About the Poems
by Nicole Mauro
These poems contain pangrams from different countries, and phrases from Arthur Rimbaud, whose language is, to me, pangrammatic in its syntactic surprise, sense of the Fantastic, and use of humor. In the introduction to Rimbaud, Wallace Fowlie comments that Rimbaud “was a child expressing himself in the language of man.” My own two funny little children are obsessed with the ABCs; my older with how to write them, and my younger with how to speak them. Thanks to them and that lyrical rake Rimbaud, I began thinking about how we learn to make language and meaning, and the pangram series began.
In most languages, pangrams are the complete, usually nonsensical sentence-length mnemonics created by linguists for the purpose of providing children a method to practice forming all the characters of their native alphabet via the auto-educative drill of manually writing and rewriting them, and computer programmers who use code to compose them to test data communication equipment for accuracy and reliability. Pangrams are bloody hell to write—I know because I have fried multiple brain-parts trying, without success—and are subject to raucous lingua-geek debate about which best meet the complete criteria of “pangram.” This may be why there are, in most languages, only a few (if that) pangrams elected to the congress of language, and likely also explains why some languages have opted to just not have them.
Most pangrams are intentionally contrived, and so, as result, are decontextualized abecedarian exercises composed to serve alphabetic representation first (ideally without repetition, and with all diacritic marks present), and “meaning” second, which is why I find them so strange and engaging. Some of the pangrams here contain entire phrases, some fragments—none are translations, and none are meant to be representative of country, culture, or language, though I hope they say something about the difficulty of translating—thought, experience, relationships, etc.