Author’s Note: This Sonnet, formatted as both prose and poetry, is written as a parody of James Joyce; specifically, his final two novels, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. For the record, I number myself among the vast horde of readers who once made a sincere and determined attempt to read Finnegans Wake in its entirety but abandoned the project after 100 pages or less after experiencing early onset symptoms of meaningless, impenetrable prose-induced brain atrophy.

I
The Sonnet written without punctuation except for proper nouns and final word (which are capitalized), as per James Joyce’s Ulysses, Chapter 18 (final chapter).

you lassies Leos bloom or blight dubbed Lynn the deed alas a poor trait of the heart test as a young man who out-slept the smartest even Swedes and Danes although the Finn agains awake he goes from swerve to shore and hears the Cyclops sing and Sirens blink their single eye or was it just a wink recirculation back to something more on the commode he is vicarious and oft pontificate Shakespearean or pompously compose contrarian a riverrun-on sentence to discuss good golly says Ms Molly home at last and there it ends or maybe not Avast

II
The Sonnet as Standard Prose

you lassies! Leo’s bloom or blight!” dubbed Lynn. “The deed? Alas! A poor trait of the heart test.” As a young man who out-slept the smartest, even Swedes and Danes (although the Finn again’s awake), he goes from swerve to shore and hears the Cyclops sing and Sirens blink their single eye (or was it just a wink?), recirculation back to something more. On the commode he is vicarious and oft pontificate Shakespearean or pompously compose (contrarian) a riverrun-on sentence to discuss. “Good golly,” says Ms. Molly, “Home at last!” And there it ends, or maybe not. “Avast,

III
The Pointless Voice of James Joyce
The Sonnet

you lassies! Leo’s bloom or blight!” dubbed Lynn.
_“The deed? Alas! A poor trait of the heart
_test.” As a young man who out-slept the smart-
_est, even Swedes and Danes (although the Finn
again’s awake), he goes from swerve to shore
_and hears the Cyclops sing and Sirens blink
_their single eye (or was it just a wink?),
_recirculation back to something more.
_On the commode he is vicarious
and oft pontificate Shakespearean
_or pompously compose (contrarian)
_a riverrun-on sentence to discuss.
“Good golly,” says Ms. Molly, “Home at last!”
And there it ends, or maybe not. “Avast,

Notes on the Sonnet:

“you lassies” = Ulysses (novel by Joyce)
“Leo’s bloom” = Leopold Bloom, lead protagonist in Ulysses
“dubbed Lynn” = Dublin (main setting for Joyce’s novels)
“deed? Alas!” = Dedalus (lead protagonist in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and also a
character in Ulysses)
“poor trait of the heart test. As a young man” – Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (novel by
Joyce)
“(smarte)st, even” = Steven (Dedalus’ first name, similarly hidden in the first sentence of
Finnegans Wake)
“Finn again’s awake” = Finnegans Wake (novel by Joyce)
“from swerve to shore” = this phrase appears in the first sentence of Finnegans Wake
“Cyclops . . . Sirens” = alluded to obtusely in Ulysses
“just a wink” = A reminder not to take this poem too seriously, i.e. the switch of Cyclops/Sirens
is intentional
“recirculation” = occurs in the first sentence of Finnegans Wake
“commode he is vic(ario)us” = commodius vicus (appears in the first sentence of Finnegans
Wake. Among other things it means, “comfortable or quaint village.” Joyce actually
spelled it commodious in his manuscript but his editor changed it.)
“oft . . . Shakespearean” = Shakespeare & Co., publishers of Ulysses (also refers to Joyce’s near-
obsessive infatuation with Hamlet in the novel)
“pontificate” = Pontiff (alludes to frequent Irish Roman Catholic references in Joyce’s novels)
“pompously compose (contrarian)” = Reference to Joyce’s free-style use of the English language
and creative bending of grammar (aka “Modernism”)
“riverrun-on sentence” = riverrun (first word of the first sentence in Finnegans Wake) It is also a
pun on Joyce’s use of run-on sentences
“Ms. Molly” = Molly Bloom, wife to Leopold Bloom (he personifies Ulysses; she, Penelope)
“Home at last!” = Refers to Ulysses’ return in the Odyssey and Leopold Bloom’s return in Ulysses
“there it ends, or maybe not” = The last sentence of Finnegans Wake is actually the beginning of
the book’s first sentence. As a result, the novel never really ends but cycles endlessly

 

James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.


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20 Responses

  1. James Sale

    Hi James – I share with you your abhorrence of this writer; the epitome of modernism and its profound pointlessness. Part of me wants to argue its pointless parodying the pointless, but on the other hand exposing how bad it is does serve a purpose in terms of a warning. Joyce, apparently, thought it funny that he should keep university professors busy for three or four hundred years deciphering his cryptology – and as soon as one says that thought, one realises why so many professors of literature love him: a job for life to spout waffle and garbage. Well done in your expose: nice touch, the notes a la The Wasteland, giving it the authentic touch of modernism’s obscurity.

    Reply
    • tim Dyson

      Pointless response to a pointless post that spoof’s a pointless
      critique of a true genius that is no longer in vogue.

      Reply
  2. Michael Dashiell

    I took the time to read Ulysses not for personal reasons. Is the only way modern poetry and fiction can seem original is to be weird, boring and as unromantic as possible? Joyce really indulged himself with his artificial structure and artificial story.

    Reply
  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    As a matter of fact, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake remain in print only because they are assigned by professors as required texts to be read by a captive audience of students. This is also true for other countless other modernist poseurs like Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, and William Carlos Williams.

    What we fail to recognize about modernism is that it had from the beginning (and still has today) a huge network of apologists, promoters, and claquers who strive mightily to keep up the illusion that it was anything other than a failed and abortive movement. There’s still money in the modernist racket — just ask anybody in the English Department.

    Reply
    • tim Dyson

      No one cares about movements whether they be modernists or romantics. All that matters is whether or not it’s a good poem or not. Hard to define a good poem because, as Ashbery says, you are the poem. The classics are classics because a lot of poetry fans got caught up in their art and their mystery not because they were defined as modernist or romantic or post Hellenic. Read the classics first, see if you can appreciate the art they present. If you can, you will have joined a big club. Eliot, regardless of his eclectic style, is a true twentieth century classic.

      Reply
  4. Charles Southerland

    I leapt upon the land-mine of Joyce in Freshman English in 1970. I flunked the class, but not before I fell on further bombs like Clockwork Orange and Animal Farm. It killed any desire in me to write for thirty years. Instead, I read thousands of books to heal my wounds. I was right then, I am right now. Crap is crap. Yeah, I was forced to read Finnegan’s Wake too. W.C.W.’s wheelbarrow came later. I rebelled at free verse in 2012. It affected my palate.

    Reply
    • James Sale

      Thanks Charles for this. It’s good that James’ fine spoof reminds us of our common enemy, the Modernists et al, not the confected ones that sometimes obsess us. I totally agree with your comments, except for one small point: George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Despite being a Far Left winger, Orwell actually was not a modernist, and wrote superb prose (not poetry). Indeed, his Essay on the English Language is one of the best of its type in the C20th. At all times he strove for clarity and simplicity of expression; the exact opposite of James Joyce. And this is why Animal Farm is a short masterpiece: we have a communist actually exposing communism in a way that no other essay ever has. From now on we should know that ‘equality’ and all animals being equal is the prelude to autocracy and worse. This work – along with 1984 – has truly entered the language. But that caveat aside, you are absolutely right. And on a different tack, I want to express my personal gratitude to you for the invaluable service you have given the SCP in exposing the identity of ‘James Eliot’ – flushing out this kind of mean deceit is really important; I certainly had no idea, and as there has been no denial of this I am assuming you are right. Thank you. The SCP website should be a forum where honest people honestly express their views and not big themselves up with phoney identities.

      Reply
      • Charles Southerland

        Thanks, James-

        I was too backward to understand the kind of anthropomorphic kind of writing in Animal Farm. I was raised on a farm and only understood what was happening in front of me, not what a pig or chicken felt or expressed. There is value in that kind of writing.

        Regarding the other thing: I study speech patterns. I’m pretty good at it, I guess. The offender we are talking about has at least 8 to 12 other phony avatars scattered throughout his threads. In one instance, he used 4 or 5 of those in a heated thread. I thought everyone knew so I never bothered to say anything to Mr. Mantyk until last year. The offender also changes the spelling of his own name on other sites to hide and obfuscate his identity. The patterns of deceit are unmistakable. He’s an amateur, really.

      • Charles Southerland

        In fact, James, I believe I have identified 28 alter egos, more or less, presented by the offender since October 17th, 2016. That is as far back as I have traced him.

  5. David Paul Behrens

    I still have my copy of Ulysses which I read many decades ago, with a dictionary nearby in an attempt to decipher the meaning of what I was reading. I never found much meaning, but I probably expanded my vocabulary somewhat. My feeling at the time was that it was a depiction of the stream of consciousness thoughts of the characters in the novel.

    In regard to Finnegan’s Wake, I gave up after a few senseless pages.

    Reply
  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    Another thing worth noting — Joyce based much of the crackpot language in Finnegans Wake on the private cryptolect that he shared with his hopelessly schizophrenic daughter Lucia. No one else in the family (neither his wife Nora, nor his son Giorgio) could understand it.

    That’s what modernism is — a dialogue with insanity.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Anybody can compose 12-tone music like Schoenberg. Few, if any, can compose well-tempered diatonic music like Bach. In the same way, imitating Joyce is easy. The formal poem was a challenge for me, of course, but the parody was not hard at all.

      Joyce was not all hot air, by the way. He actually wrote some quite acceptable, formal poetry which can be accessed on-line. Like Dali, he squandered genuine talent for social notoriety and commercial success.

      I will be visiting Dublin this summer. I do not plan to retrace the pilgrim-path taken by Leopold Bloom on his day-long “odyssey” through the city. Instead, I will visit the site of my great-great-great grandfather’s clock-making shop on Grafton Street. (There is still a store in Dublin that sells “Jameson” clocks designed by the man. We’ll visit there, too). But nothing to do with Joyce.

      Reply
  7. C.B. Anderson

    I am also one of those persons who began but never made much headway with Ulysses. What a waste of time! Joyce makes E. E. Cummings look like a master of lucid expression. In fact, Cummings’ poems do leave a reader with a feeling that there is something behind them just beyond the grasp of ordinary understanding, and were a favorite among many undergrads at Wesleyan U., where I first went to college. The instructor of my Modern Poetry class, Tony Connor, however, would not permit his students to write papers on Cummings, because, as he put it, Cummings is NOT a poet (though he does have a section in The Mentor Book of Major American Poets).

    Anyway, James, I’m glad you limited yourself to a sonnet. I’m not sure whether I could have taken much more, though your fourteen lines were delightful in a perverse way.

    Reply
  8. Michael Dashiell

    Modernism has been in existence for a century. Public apathy keeps it safe from attack. Its climax if there was ever even one is clearly in the past.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Yes, that is right. A major tragedy is that modernism has brought about a generalized corruption of taste, in the sense that persons who would (in a sane and healthy society) clearly realize that modernist and postmodernist art is nothing but garbage and fakery, have been slowly propagandized to think that it is of the highest value.

      In simpler terms, people now actually think that something ugly and meaningless and transgressive, to which they cannot respond positively or appreciatively, is nevertheless “good” because some overpaid professor or art critic tells them authoritatively that it is is “good.”

      What kind of aesthetic rules in a world where pathetic frauds like Basquiat, Banksy, and Keith Haring are championed as great, and sold for millions?

      Reply
  9. james sale

    Thanks Charles. I thought your piece of prose on the pygmy rattlesnake a work of art; your detective skills are clearly a work of genius! Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  10. Charles Southerland

    Mr. Sale-

    Would you please confirm the comment above mine which bears your name in small letters is yours? I’ve never seen your name presented in less than large caps. Thanks.

    Reply
  11. James Sale

    Yes, it is mine: sometimes my autofill doesn’t seem to operate and I then have to enter my details by hand, which is when I tend to use small letters. Sorry for any confusion. It does occur occasionally.

    Reply
  12. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    1. Although I do not like it (and that may be his point), I am thankful for Mr. Tweedie’s sonnet. It reminds me, as it does many others, of the Modernist battlefield. That is why I am thankful. It is important to dredge up the dregs of The Dead. Why? Because, like Aeneas, we too must travel to Avernus.

    2. This is one way the novelist Mr. Tweedie can deal with Modernist novelist and short story writer Joyce. As one can see from the comments here, many of us felt we had to deal with Joyce in our various ways. For me, I remember composing guitar lyrics in my twenties from “Finnegan’s Wake”; and my lone, poor, single, allegorical mystery novel of the 1990s, “Business at the Speed of Greed”, like “Ulysses”, used parallels to Homer’s “Odyssey”. That is why I appreciate New Millennialist translators, like Stephen Mitchell, and Mr. Solot; because we do have to face Homer, even if not as brilliantly as Vergil did.

    3. Although one can admire parts of Joyce’s oeuvre, to me, like most of the commenters here, his work was terribly dissatisfying. Like H. G. Wells, I felt his “Finnegan’s Wake” was a dead end, basically a flood of dada. So drenched was I with D. H Lawrence, I easily agreed that Joyce’s work was “a clumsy olla putrida” of “old fags and cabbage stumps”. But Lawrence himself had his own baggage.

    4. Although I still believe T. S. Eliot is the greatest literary critic of the English language, his thoughts on Joyce were frequently absurd. I can’t imagine thinking that “Ulysses” was not a novel. Perhaps rather what Eliot should have said was that he didn’t know what a novel was, and could not, or would not, write one. Eliot also thought Joyce “killed off the 19th century… singlehandedly”. What was he thinking? or rather why was he not thinking?

    5. Another technique I appreciate of Mr. Tweedie’s here is his turning his awkward sonnet in to prose. I don’t know how many times, I have done the exact same thing. I remember many years back, when I was writing essays for a University of Maryland English class, every essay was disguised in a prose format; but they were all sonnet sequences, as in my compare-and-contrast paper on Emily and Gerard. Even now, when I am submitting poems to prose poetry sites, I do the same thing.

    6. I so like Mr. Salemi’s observations, I culled a couple of them, and added them to a tennos. [As an aside, in contrast to Beckett, I do like Joyce’s synthesizing.]

    James Joyce (1882-1941)

    James Joyce, Fame’s choice, is slowly vanishing into time’s tooth.
    His streams of consciousness are little more than ver-bal-mouth.
    There’s little doubt, that at the end, he turned into a driv’l,
    his clothes unbuttoned, and his close both trivial and swiv’l.

    He shared his cryptolect with schizophrenic Lucia,
    and drank away his intellect before war’s noose was on.
    He was an ex-isled Irishman, who said good-bye to them:
    Yeats, Wilde, Shaw, within the craw of pandemonium.

    His odyssey across the sea saw sites he could not see,
    his words, a dialog with voices of insanity.
    Caught in the tides of history, lost in prosaic dreams,
    he left the World many words in awful, novel memes.

    Reply
  13. David Hollywood

    Although an Irishman, I have always been suspicious of my fellow countryman and consequently never regarded his seriousness or ability, but rather I always felt he was laughing up the backs of those who argued his works had merit. His Ulysses I threw as rubbish against the wall, and Finnegans Wake I stamped upon as irritating nonsense. I remember being so terribly disappointed with both, and initially thought the fault was mine – the pressure said is had to be!

    Reply

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