Peter Please’s Clattinger: An Alphabet of Signs from Nature developed from the experience of regularly walking Clattinger Farm in Wiltshire, a rare lowland grassland farmed by the Ody family without artificial fertilisers and taken over as a nature reserve in 1996 with a Site of Special Scientific Interest designation. As the water meadows had been traditionally managed with grazing and hay cutting on alluvium overlaying Oxford Clay they produce an extraordinary diversity of plants, including the snakes’s head fritillary, downy-fruited sedge, green-winged orchids and meadow saffron. Please wanted to find new words for his experiences at the Farm.
This limited edition of idiosyncratic prose poems or poetic sketches comes with 26 new words and their meanings set within drawings of their signs and related calligraphy. Each letter of the alphabet is derived from a physical object, a is from axed tree, g from gate, m from mirror of face in cistern, x from crossed branches, and so on. He did not feel constrained by the alphabet, nor did he search for older words worthy of resurrection.
Assoune, I breathe out slowly. Assssooooone. I like a word
for change with the poetry of longing in it. I rock in my
time. I note the beady eyes standing in the way, the
hairline faults, the thin angular lips demanding
perfection. Zip zip ZAP!
The new word ‘assoune’ is given the meaning ‘meaning by loss / change / absence. I may be wrong. However I think that new words come into usage through need or desire within a community of speakers. New words tend to have sharply focussed meaning which can widen or narrow as well as become used positively or negatively. Of the 26 new words, the compound ‘youme’ defined as ‘representative / alone with many / end of season’, although I can see the txt version ‘ume’ appearing, and ‘zipzygo’ meaning ‘impenetrable / not now’ were typical in their combination of playful invention and fun.
‘Weepod’ from wayside meaning ‘arrival / alone with / journey’ produced:
I plant my seat and sit upon it as the upform of the oak
zigzags its wayward certainty. Still I sink, yet stay
upright, not down, neither up. I strain to hear and so
become immobile. A light breeze sifts sand in my ears, a
flyby wasp patrols a straight line. Buzzflies do
dizzywhizzies or pass-overs. One hundred voices I hear
speaking incognito, fast and fleeting, as ear-babble. Or
are they bubbles singing a blackcap? A sound installation
of breath? Among people and alone is a strange mix.
The book is a hybrid of digital production and hand stitched papers with a cover by artist, Sean Borodale, showing a distinct tangle of grasses and the signs of some of the new words. Clattinger first published in 2008 has received scant attention. It is well worth exploring.
David Caddy 19th November 2014