Friday, December 16, 2011

Poetry Friday: Index to a History of the Hiccup - An Original Poem

The Hiccup - An  Explanation Which Makes It Look Like It Happens in Your Nose

 I had a lot of fun responding to Tricia's Poetry Stretch challenge over at The Miss Rumphius Effect this week. She drew readers' attention to the odd and wonderful poetry of Paul Violi - some of which imitates the tables of contents or the indices of imaginary books  - and asked us to produce something along those lines. Part of the challenge was to make it autobiographical, and the poem I produced doesn't exactly do that, though I think my own experiences with the hiccup over the years influenced it. Here it is:


absolution, papal - ix

accidents involving h. 1-13, 27-39, 43, 45, 49, 57, 60, 62-66, 71, 82-87, 88-102, 107, 114, 118-119, 123, 127, 142, 146-149, 157,160, 169

bowling during 88-102

breath, holding - see fainting mishaps

chewing, fast and slow 9

fainting mishaps 27-39

fingers, ears in 5

Kissinger, Henry, resignation of 18

magneseium, not milk of 170, not gargling with 71

mantra, personal, ineffectiveness of 8

meditation, impossibility of 17

nerve, vagus - surgical removal of 38, side effects of 39-68

Nixon, Richard, erased tapes, 18

paper bag - see fainting mishaps

prayers, ineffectiveness of 173

silly, getting scared 82 unforeseen consequences of 83-87

Stein, Gertrude, poetry of 40

t'ai chi, during 65

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, career vii

tickling, unintended addiction to as a result of h. 127

tongue, holding of 14, unforeseen consequences of 15-17

vinegar, gargling with 79

water, gargling with 78

weight loss and dieting during 159

whiskey, gargling with 80, 84, 86, 92, 99, 103, 143, 166

zen, art of the z. hiccup 172
I recommend everyone give this challenge a try - especially the index side of it. It's amazing how much you begin to notice indices and what they actually do after trying to produce one yourself (even if the one you produce is a parody of the form.)   Paul Violi understood how to play with language and call our attention to its oddities. He died last spring at the age of 67 and there was a huge outpouring of remembrances from friends and former students in New York City. It must have been amazing to study with him. 
Poet and Teacher Paul Violi
The Poetry Friday round-up this week is being hosted by Kate Coombs over at The Book Aunt. Head over there to see what people have posted.


  1. Funny, you have Gertrude Stein in your index--I just saw Midnight in Paris and Kathy Bates' performance made me interested in Stein. I really don't know anything about her. Is there a particular reason why you included her?

  2. I got a little lost with all the numbers - pretty ingenious way of creating a poem - riddled with codes and allusions. :) Thanks for sharing.

  3. What a great response to a very interesting challenge!

    My favorite entries: Gertrude Stein, Prince, tickling, gargling with whiskey :).

    This is like a delightful microcosm of your hiccuping experiences/perceptions. Thoroughly cool and fun.

  4. Thank you for sharing, Julie - I literally laughed out loud. I won't be able to think of hiccups in quite the same way next time I'm afflicted....

  5. Diane, I included Gertrude Stein for two reasons - her famous "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose" always sounded faintly hiccup-ish to me, and her delightful TENDER BUTTONS (which is as close as I ever came to understanding or enjoying her work) also sounded like discrete little hiccups - no sense or syntax behind them, just rhythm and sound. Can't wait to see Midnight in Paris - it's out next week on DVD!

    Myra, when they're carefully done, the numbers play an important role in the humor of the index. I tried to make mine funny, too (the length of the "accidents" for example, or the fact that Henry Kissinger's resignation came at the same point Richard Nixon's hiccups caused him to erase those famous missing minutes from the Oval Office tapes about Watergate (at least, that's what the tongue-in-cheek implication of the poem.) Paul Violi does it masterfully - I'm afraid mine is more casual, though it really is fun (and part of the challenge)to create a story within the linking and ordering of the numbers. If you're good at it, you can create a whole narrative just by what the page numbers reveal.

  6. I'm beginning to understand Gertrude Stein a bit more.

    Thank you for this wonderful lesson, Julie.

  7. What fun!!

    You're right, I'll never look at an index the same way! In fact, we might do a mini study of indices using some of his poems (have to check for kid-friendliness) and Laura Purdie Salas' index poem in her newest book!

    Off to follow links to Tricia's poetry stretch and to Paul Violi's work...

  8. Julie, this is amazing! The process of writing an index poem seems daunting to me. I'll check out your links. My favorite line is

    prayer, ineffectiveness of p.173

    Appearing at the end of the book, it gives the impression that even this last resort will not work!

  9. This is hysterical! So many fun things, like the "see fainting mishaps." My favorite is that the surgery is 1 page and the side effects are almost 30 pages. I could hear the t.v. drug commercials. Too funny!