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Summer's end

Today was the first day of my editing class at Loyola University Maryland, and one of my students knew what an en-dash is. I’m almost giddy. Here, in case you missed the preview of coming attractions, is what they heard in that first class session.

Yesterday’s word of the week, tergiversation, prompted Linda Seebach to quote a delightful double dactyl by Anthony Hecht that employs the word, and Picky to issue this invitation: “I did want to write one that starts ‘Higgledy Piggledy, John Early McIntyre, Night Content Manager, Baltimore Sun.’ But I got stuck. Can one rhyme Sun with Hon in Baltimore?”

Surely this is bait you cannot resist.

Picky also posted this comment: “Higgledy Piggledy
/ John Early McIntyre
/ wears a straw hat / and a
 seersucker suit:

“even a male and an /
 episcopalian, /
 blessed with a tailor, / can
 still look a beaut.”

Sadly, summer’s gone, seersucker and boater are put away, and the fedora makes its return engagement.



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:38 AM | | Comments (17)


Surely the Fedora can wait for when the rake comes out...

Higgledy Piggledy
John Early McIntyre
Night Content Manager,
Baltimore Sun.

Writing on all topics
Twenty-five years now (or
close: minus one).


Let's be quite clear, would that be "rake", as defined as a multi-pronged, long-handled gardening tool often employed in the gathering of fallen autumn leaves, OR a "rake', as in a roué, or libertine w/ a proclivity to wanton carnal pleasure, lewdness, and episodes of heavy gambling? (As in Hogarth's suite of paintings titled, "Rake's Progress"?)

Me thinks definitely the former (the gardening tool), as our Prof. McI. seems a most upstanding, moral gent, and from this myopic vantage point appears to have few skeletons rattling in his closet. (Now hats in his closet, is a different story, entirely. HA!)

Speaking of headwear, as fall rapidly approaches, followed by winter's inevitable bluster and chill, we outdoorsy Canucks of northern climes generally eschew the fedora for those fuzzy beaver fur hats, or colorful, tasseled coeurs des bois-inspired woolen toques. (Please, no nasty letters from you over-zealous PETA folk re/ the beaver fur hats.)

Hmm............ would Hickory Dickory qualify as a legitimate double dactyl verse intro? I feel something brewing, but like Picky, I'm still a little stuck. This too, hopefully, shall pass.

Perchance my pet pteradactylus, Pterrance III, might be able to help me out. Unfortunately he has trouble w/ schwas, too.


Here goes nothing:

Hickory Dickory
Professor John Early McIntyre
Venerable Night Content Managing Editor,
Baltimore Sun.

No Johnny-come-lately, he
Middle name "Early"
Surely connoting a most punctual
Prescriptivist grammarian.


P.S.: --How about a haiku, or two?

I love this time of year. The students are back on campus and they are smiling. Those smiles will soon be wiped off their faces by the reality of classes and assignments, but for the moment they are all happy to be back.


Truly, every fall semester the return to academia is always one of new beginnings, brimming w/ unabashed bright-eyed student optimism, and positivity. The anticipation of Home Coming Week, and the big de rigueur gridiron bash, the school fraternity and sorority faithful looking for new obliging pledges, and the possibility of future romance in the air all make the first few weeks of college life pretty exhilarating.

Students', professors', and lecturers' beaming smiles are ubiquitous around the campus quad, yet as you've so rightly suggested, Dahlink, within mere weeks many of those smiles of earlier joy will have morphed into droopy frowns, pouts, and grimaces, as the demands of lectures, class assignments, and just plain keeping academically on track can become overwhelming for all concerned----instructors and students alike.

My girlfriend, a long-time Phd-ed adjunct professor of geography at Cal State Long Beach has a formidable work load this coming semester, w/ two post-graduate-level courses of 35-plus students enrolled in each, requiring several essay assignments, and the regular exams. Lots of grading down the road. That's in addition to three other courses----- one being a totally new one she created over this summer break on the theme of Sacred Places.

A full-time professor, or 'fully-loaded' adjunct's lot is hardly a predictable 9-to-5 proposition. Frankly, if done well, and pursued w/ passion and commitment, teaching at the university level can become an almost all-consuming vocation, taking huge chunks of one's time and energy, and coloring all aspects of one's working and personal life.

On a personal note, due to our disparate geographic living situations---me in The San Fernando Valley and she down in The South Bay (over a 60 mile commute)----this semester we'll be lucky to spend even a full two days together. Each of her daily lectures takes roughly six-to-eight hours to prep, plus grading papers and exams becomes the equivalent of an extended marathon. C'est la vie in the academic fast lane.

Teaching at the highest level is truly a most honorable, and at times thankless calling. One where the monetary rewards generally fall far short of the self-sacrifice, and effort expended. The biggest rewards must be the one-on-one interactions w/ that handful of students every semester who perhaps begin to see the light, and make great personal strides. Their professor can perhaps take some measure of pride in being one of the motivating catalyst that sparked that greater hunger for knowledge, clarity of thought, or finding their life purpose.

Enough said.


Dan and Alex:

Standard double dactyls must have one line which is a single word, as in Picky's "episcopalian". Furthermore, the lines of a double dactyl are double dactyls, DAH-da-da DAH-da-da, except the fourth and eighth, which are DAH-da-da DAH. You can't just cram in any old number of syllables there, and you have to keep to the meter: no "writing on all topics", which is DAH-da-da-da DA-da.

But here you go, Alex:

Summer's end: John E.
McIntyre packs up boater,
Resumes fedora.

John Cowan,

I did preface my effort w/ "Here goes nothing,", so I kind of knew i was on some shaky ground. So cut me a little slack, old boy.

Nevertheless, I should have known better to have followed blogger Dan's lead, thinking he was a deft fashioner of clever double dactyl ditties.

Trust our man Picky to be spot on. You literary pros who have toiled in the print journalism trenches for decades do have a slight edge over us rank amateurs.

John, I did enjoy your "favorite" double dactyl re/ author Agatha Christie, but where, pray tell, is the Higgledy Piggledy introduction? Thought that was kind of obligatory, or at least some jaunty variation thereof? Oh well.

Alas a double dactyl poet
I shall likely never be (sob!)
For rhyming, willy-nilly, as is my want,
Just cannot be*

The elegant spare haiku form
May be quite the truly daunting test
But I trust I'll stick to rhyming couplets
Which some kindly folk claim I handle best

*On the authority of John Cowan, chosen protector of the integrity of the double dactyl............ at least on this particular site.



Not that it's skin off anyone else's nose, but in my earlier post I meant to add that my girlfriend and I "would be lucky to spend even a full two days together".......... PER WEEK, and not for the entire semester as was erroneously implied. A two-day-per-semester scenario would not a relationship make. HA!


The best thing about the Professorial life, if my observations are correct,is the coveted tenure: one can't be fired (unless it is rumored that one has winked at a female undergraduate - evidence is seldom required) or laid off. One usually has the summer off, and then there are those scholarly 'vacations,' where one reads a paper (usually the Herald-Tribune whilst leaning against a wall in Rome or Venice) for 20 minutes, and then takes 2 weeks to recover. Anyway, I loathe Fall: it can lead to only one thing, the bloody school buses are back, screwing up traffic and it gets dark sooner. Get that boater out - stretch the Summer as long as you can!

Higgledy Piggledy
John Early McIntyre
Night Content Manager
Baltimore Sun

Mellowed by age, he now
Refashions prose and re-
laxes with rye.

(OK, so there's no final-line rhyme; I could almost do it if you favored rum over rye...)

Higgledy Piggledy
John Early McIntyre
Night Content Manager,
Baltimore Sun,

Bans from his headlines tropes
Hates "'Tis the Season" and
Frowns on the pun.

Higgledy Piggledy
Baltimore residents
Got through a hurricane
Some without light

Higgledy Piggledy
Uprooted trees blocking the roads
Lived through the fright.

P the T--there is no summer time off if you run a research group--it's 12 months a year.

Alex, your friend's class on sacred places sounds very interesting. It's very difficult to create a new class--I wish her well.

Sacred Places...

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Laura Lee,

How prescient those poignant, hopeful verses you've given us from T. S. Elliot's "Ash Wednesday". Particularly fitting on this most solemn day of remembrance of the victims of that hellish morning a decade ago, (to this very day), when America felt the diabolical evil of wanton terrorism on her very shores.

I watched a portion of this morning's recitation of all the names of those thousands of innocents that had died needlessly on that fateful September morning of sheer horror writ large; the reciters most fittingly facing the sleek man-made cascade of water tumbling over high-polished granite into the seeming abyss of the Twin Towers' massive rectangular 'footprints' w/ newly planted oak sapling leaves fluttering in the Manhattan breeze above. A few lines of Elliot's cathartic poem appeared, in my view, to especially resonate so 'naturally' w/ today's commemorative events at Ground Zero.

"Blessed spirit, holy mother, spirit of the fountain", and the line, "And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, Suffer me not to be separated", and finally, "and let my cry come unto Thee."

Today an entire nation collectively wept a virtual sea of tears, all grieving in their own fashion in shared remembrance of the incalculable loss of almost three thousand innocent individuals who perished on 9/11, 2001.

For me, the continuous flow of the falling water tumbling into the World Trade Center Twin Towers' Memorial's 'footprints' represents the accumulation of the mournful tears of a whole nation; but particularly those shed by the immediate family and friends of the victims-----symbolizing the eternal loving connection between those souls we lost on that tragic day, and the living, who miss them so very deeply. A connection, analogous to the unbated flow of a mighty river, that will never cease as long as we the survivors keep the memories of those who died so senselessly, alive in our hearts and minds.

Laura Lee, two days before this incredibly moving, and at times emotionally difficult 9/11 day of one-decade-remembrance, you gave us a most life-affirming, hopeful slice of Elliot's brilliant verse, which, for me, seemed to symbolically speak to one of our nation's most unlikely sacred places/ spaces---- The awesome Twin Towers' 9/11 Memorial.

The memorial's full completeness became totally manifest today w/ the arrival early this morning of all those brave and long-suffering relatives and friends of the 9/11 tragedy victims. Indeed, "suffer me not to be separated".

God bless you, Laura Lee for your unwittingly appropriate gift of poesy, and bless those who have suffered such grievous personal loss on that most surreal, sad day in this nation's recent history.


Laura Lee, I echo Alex's comments. You have a gift for selecting the perfect words for any given moment. I stayed away from much of the coverage yesterday, but I did hear on NPR Paul Simon singing "The Sounds of Silence," which took on a whole new meaning for me in that context.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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