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

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.”

Bird’s Aspirations

Seeing an eagle,
the chickadee
aspired to greatness:
soaring high in the
Great Blue.

Yet he could not
transform into that epic bird.

In her son’s sullenness,
mama chickadee asked
the elders to offer wisdom.

They told him
there’s a quiet dignity
in being a chickadee,
and that
warmed his heart.


Just a minute ago,
there was a rhinoceros
standing near me at this bus stop,
and he (or she) told me that
she (or he) thought compassion
and empathy would make the world
a better place, and he (or she) added,
“But what do I know?
I’m only a rhino.”
Then walked away.