Ian Whybrow

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Meanings and the Distracting Muse. Friday 16th January, 2015

January 16, 2015 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

It’s been a while. Other things to do and nothing much to say. Anyway, today I was eating my cereal, half listening to the unwelcome news on Radio 4’s Today Programme. And feeling the need for distraction, I turned to look properly at the past-their-best arrangement of flowers on the table in front of me. Ranunculus, tulips and anenomes. Lovely.

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Ranunculus brought homunculus into my head and the line O my homunculus! Who was that – e e cummings? No… Sylvia Plath! She was admiring the cut on her thumb. I felt an urge to do something with ranunculus and homunculus, neither of which I was certain I could spell – which meant Googling them. Turns out that the latter is a little man and there is even a alchemist’s recipe for making one by transferring human sperm from a cucurbit into a mare’s womb and keeping an eye on it for 40 weeks. Suddenly I was seeing the ranunculus in front of me as a beautiful yellow miniature brain. The challenge to write a miniature verse was evolving, one just big enough to tweet. (Publishers are always telling you to keep tweeting. And Holly, my niece who knows about these things.) How about one with cucurbit in? Now there’s an exotic beauty, hitherto unencountered by yours truly.

Time to check out ranunculus. It means “little frog”! It’s one of the buttercup family and those are the sort of flowers that are always popping up by ponds!

And suddenly there it was, my verse for the day. I dash for the iPad to take a photo and tweet the thing. Couldn’t get the proper Blakean title in, though; too many characters. Had to call it “Froglet” instead. There’s obscure, bach. I wonder if anyone will bother to look up cucurbit, ranculus and homunculus to unlock the verse?

Doubt it; too much going on out there for anyone to be distracted by a small frog. And now, having been distracted by writing all this down, it’s going to be a hell of a job getting back to the book I’m supposed to be getting on with …

Little Frog, who made you?

In what secret cucurbit

Did the alchemist see fit

To grow you, sweet ranculus,

Instead of a homunculus?