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Recently read: Academic Graffiti

[Originally published at the now defunct group blog explananda.com]

Posted on December 22, 2009
Tags: book_reviews

W.H. Auden, with drawings by Filippo Sanjust. Academic Graffiti

This book only takes 15 or 20 minutes to skim through, even at a leisurely pace, but if you’re a pointy-head, it’s probably still worth a trip to the library for it. A clerihew is, so I’m told, “a whimsical four-line biographical poem . . . The lines are comically irregular in length, and the rhymes, often contrived, are structured AABB.” This book contains sixty-one clerihews of Auden’s. E.g.,
Disiderius Erasmus Always avoided chiasmus, But grew addicted as time wore on To oxymoron.
Auden takes aim at some familiar names—Aquinas, Beethoven, Blake, Robert Browning—and some unfamiliar ones. I admit that some of the poems went right over my head, even when I recognized the name:
Robert Browning Immediately stopped frowning And started to blush, When fawned on by Flush.

Did you know that Elizabeth Barrett had a dog named “Flush”? I didn’t, and this dog was even the subject of a fictional autobiography by Virginia Woolf (!).

Anyway, good for a laugh or two.