Curiously Warmbubbled Paper (‘Ulysses’ pages 53-108)

image of bubbles on a marbled background
by Pawel Czerwinski/Unsplash

Here’s the second offering in my found poetry project on Ulysses by James Joyce. I’m picking a word from each page in the book and creating poems from them — about 50 words per poem. The first poem ended on page 50, which ends Part I of the book, then a blank page and a page introduces Part II. That’s why this second poem starts on page 53.

I’m enjoying the word collecting, like picking shells from a beach. Joyce was creative with words, shoving some together without hyphens.

Curiously Warmbubbled Paper (Ulysses, pages 53-108)
by Dave Williams

Curiously warmbubbled paper:
money oozed sweet butter.

Cat peeped curdling smoke,
smiled, mewed quietly in whatyoumay imagine
is in sweeeet Vienna.

Nosebags cooling headache: heaven!
Shiftylooking, glanced discreetly
at the riprippled avenue.
Waltzing eyes.

Milly traveled across,
noiselessly thwarted the redlabelled tomorrow.
Galloping gloomy carriage.

Sad toad’s paradise
must bloom after honeycombed jokes
uncovered the hole.

copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Bloomsday; ‘Ulysses’ pages 3-50

Happy Bloomsday!

Wait. What is Bloomsday?

“It celebrates Thursday 16 June 1904, which is the day depicted in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8am on 16 June 1904 through to the early hours of the following morning.” — The James Joyce Centre

Front cover of first edition of "Ulysses"
Cover of first edition (Wikimedia Commons)

Several years ago, I started reading Ulysses, but only made it to page 72 (out of 732). I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for the novel.

Now, though, I’m revisiting the book with a project inspired by the idea of found poetry. I will pick a word from each page and assemble them into poems. Each poem will have about 50 words. That word count may change as the project progresses.

Partly, I’m doing this project to experience this book in a different way. Something more active than reading the book and envisioning the characters going about their day. Writing the first poem felt playful and absurd.

Also partly, I’m doing this project to discover some of Joyce’s words. According to Professor Cóilín Owens (Professor Emeritus of English Literature at George Mason University), Ulysses contains “something like 90,000 different words.” Not total words, but individual words. That’s mind-blowing to me. Professor Owens mentioned the tidbit in his presentation at the Great Big Book Club Meeting in Maryland.

What better day than Bloomsday to kick off this project? I’ll be posting a Ulysses poem each day until I reach the end of the book (page 732). I’m using the Dover edition, which claims to be “an unabridged republication of the original Shakespeare and Company edition, published in Paris by Sylvia Beach, 1922.”

Awaking Panther (Ulysses, pages 3-50)
by Dave Williams

Awaking panther!
Snotgreen dogsbody.

Stephen engaging impossible dream—
flung tea,
puzzled dewsilky cups,
tragically answered sea,
“Goodbye, crazy drowned redheaded usurper!”

Corpsestrewn history—
mind’s riddle rattled tyrants of memory.
Prompt Cassandra:
“What?” asked coughball.
“Why?” lamented love.

Bigdrumming libraries marched through,
quaking pretenders shrieked roguewords: “Who?”
Dublin silent.

Public Life

His wife didn’t want to watch
The Truman Show
but he persisted
and afterwards
he feared people
were watching him—
vicarious living—
so he scoured the house
but didn’t find cameras

He questioned his wife
and she denied it,
she tried to joke off the worry
until she saw
the fervor in his eyes
and knew it wasn’t a joke
so she told the truth

A Very Big Thanks to Eric Carle

Illustration of colorful butterfly

Late in May, news arrived that Eric Carle died at the age of 91. I’m late in writing an appreciation, as it took me a while to draw a butterfly in celebration of his books.

In the 1980s, when I was a teenager, I discovered Eric Carle’s books while working in my grandparents’ bookstore (Gingerbread Square Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware). The vivid colors of the illustrations snagged my attention. The colors seemed to pop from the white pages. Upon looking closer, I saw that the colors weren’t solid — anything but. They were more interesting, complex, varying in texture. I had no idea how those designs were made — later I learned Mr. Carle painted tissue paper, then layered it to accomplish the effect.

And so I was captured in the magic of the colors and delightful story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. There were many slow hours in the bookstore — tourists were surely enjoying the beach — when I read to pass the time. Novels, comic books, and kids books now and then. Carle’s books were in the mix of books I read.

Then leap about 15 years, when my twin daughters were infants. My wife and I love to read, and that love was also expressed by reading to our daughters. Again, Mr. Carle’s books were in the mix. A wonder for me to see the joy on our daughters’ faces while they looked at the illustrations and listened to the stories. When getting to the page spread of the beautiful butterfly, they would sometimes walk around flapping their arms and say “fss, fss, fss,” to imitate a flying butterfly. Adorable.

Added to Mr. Carle’s Caterpillar book in the reading times were Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Mister Seahorse and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Then leap another 15 years, when I sadly listened to the news of Mr. Carle passing on. A quote from his obituary in The Washington Post, on May 27, 2021, written by Emily Langer:

“The long, dark time of growing up in wartime Germany, the cruelly enforced discipline of my school years there, the dutifully performed work at my jobs in advertising — all these were finally losing their rigid grip on me. The child inside me — who had been so suddenly and sharply uprooted and repressed — was beginning to come joyfully back to life.” — Eric Carle

Thank you, Eric Carle, for the many gifts you put out into the world. You brought joy to lots and lots of young readers and parents.

Colonel Kernel

Every package
of popcorn kernels
has a leader,
a hardened and gruff
Colonel Kernel, who—
as the package nears
a microwave or stovetop—
growls at the others,
“This is what
we’ve trained for, folks.
It’s about to get real hot,
and every single one of yous
better pop!pop!pop!
or you’ll be
a disappointment
to this battalion.”