lexicology

Midweek Poetry: The Etymology of Azure by daintydora

I haven't written much (any?) poetry this year, so my experience recently at Lumb Bank was a jump-start to my poetic creativity. Stevie Ronnie was our tutor for the poetry element of the Book Art & Text course (check out the amazing paper books I made under Rachel Hazell's tutelage), and he immersed the group in language and words (my very favourite kind of lesson) through ingenious tasks and short games, even making up new poetic forms - the snake poem anyone? - encouraging us to inject a bit more freedom and fun into our approach to poetry.

For one of our lessons we had to write down our favourite word ahead of time, allowing Stevie to research the etymology of it and present us with the findings (though at the time we didn't know where the word was going to take us).

From there, we had to construct a poem using only the words that featured in the etymology.

My word was 'AZURE', chosen because of its colourful connotations and how it makes me feel - turquoise-y blue and free, like I'm swimming in the sea, the Med perhaps; the Côte d'Azur...

'Azure' in watercolour
'Azure' in watercolour

And the etymology was fascinating - more like a history lesson through language, culture and geology via the Mediterranean and Turkestan.

Azure is so much more than 'the blue colour of the clear sky'.

Some of the words that jumped out at me from the etymology were words I would never have thought to include in a poem, and I loved how they related back to the word (obviously) but could be jumbled up to create the story of the word, as well as a story through the poem.

These are some of my favourites:

  • Middle Latin lapis
  • false separation
  • molluscs which stick to rocks
  • Persian Lajward
  • cognates in Greek
  • the unclouded sky
  • French article
  • lapideous
  • heraldic colour blue
  • complex silicatea stone
  • a pebble
  • spangles of pyrites

They make it sound so much more complex and glamorous. I love that.

Words and phrases all with their roots in one word, but intensifying the meaning, shifting it, elevating it.

I've done very little work on the poem since I returned - it didn't feel right because I worked on it amidst the special magic of Lumb Bank (in snatches of time between meals!), presenting it on our final night by reading it out as though it was complete. And it is complete, for now. (Completely azure?)

The only thing I've allowed myself to change is the line structure - it's my area of weakness - and the title.

I thought it fitting to call it Lapis Lazuli at the time, because azure is literally 'a genitive of lazulum', but then I realised the title of this post says it best.

The Etymology of Azure

Pyrite mountains stand unclouded, proto-Italic and

essentially complex: dripping-rich

with limpets clinging to sticks.

A false sky beckons, blue, azure;

a genitive of lazulum

spangled pewter and gold.

Heraldic? Arabic?

It's the Persian Lajward

borrowed from before -

Marco Polo's short French mention:

semi-precious symbols

loaned from Latin

and archaic silicates

cognated in stone.

100 days of my favourite words by daintydora

“Words, like glass, darken whatever they do not help us to see.”

– Joubert, Pensees

Thank you to Gretchen Rubin's daily happiness email for that thoughtful quote. But it's true isn't it?

When I decided to use words as the focus of my 100-day project for 2016, I understood the inherent power they yield.

Today is 100/100 and the word I've chosen to celebrate my achievement is 'Firework', because it connotes celebration, success, happiness - and on this occasion perhaps even a whiff of relief. This day has (finally) arrived.

It also conjures the joy of bright colour on a dark night, childish excitement, danger, power, spontaneity, laughter and that smell of sulphur in the air. I think words can do all those things too.

Some days I've been playful, optimistic and creative with my word choice; other days I've been a bit darker in tone, bringing the etymological force of the English language to bear. Hopefully in both cases I've inspired others with my 'daily habit' linked so intrinsically to my life as a writer. (Hello 'Alphabet' - I couldn't have done it without you.)

In some cases, perhaps I've even introduced a new word to someone, taking them on a brief journey of exploration or an unexpected linguistic tangent? I'd like to think so. (I'm looking at you, 'Petrichor'.)

And isn't it funny how when you focus on a word - perhaps a word that doesn't crop up in every-day language, like 'ekphrastic' or 'chiaroscuro' or even 'synchronicity' itself - it suddenly appears everywhere as if to say 'here I am, look at me' (use me! play with me!)?

I do have a predilection for personification. I try to resist, but find the new depth - often world - of meaning a personifying verb or adjective brings to the intangible 'inanimates' of life...irresistible:

Thoughts that leap. Memories that stir. Happiness that soars. The 'demonic' inner critic. Grrr.

So here we are. 100 days deep in words. See the rest of the pack via my Instagram profile, or search under #100daysofmyfavouritewords (there's definitely 100 - I checked!)

A big shout-out to Elle Luna who started the 100-day project, and all the creative friends who shared the journey with me.

Finally, check out last year's '100 days of Haiku'. What will next year bring?