Saturday, September 24, 2005


Some of Darwin’s pigeons: “Tumblers, trumpeters, laughers, fantails, pouters, polands, runts, dragons, scandaroons.”


“The classic barnacle is an animal with the body plan of a volcano: a cone with a crater at the top. It colonizes rocks, docks, and ships’ hulls. Every day when the tide rolls in, each barnacle pokes out of its crater a long foot like a feather duster and gathers food. When the tide goes out, each barnacle pulls in the feather duster and clamps its crater closed with an operculum—a shelly lid. To mate, a barnacle sticks a long penis out of its crater and thrusts it down the crater of a neighbor. Since every barnacle in the colony is both male and female, this is not as chancy as it sounds.”

Jonathan Weiner, The Beak of the Finch (Vintage, 1995)


“Taxonomists can be classified into splitters and lumpers.”

Faced with the diversity of contemporary American poetries, some splitters recognize dozens and dozens of genera, hundreds and hundred of species and subspecies. Some of the sillier lumpers go so far as to believe it possible subsume all poetry under two distinct species.

What solicitors offer Wisconsin dairy farmers (“There’s salesmen everywhere . . . Whole countries made of salesmen.”): “Protein lick, calf booster, ivermectin, steroid tags, lactose, dehorners, lice powder—you name it.”

Sam Shepard, The God of Hell (Vintage, 2005)