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.

6 thoughts on “Bloomsday; ‘Ulysses’ pages 3-50

  1. Great idea, Dave! Ulysses is currently sitting on my shelf looking VERY intimidating. I will read it eventually. I recently finished Dubliners and Portrait of an Artist and really enjoyed them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it’s not a breezy read. Doing this “found poetry” project has been easier than simply reading it, because I skim the pages. Still, I’m really impressed how Joyce played with words — the book is certainly different from other ones.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Sometimes I take my writing too seriously and I need to loosen up. I’ve finished a few poems, and they’ve helped with that — put a bit of weirdness in there. I’ve accepted that these poems don’t have to make sense. That’s been freeing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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