Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Willard of Words

I found a copy of "An Almanac of Words at Play" in a second hand book store in Tokyo. I snatched it up as soon as I saw the name of the author.

 "An Almanac of Words at Play" was written by Willard Espy, he's been called a wordmonger, a light versifier and creator of linguistic whimsies. Whatever you call him he was one of the great influences of my poetic beginnings.  His Almanacs remain some of the funniest and most interesting collections of wordplay, word information, and light verse I've ever seen.

Espy wrote the poetry column in Writer's Digest. I remember how happy I was every month when the magazine came in the mail. I loved Espy's style and the challenges he put before me as a writer.  

I kept "An Almanac of Words at Play" on my desk at the Japanese company where I worked thirteen hours a day, six days a week. I could pick it up anytime and take a break from (You got it . . .) "working in a Japanese company thirteen hours a day, six days a week". All of our meetings were in Japanese, the customers spoke Japanese, I was doing the sales pitch in Japanese! I'm not Japanese. There were 20 people in the room, they're all Japanese and I have no one to talk to for thirteen hours a day, six days a week. And THERE was Espy taking away the pain with an Almanac of Jokes, poems, puns, puzzles, palindromes, and pangrams. A daily dose of wordplay.

I'll commit two of his poems here from memory since I can't find them on-line and the book is in a box.

Poor Paralyze Can't Lift a Finger
by Willard Espy

An eyeless beggar at my door inquired what realize are for,
And swore he would not let me by till I had twelve times answered why.
Why summarize are decked with leaf? Why winterize are bare?
Why legalize prepare a brief? Why tranquilize don't care?

Why Malthus dreaded fertilize? Why sterilize won't sprout?
Why there's no pa for bastardize? Why vocalize speak out?
Why idolize don't answer prayer? Why catalyze are dumb?
Why fossilize give stony stare and vulcanize chew gum?

I Wish I was a Corsican
by Willard Espy

I Wish I was a Corsican, a horsey, coursey Corsican.
and do the things a Corsican. Or even those his horsican can.
His horsican.
His horsican.

When weary grows the Corsican of wedded intercoursican,
Arrange a quick divorcican and trot off on his horsican.
His horsican.
His horsican.

With oaths and curses coarsican take courtesans by forcican.
And if his throat grows hoarsican, tap out his oaths in morsican.
In morsican.
In morsican.

The Corsican, the Corsican take any course that Corsican.
Of Corsican of Corsican, of course, of course, of Corsican.
I wish I was a Corsican.

If you like palindromes and pangrams check out "The Quantum Poetizer" at it has screens the help build palindromes and pangrams.

When I left Japan, I gave the book to a friend thinking that I'd just pop into a bookstore and pick one up. No chance. It took seven years - checking bookstores from Seattle to Sarasota and finally the invention of for me to get a replacement copy.


  1. Good job on the blog. Rhymes with blob, sort of.
    Job. Blog. Blob.

    There's a verse there somewhere.

    Wish I could write like you.

  2. I wish I could draw like you.

    In programming some of the new words I had to learn were: classes, methods and properties. These are not new words and in a complex text the old meanings get in the way of the transfer of knowledge. So I used to complain that I wished they'd make up new words for new things. Then they came up with "Blog" and I stopped wishing that for fear of what would be next and it was "Twitter". And so I long for the old days.