The Russian artist Alexei Kruchenykh invented the Zaum language in 1913. He described it as "a language which does not have any definite meaning." From what I can gather, it was gibberish sounds strung together.
Dyr bul shchyl, also written by Kruchenykh, was the first (but not last) poem written in Zaum.
Dyr bul shchyl
vy so bu
r l ez
You can hear Kruchenykh reading the poem aloud in the first clip. There's a more modern interpretation of it below.
Soylman Brown (1790-1876) was a Connecticut dentist who achieved prominence in his profession for a number of reasons. According to Wikipedia, he founded the first dental school, the first national dental society, and the first US dental journal. Plus, he became known as the Poet Laureate of Dentistry on account of his fifty-four page poem titled Dentologia - A Poem on Diseases of the Teeth, and Their Proper Remedies. It was published in 1840.
If you've got some time to kill, you can read the entire poem at the Internet Archive. Otherwise, I've sampled a brief part of it below, which should be enough to give you its general tone.
The first dentition asks our earliest care,
For oft, obstructed nature, laboring there,
Demands assistance of experienced art,
And seeks from science her appointed part.
Perhaps ere yet the infant tongue can tell
The seat of anguish that it knows too well,
Some struggling tooth, just bursting into day,
Obtuse and vigorous, urges on its way,
While inflammation, pain, and bitter cries,
And flooding tears, in sad succession rise.
The lancet, then, alone can give relief,
And mitigate the helpless sufferer's grief;
But no unpractised hand should guide the steel
Whose polished point must carry wo or weal:—
With nicest skill the dentist's hand can touch,
And neither wound too little nor too much.
In 1964, Jayne Mansfield recorded an album for MGM that featured her reading selections from the poetry of Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley, Yeats, and others, as Tchaikovsky's music played in the background. Apparently she hoped the record would show off the asset she was most proud of, her 164 IQ.
The album isn't available on CD or MP3, but you can pick up a copy of the original vinyl on eBay for around $30 or $40.
From Songs of a Housewife, by Marjorie Rawlings. It's an odd book of poetry, recording in verse all the various complaints and problems of 1920's housewives, such as husbands who complained about being given canned food.
This charming collection of poems that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (The Yearling, Cross Creek) wrote in the 1920s were so popular that they appeared one-a-day in a New York newspaper for two full years. Organized by task, the poems graphically depict the life of a housewife (mending, baking, dusting, and the joy of a sunny window) with wisdom and humor. In the days before convenience stores and microwaves, Rawlings reminds us of the horror of having company show up with nothing fixed to feed them. Or in a more timeless vein, the disdain a harried mother feels for the neighbor who has all her Christmas shopping done and wrapped early.
In science, the phenomenon of simultaneous discovery, or "multiple independent discovery," is well known. The term describes how two or more researchers often independently discover the same idea, at around the same time. For instance, both Newton and Leibniz came up with the idea of calculus in the late 17th century, and both Darwin and Wallace developed the concept of evolution by natural selection in the mid-19th century.
An example of this phenomenon might have recently occurred in the field of sheep poetry. Though whether it's simultaneous discovery or idea theft depends on whom you believe.
In 2002, Valerie Laws came up with the concept of "Quantum Sheep" or "haik-ewe." Her idea was to spray paint a different word on the backs of 15 sheep, and then watch them as they grazed in a field to see what poems would they would form. Then, last year, artist Alison Cooper came up with the same idea, though she called it "Write to Roam."
Cooper insists she was completely unaware of Laws' previous work, but Laws thinks it's more likely Cooper stole her idea, either consciously or subconsciously. Who to believe? Perhaps someone should ask the sheep what they think. [journallive.co.uk]
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.