Vivan Ulm

On January 1, 2004, I publicly set myself the challenge of writing and publishing a poem a day on my blog for a year, and then I actually achieved that challenge, with 367 poems going up before December 31. (It was a leap year, and I miscounted one, which gave me an extra at year’s end).

It was a fairly gargantuan intellectual process for me. I know I crafted a whole lot of crap while doing it, but I also produced some of the finest writing I’ve ever done, I think, and I never would have gotten to those poems I now consider sublime without grinding way beyond the point where I did not want to be writing poems anymore.

The first poem of that year-long poetry project was called “Vivan Ulm.” Not “Vivian,” mind you. “Vivan.” This was a name that appeared in the “FROM” block of a piece of spam e-mail I received. (I still find such e-mails to be great sources for character names, a fact that I later exploited more fully through a whole poetry series called “Women of Spam“).

That odd-sounding name evoked childhood-favorite Edward Lear for me, so I wrote a poem about Vivan Ulm in his jumbly-tumbly, sing-song, Victorian style. I found “Vivan Ulm” in the archives this week, as I continue to scour them, and I reproduce it below. I find it elegantly whimsical and bittersweet, reading it again, years later.

Vivan Ulm went down to the sea
Down to the sea
Down to the sea
Vivan Ulm went down to the sea
And what did she find there?
Me.

Vivan Ulm ate pears in my yard
Pears in my yard
Pears in my yard
Vivan Ulm ate pears in my yard
And how did she like them?
Hard.

Vivan Ulm had florid red hair
Florid red hair
Florid red hair
Vivan Ulm had florid red hair
And what of her skin color?
Fair.

Vivan Ulm in silvery silk
Silvery silk
Silvery silk
Vivan Ulm in silvery silk
And what did she bathe in?
Milk.

Vivan Ulm sailed for Novigrad
For Novigrad
For Novigrad
Vivan Ulm sailed for Novigrad
And what did that make me?
Sad.

Vivan Ulm went down to the sea
Down to the sea
Down to the sea
Vivan Ulm went down to the sea
And what did she leave there?
Me.

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