible names for a group of poets. He pays me instead to try and try to bounce a ball off of the floor of Good Thomas' office and into a paper cup on his desk against the wall.

I so laughed at this, and you made me think of Toby from The West Wing....

nmj said...

hey moon, i just love that a post by reading the signs has kept you awake (and smoking ) in bed, you are the true blogger, fretting not just about questions raised on your own blog, but on others' too, & 'a bindle of poets' is clearly the winner.

Stray said...

An impression of poets is my effort.

Please don't smoke in bed. I will be very sad if you are fried. Or roasted.

At least tell me you don't have viscose sheets ... for so many reasons ...

I think that you are a sketcher of life. You sketch poems ... and other stuff too. You're not interested in the commitment of an oil-painting, a soft pencil and a scrap of paper will be just enough.



The Moon Topples said...

Ms. M.: I find a comparison to Toby weirdly flattering. Like him, I am a writer who is often grumpy. He was always a favorite character on that show for me.

NMJ: In fairness, not every question raised on a blog has such power over me. But every now and then one will get stuck. Glad you like bindle as well.

Stray: Impression is good, as well. Which more or less proves my point. It seems to be more difficult for most people to find one that doesn't work than one that does.

The sketcher thing is true, but only partially so. How else to explain the writing of novels, or the years devoted to acting or playing in a band. I am a sketcher in general, I suppose, and then I get intrigued by something and I am extremely tenacious.

S. Kearney said...

This tickled me in new places, Maht.
I thought of: A casserole of poets.

The Moon Topples said...

Shameless: Sorry about the new places. I like a casserole. I picture them simmering.

Reading the Signs said...

Mr. Moon, apparently the definitive collective noun was decided a while back - see Ros Barber in my comments. "anything that feels evocative at the moment of utterance" still wins as far as I'm concerned, though.

The Moon Topples said...

RTS: I do not recognize Ros Barber's authority in this matter. I'm sure she's quite talented and better qualified than I am, but I am not ready to relinquish my idea so quickly.

basest said...

tonight i'm going with a "festering" of poets.

The Moon Topples said...


Unknown said...

A suicide of poets!