Jiggery-Pokery Semicentennial

edited by Daniel Groves and Greg WilliamsonPublication: March 15th, 2018

£10.99

Introduction by Willard Spiegelman

It is 50 years since Atheneum published Anthony Hecht and John Hollander’s Jiggery-Pokery, a compendium of verses known as double dactyls. The double dactyl was the invention of Hecht and Paul Pascal, and is was aptly described on the jacket of Jiggery-Pokery as a devilish amalgam of rhyme, meter, name-dropping and pure nonsense. It caught on, too, just as the limerick and the clerihew had caught on, and has been testing the mettle of many a poet — and not a few aspiring poets — ever since. To celebrate Jiggery-Pokery‘s half-century, Waywiser is delighted to be publishing Jiggery-Pokery Semicentennial, a wholly new compendium expertly edited by Dan Groves and Greg Williamson. The volume is dedicated to the memories of Hecht and Hollander, and it comes with a splendid introduction by Willard Spiegelman, Hughes Professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and a regular contributor to the Leisure & Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal. Spiegelman’s most recent books are Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (2016) and If You See Something, Say Something: A Writer Looks at Art (2016). The volume also comes complete with a cover by the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser, a singularly appropriate choice since Glaser (still going strong at the age of 88) designed the cover for and also illustrated the original Hecht-Hollander volume.

ISBN: 978-1-904130-88-8 Extent: 112pp Category:

Jiggery-Pokery Semicentennial

Think of ‘light verse’ not as mere triviality but as a special form of illumination. The double dactyl makes its own claims, and does its own work. It has grown over time. Take a look at [Jiggery-Pokery Semicentennial]: you will find God’s plenty, wittily miniaturized. The new double dactyls collected by Messrs. Groves and Williamson prove individually and collectively that having once ‘learned’ the rules of the form, a poet may produce a learnèd work, a poem both ‘simple, sensuous, and passionate’ (Milton’s desideratum) and playful, witty, even intellectual … The poets in these pages have extended the boundaries of Hecht and Hollander’s original definitions, and of their anthology of half a century ago. One hopes that the old masters would have approved … Contained in this slim volume, readers will find poems that are didactic, secular, witty, and ironic, as well as illuminating: often sensuous and passionate, perhaps even simple. Their illumination comes, in fact, from their didactic wit. — from Willard Spiegelman’s introduction

Jiggery-Pokery Semicentennial is the successor to the 1967 anthology, edited by Anthony Hecht and John Hollander. Published by Atheneum, the original Jiggery Pokery collected examples of a new poetic form that made its publishing debut the previous year in Esquire magazine. Setting something of a craze for those younger poets still seduced by the pleasures of formalism, the double dactyl was devised over a long lunch at the American Academy in Rome, 1951. Attendant on the scene were Anthony Hecht, the classical scholar Paul Pascal, and Pascal’s wife, Naomi. … The Semicentennial’s editors, Daniel Groves and Greg Williamson, are to be praised for bringing so many fine poets together in one volume. It is particularly pleasing to see a contribution from Chris Wallace-Crabbe, who also contributed to Hecht and Hollander’s anthology. I will close with one final double dactyl, by the late J. D. McClatchy, which rather beautifully manages to pay tribute to a Romantic writer without abandoning the essential mischievousness of the form:

    Von Hofmannsthal

Higgledy-Piggledy
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Wrote hushed libretti for
Noisy Herr Strauss,

Radiant fables that
Incomprehensibly
Lifted the spirit and
Brought down the house.

As it happens, those last two lines are also a fair descriptor for reading Jiggery-Pokery Semicentennial itself. — Andrew Neilson, The Hopkins Review, 12:2, Spring 2019

Male Gaze

Jiggery-Pokery
Orpheus Porphory
What were you thinking then,
Turning your head?

Love is perdition that
Eurydicedingly
Lingers in hindsight: she’s
Better off dead.

— Kevin Craft

 

Humperdinck

Pat-a-cake Pat-a-cake,
Engelbert Humperdinck
Didn’t sing pop songs or
Pump Heavy Metal.

Though such a fact may seem
Contra-indicative,
He wrote an opera:
Hänsel und Gretel.

— John Fuller

 

Von Hofmannsthal

Higgledy-Piggledy
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Wrote hushed libretti for
Noisy Herr Strauss,

Radiant fables that
Incomprehensibly
Lifted the spirit and
Brought down the house

— J. D. McClatchy

 

Double Ductile

Wittily whiskery
Anthony Hollander(™)
Fifty some years ago per-
fected a form—

Seriocomically
Polysyllabical—
Which quite unlikelily
Took us by storm.

— Brad Leithauser

 

Excerpts

Male Gaze

Jiggery-Pokery
Orpheus Porphory
What were you thinking then,
Turning your head?

Love is perdition that
Eurydicedingly
Lingers in hindsight: she’s
Better off dead.

— Kevin Craft

 

Humperdinck

Pat-a-cake Pat-a-cake,
Engelbert Humperdinck
Didn’t sing pop songs or
Pump Heavy Metal.

Though such a fact may seem
Contra-indicative,
He wrote an opera:
Hänsel und Gretel.

— John Fuller

 

Von Hofmannsthal

Higgledy-Piggledy
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Wrote hushed libretti for
Noisy Herr Strauss,

Radiant fables that
Incomprehensibly
Lifted the spirit and
Brought down the house

— J. D. McClatchy

 

Double Ductile

Wittily whiskery
Anthony Hollander(™)
Fifty some years ago per-
fected a form—

Seriocomically
Polysyllabical—
Which quite unlikelily
Took us by storm.

— Brad Leithauser