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Announcing: An Anthology of World Nonsense

We seek submissions of translations of verse or prose nonsense literature from cultures outside of Anglo-American tradition. We are collecting folk nonsense of the “High Diddle Diddle” type, literary nonsense of the “Walrus and the Carpenter” type, and pop culture nonsense, such as some Bollywood film lyrics. (For more detail on exactly what we are looking for see below.)

Submission Requirements: Please send original language text (if possible) and a literal, word-for-word, translation. If you also have a more polished English translation, you may submit it. Any explanatory/translation notes would be appreciated.

Deadline: January 15, 2010


Michael Heyman, The Berklee College of Music,

Kevin Shortsleeve, Chistopher Newport University,

What Nonsense Is:

Nonsense texts usually exist somewhere between perfect sense, on one hand, and absolute gibberish on the other. They achieve this by maintaining a balance between elements that seem to make sense and elements that do not. Nonsense texts often revel in topsy-turvyness and inversions of natural laws or hierarchical laws of order and place. They are chimerical constructions typified by excessive randomness, often celebrating the impossible and playing with temporal and spatial confusion. They ennoble anomaly while simultaneously rejecting the expected, the orderly and the everyday. These characteristics of nonsense create the effect of questioning commonly endorsed systems, such as language and logic. Nonsense seems to allude to an alien and impenetrable alternative system of authority that rejects established order. Nonsense can be poetry or prose, and it can appear in the guise of any genre or form, including but not limited to short story, novel, travel writing, ballad, sonnet, limerick, song, folk rhymes and tales, lullaby, recipe, and alphabet.

What Nonsense is Not:

Nonsense is not riddles. Nonsense is not jokes. Nonsense is not light verse. Most fantasy is not nonsense. Not all nursery rhymes are nonsense. Not all limericks are nonsense (limericks with the “punch line” ending are usually not).

Examples of Nonsense:

The following examples from English tradition point to styles and genres for which we are looking. We seek similarly styled poems and prose nonsense from continental Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Oceania and Central and South America.

Folk Nonsense: Certain nursery rhymes like “Hey Diddle Diddle” which paint unlikely and seemingly meaningless scenarios, or examples of children’s oral folklore like “One Bright Day in the Middle of the Night,” which posits a list of impossible juxtapositions.

Examples from folklore like The Brother’s Grimm “Clever Elsie,” in which Elsie cannot remember whether she is she, or whether someone else is she. Passages from mummers’ plays and other carnivalesque traditions in which the world is turned upside down and absurdity reigns supreme.

Literary Nonsense: Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” or “The Hunting of the Snark,” Edward Lear’s “Owl and the Pussycat” or “The Four Little Children Who Went Round the World,” some of Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories, Edward Gorey’s The Iron Tonic or The Epileptic Bicycle, John Ciardi’s “Sylvester,” Laura Richards’ “Eletelephony,” Shel Silverstein’s “If the World Was Crazy.”

Some Authors We Are Considering:

(Germany) Christian Morganstern, “The Picket Fence”
(India) Sukumar Ray, “Glibberish-Gibberish”
(South Africa) Nicholas Daly, Wanderer in Og
(Portugal) Fernando Pessoa, “Poema Pial”
(Poland) Stanislaw Baranczak; Jerzy Harasymowicz, “A Green Lowland of Pianos”
(France) Guillaume Apollinaire, “Hat-tomb”
(Norway) Einar Økland, “Siri, What Shall You Do?”, Zinken Hopp, The Magic Chalk
(The Netherlands) Kees Buddingh, “De blauwbilgorgel”
(Czech Republic) Pavel Šrut
(Russia) Evgeny Kluev, Between Two Chairs

To follow the blog for the research and travel associated with this volume, please visit:

CFP – Anthology of World Nonsense