Palindromes

"Madam, I'm Adam...
Able was I ere I saw Elba."
(James Joyce, "Wandering Rocks", Ulysses)

A palindrome is a word or sentence that reads the same way forward as it does backwards. Aside from the one by Joyce above, other examples of palindromic sentences are, Dennis and Edna sinned, and Was it a rat I saw? Some examples of palindromic words are radar, stats, repaper, Hannah, and Navan (a town in Ireland to go with the James Joyce theme).

Along with single word and sentence palindromes, there is also a variety known as "word unit palindromes". For these, the words in the line form the same sentence when read forward or backwards, as in the two below:

"Escher, drawing hands, drew hands drawing Escher."
(John Meade)

"You know, I did little for you, for little did I know you."
(Patrick Robbins)

One other interesting type is the "line unit palindrome poem", a form in which lines of a poem can be read the same first to last or last to first. One of the most famous examples of this form is a poem called "Doppelganger", by James A. Lindon. Here's a short one that I've been working on:

In the land of Inside Out
I felt awash
in gentle rhythms
like a rinse cycle.
In gentle rhythms
I felt awash
in the land of Inside Out.

If you are interested in palindromes you might want to write some of your own. I find them to be a good writing exercise, and if you're able to write a poem that works together palindromic words, sentences, and line units I'll be thoroughly impressed! Leave me a comment so I can have a look if you give it a try.

9 comments

human being said...

thanks for teaching me the name of what i did a few days ago on this post:

http://dearteachercrow.blogspot.com/2009/11/sss.html

and on a few others...



you know, plants do not know their own names... they just grow...
some scientists classify and name them but they themselves can never grow...

as growth starts within...

November 13, 2009 at 3:46 PM
Derliwall said...

Hi human being,
I just checked out your post. I really like how you've written this piece; very thought provoking. But I'm not quite sure where the palindrome comes in. I can't see how you read this backwards and forwards the same way.

Maybe it's something I'm missing...? Sometimes that happens...

:)

November 13, 2009 at 4:44 PM
Derliwall said...

Jon, thank you for this prompt. I'm excited to try it out.

I always like a good challenge!

November 13, 2009 at 4:46 PM
human being said...

the different types are explained in this post here...


anyhow... names are not important as i wrote earlier... though i learned a new one...
:)

re: "missing" you may like to read this one:

http://dearteachercrow.blogspot.com/2009/11/dissing-miss-or-missing-dis.html


thanks for your concern...


btw,

sharing is all
but not
all is sharing...

:)

November 13, 2009 at 4:59 PM
Jon said...

Hmmmmm...

The poem below is an edit from my part of a chain poem on this site:



a palindrome
is
up
down
over
under
either
neither
night/day
day/night
neither
either
under
over
down
up
is
a palindrome



I have to say that I tend to agree with what Human Being has said in her comments about the tendency to reduce things to scientific formula and rules. After all, a flower by any other name still grows from within, and still smells just as sweet...

This tendency to formalize language and to put poetry into tidy little square boxes with rules and line lengths and rhyme schemes is surely something that many poets have rallied against, and I am one of these too -- not a formalist by any stretch of the imagination. Language is, to me, fluid, moving and changing all the time, and it could be that one of the greatest disservices ever done to this fluidity was to create the dictionary and pin down the "meaning" of words on the page, like so many butterflies to a taxidermist.

However, I wonder how we can share and learn and grow without some sort of agreement on what we mean when we write "share" or "learn" or "grow"? Do we need some names for things? What would happen if there was no provisional agreement and no consensus on words like "water" or "food" or "tiger in the jungle over there"? And why would I even bother to write and to learn and to teach if I thought there was nothing in words?

I believe that it is one of the functions of the poet to push the boundaries of language and meaning... to attach new meanings to words and to shake off the oppression that exists in language. But I can't see how to do this without working within words. It's one of those within-against things.

And so...

I propose that we agree that there can be differing ideas about what words mean, and that we not be hasty to pin words down on the page. For certain I do not wish to sound as though I am a figure of authority and I don't want to be a taxidermist -- though at times as a writer, a teacher, and a learner I do fulfill this role. And if you are a student who makes their way into this conversation, I suggest that you find out for yourself, for certainly this is a way to grow and to learn and to share. Wikipedia has a good article on palindromes that may be a good place to start.

Thanks a lot to Human Being and Derliwall for getting the hamster wheel in my mind going on this one. Take care and I hope that you are both having a good Friday the 13th!

November 13, 2009 at 6:01 PM
Harlequin said...

it is always a treat to see respectful and fun exchanges about words and expressions.... thanks for the thoughtful work and words.
Jon-- wow... this looks like a neat exercise... I will have to get at least one installment of my fan fiction on the go before I play with this... but it is yet another compelling writing activity... I can't wait :)

November 14, 2009 at 12:07 AM
human being said...

oh Jon... 13 is my favorite number... you might have noticed it in my address...
and Fridays are the end of the week here in Iran and they are usually filled with lots of fun and good things...

leave the common beliefs behind and embrace your own experiences...
:)
i had a really great day on that date...

and thanks for your discussion... dialogs always shed more light on life...

re: this part of what you wrote,

"Do we need some names for things? What would happen if there was no provisional agreement and no consensus on words like "water" or "food" or "tiger in the jungle over there"? And why would I even bother to write and to learn and to teach if I thought there was nothing in words?"

i should sadly admit that the reasoning here suffers from straw man phallacy... you have oversimplified or perhaps misrepresented the main point and then refuted it...
surely anyone knows we are not talking about the basic conventions regarding common usgae of the language...

moreover, i have no problems with games of any sort and their rules... they are not only fun but they teach as well...

my point was missed... perhaps in the haste to bring forth an answer or because of an attempt to discover what is between the lines before reading the lines...
;)

it's okay... when and where are we going to find out and practice the rules of the game, after all? surely while playing it, eh?

and games are not there for winning... they are created to teach... they are some tools... not ends...
if they are chosen as an end then they become the basic constituent of our reasoning and it is so dangerous...

really enjoyed reading all this in the post and comments... and i should thank Derliwall for this...

love and peace to you all

November 14, 2009 at 1:11 AM
Harlequin said...

well, OK.. I have an attempt at a verse pattern palindrome... still working at the single line.... this is a tricky little thing.
.... and THEN the fan fiction.. which is a thing to behold ( hah)

November 16, 2009 at 11:57 AM