For Mitch Wilson, fellow doggerelist—
With gratitude for 8th grade, for Grease, for countless Facebook “Likes,” for enduring friendship.
Words rhymes with birds. I’ve always liked that. It seems so sensible: Both can soar when they’re healthy. (Both can also suddenly fall out of the sky.) And over the years I’ve found more than a few occasions to rhyme the two in the doggerel I’ve composed.
As for this current project? A journey through the dictionary? I don’t know where the idea came from. Which reminds me: Years ago I read a Stephen King interview somewhere, and, replying to the question Where do you get your ideas? King said something like this: I don’t know. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.
I always kind of liked that—though I definitely would not have liked it had I asked that question. King’s royal reply is more than a tad snarky. He seems to be saying If there were a place where I go to find ideas for my books, why on earth would I tell someone else where it is?
Well, I’m not Stephen King, nor was meant to be, but I really don’t know where the idea for this current volume came from. It just sort of flew into my life. (See title.)
Once I got the idea, I modified it, so it became something like this: In my Webster’s Third, which sits on a stand in my study [see cover image], I will go to the first page for each letter and find a word that looks interesting—and (this is significant) it must be a word I don’t already know.
Confession: I cheated once. Vespal (of or relating to wasps). I already knew it, but I liked it and had an idea for some lines and rhymes, so I used it. (Whew! The release and relief of confession.)
Well, once I got through to letter Z, I decided I’d then go backwards: I’d take a word from the final page for each letter. So off I went again—Z to A—twenty-six more little poems.
And then, having completed that, I decided on a third and final trip through the dictionary, this time picking a word from the middle of each letter’s pages.
While I was writing these little ditties each day, I was occasionally writing other sorts of doggerel—things I’d seen or experienced or thought about. Silly things, mostly. Many of these I posted on Facebook for my friends to ignore. I’ve put some of them here in a subsection called “Desultory Doggerel.”
I also, from time to time, wrote some of what I’ve previously called wolferel—verse that’s a bit more serious than doggerel but does not rise to the level of “real” poetry. Most of these I also posted on Facebook, where they sometimes occasioned comment but, more frequently, caused only accelerated scrolling. They’re also here in “Wolferel.”
An editorial note: While re-reading these pieces, I decided that some of them did not rise even to the sad level of doggerel. (Maybe I need another name for them? Jackalerel? Hyenaerel?) So I’ve cut them. This will explain some of the missing days on the calendar dates I post above each piece. I’ve lightly revised some others. (Notice: I didn’t say “improved.”)
All of which reminds me: There are few horrors more horrible than re-reading (and recognizing as a horror) something you once thought was decent. As the ghost of King Hamlet wailed to his dazzled, indecisive son, “O, horrible, O, horrible, most horrible!”