In the fall of 1972, I was living near the industrial heart of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the streets where my wife had grown up, in order for us to take care of her father who would die of cancer the following spring. Protestants and Catholics were then murdering each other in the depths of what they euphemistically called the "Troubles."
I was teaching music in a middle school on the other side of town from where we lived. Since rumors abounded that each side was hiring American Vietnam veterans to teach the arts of guerilla warfare, and since I fit that profile, it seemed imprudent to take any kind of public transportation through the city where I might draw attention to myself. So I quietly walked an hour-and-a-half to and from work each day.
It occurred to me, with a twist of humor, that the news reports every night bombarded us with the words "situation," "negotiation," "intimidation," and "retaliation." My mind, in need of a challenge, started playing with these and other words that ended with "-ation."
The first, and I thought final, result of this word-game was this:
Back home in Salt Lake City, ten years later, for a local church literary collection, I pulled out my little poem and expanded it:
Ten years later again, in 1992, I was the Associate Conductor for Ballet West when our music director and chief conductor started traveling extensively as a guest conductor. I very much enjoyed acting in his stead as music director on several different productions with different orchestras in various cities. When he finally stopped touring, I needed a way to channel my energies, so in August 1994 I resorted to pulling out the old poem once again and found some therapeutic catharsis through building it up on a much larger scale than before.
Writing it was a great deal of fun. I did it almost exclusively at the piano while playing rehearsals for Ballet West, and soon felt incapable of playing without a dictionary at my side. This kind of multi-tasking, for me, far from being a distraction, was mind-sharpening.
Now, (the writing of this preface,) in January 2004, after nine-and-a-half years of serious work on eighty-two different drafts, (I have every one of them in my possession, all numbered and in order), I'm taking my life back. The poem, linked throughout to a tongue-in-cheek glossary, (along with actual on-line dictionary links for those who are more serious about the meanings of the words) is now as finished as I can make it. (So I thought, as now I'm working on it again in 2020.)
The poem is more of a word game than serious poetry, and there is no need to read the whole thing in one sitting. (It has never been done, and I cannot guarantee your outcome.) The use of "big words," and the patterns of rhythm, rhyme and alliteration were my primary concerns, in that order. Then it all had to actually mean something. My rules of composition were that I couldn't repeat any "big words," they all had to be used correctly, and I had to use proper grammar and syntax. The rhythmic scheme dictates four beats per line, but the number of syllables per beat varies in a way (like rhythmic subdivisions in music) that I hope will flow naturally. It should be read aloud to achieve the best effect.
The poem could be used as a great source of handy phrases for those who, like me, love silly sallies into the sportive prolixity of sesquipedalian taradiddles and daffy dillies of diddling fiddle-faddle filled with philosophical flapdoodle.