Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Syllabary At The Scottish Poetry Library

After Friday’s readings from Kinloch, Hutchison, Price and McCarey, I felt I couldn’t miss Saturday evening’s offering at the Scottish Poetry Library - the launch of two new versions of The Syllabary, the brainchild of Scottish poet, Peter McCarey. The first launch was of the upgraded site at the link. The second launch was of a collaborative project, which I’ll say something about in a minute.

At the link, the revolving dial at the bottom right corner contains every syllable in the language. Each syllable is split into cells containing all monosyllabic words corresponding to the syllable. McCarey’s project is to write a poem for every cell. He is currently (after 15 years) almost halfway through the mammoth task. You can both read and hear the poems. If McCarey hasn’t yet written a poem for a cell, the dial continues to spin until it reaches a completed poem. This review from 2006 gives a fairly good idea of the ambition, scope, vision and sheer obsession that drives the task. It’s an astonishing work.

The SPL event also launched a new collaborative version. The idea is that you can email Peter McCarey (mccarey*AT*perso.ch) and he will assign you a cell – a syllable and the words in that cell. You write a short poem, using all the words provided. There are no deadlines, no pressure. Aiko Harman explains the concept in more detail. By the time it’s finished, McCarey hopes that more than 2,200 poets will have taken part. I’m just about to request a syllable –some are easier to write with than others(!), but you take what you get. The collaborative site will be up soon. I guess he needs to gather a number of poems initially to make visiting the collaborative version worthwhile.


aiko harman said...

Thanks for the link!

It's a really fun project. I bet it'd be a real challenge to get one of the cells with tons of words possible & having to use them all in under 20 lines! I got lucky just having two words.


Messalina said...

Thanks for this Rob - the site is fun. One poem I heard and loved was 'Ulysses didn’t play the sax like Jackson Pollock' - very funny and clever. He has a lovely voice too.

Dave said...

Very interesting. Thanks for letting me know about it.