A Lewis Carroll Carol
Karen Swenson
Go through your dictionary and choose unfamiliar words, ignoring their meaning and
what part of speech they are. Make a list of them, and assign some to be nouns, some
verbs, some adjectives and some adverbs. You might also use a foreign language
dictionary to really find some unfamiliar words.
Write a poem or series of lines using them in the grammatical slots you’ve assigned them
As you do, pay attention to their sounds. The object is not alliteration, which can become
heavy or silly. Instead, work for a repetition of consonants or similar but not identical
sounds such as these in the following categories:
Dentals (teeth): T, D, TH
Labials (lips): B, P
Gutterals: G, K, NG, C
Labiodentals: F, V
Sibilants: S, Z, SH, CH, J
Nasals: M, N, NG, NK
Liquids: L, R
Also pay attention to vowel sounds. Assonance is where vowel sounds are repeated.
Nouns: OCA
The oca moaned all night in the dump
among cars rhonchused, cankered with
the maravedi dust. Dextraning
pavidly in moonlight it
woke neighbors who umbled tectumly
down to the pit with guns and baseball bats,
a saccade crowd bent on murder.
The object of this exercise is to develop the ear so that it automatically picks up on
related sounds. Therefore, it is important to go back at once and draw circles or underline
the related sounds. The use of nonsense words helps to keep the mind focused on sound
rather than meaning.
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice
Found There, 1872)
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought -So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.