Monday, September 17, 2007

Fapjprid - An Experiment in Collaborative Verse

In which Ludwig dredges up a almost forgotten work of art from the depths of his hard disk

In the Spring of 1998 we were young and restless. We had more or less just decanted off the Air India 747 at JFK and wended our circuitous way to Amherst, MA. We had successfully negotiated one semester at grad school via masterful inactivity, learned how to prevent the fire alarm from going off when cooking Indian food (wet towel, duct tape), stuck our tongue out at falling snowflakes, and located the closest desi store (Hartford, CT - unless you counted sketchy tinned stuff peddled by our kin from Kamboja on Route 9 in Hadley, MA). We had done our first road trip in the freezing winter of '97, gawked at the stupid ball falling at Times Square, "gambled" (20$!) at the Taj Mahal (misguided nostalgic patriotism) in Atlantic City, and survived close encounters of the wetting pants kind with a number of semis during the course of an icy January night somewhere between Pittsburgh, PA and Hartford, CT.

In short, to sum it up, we were feeling rather content. The s. was on the t. and the l., having astutely observed the advent of Spring, was airborne. As the sun's rays crept into long frozen nooks and crannies of the land and the thaw set in and life sprung anew, like so many gorgeous toadstools after a monsoon, a quantity of undergrad women had begun to appear on the lawns of Puffton Village. Whatever fill-in-the-blanks (umm...unfill-the-unblanks, rather) they left to the imagination could easily be filled in by referring to certain reliable textual and online resources.

Such was the nature of the space-time continuum that Spring, and Ludwig's creative juices were raring to go. Certain sundered but unforgotten friends were contacted, the talk turned to matters of days gone by, and of long and utterly pointless conversations under the Tarams tree, at the dead of night, in a miasma of cigarette smoke, under the influence of several "cup sp. coffees". Three friends decided to try and see if they could recreate some of that insanity.

Thus was born the idea of writing a "chain mail poem". We set to with gusto, and the entire saga follows without major changes. This masterpiece was actually on the web at one point and then removed, but is now emerging after a shelved existence of 7 years.

NOTE: The way to read this poem is to read a line, and then refer to the corresponding footnote (if any). Think of the footnotes as running commentary. It will help immensely if you think of the authors as three 20 year old geeks from a certain kind of institute, possibly suffering from a touch of insanity. If you, in fact, were acquainted with the authors during they time they spent on campus, you will have no need to imagine the insanity, you would've seen first-hand demonstrations. Also remember that this was written in 1998.


This poem was written by three of the weirdest, coolest guys I know, Deski, Prosh and Ludwig. If one of them ever asks you, "How big is spider?", "Some spiders eat birds." would probably be the right thing to say. You get the idea.

It's a really interesting poem, especially if you know the details about its evolution. Click on the line numbers to jump to explanations for the line.


The three of us had long contemplated writing nonsense verse. We thought that it would not be too difficult, because this is almost the exact pattern into which our conversations used to fall most of the time.

The interesting thing about this work is that we rotated lines so that each one of us would pen (or rather key) every third line. Ergo Deski wrote lines 1, 4, 7 etc., Prosh wrote lines 2, 5, 8 etc. and I chipped in with 3, 6, 9 etc. The entire poem was written over e-mail during the spring of 1998. Sometimes we would dash off several lines a day. Sometimes it would be a week and several death threats later that one of us would set the ball rolling again.

There are, of course, several pretentious things about Fapjprid like the deliberate creation of new words a-la-Jabberwocky and the references to other great works of yore (Grond ring a bell?). But what the hell, it was great fun and the result isn't too bad.

I have attempted to provide an glossary of sorts and explanations for several features, atleast from the lines I wrote. I'm waiting for the other guys to tell me what they were thinking of so that I can present a complete picture.

The Poem

  1. The fapjprid sang a merry tune, a-walking thro' the glade,
  2. In one hand she had her rolling pin, and in the other two her spade
  3. The fourth was digging thrimungles, her beak was hammering Gronds
  4. She hopped upon her only foot, and squawked "My pant's too long."

  5. With a tear, and a chokgling cry did the pants take to the air,
  6. The fapjprid's endless wailing, was more than they could bear.
  7. I'm off to find my better half, the jirwoc's suit of gold.
  8. Or perhaps I should meet a sage, or a thimble which is bold."

  9. O'er Dorkil Mountain they went, they dived into the Ecsta Sea
10. A soggy and untimely end...alas, nor sweet nor savour-y
11. The oysters sleeping below on their heads got quite a shock,
12. And, out of shame, the fapjprid took to wearing a frock.

13. All clad anew in purple hue, she sallied forth once more.
14. (But ask her not about her pants, about 'em she's still quite sore !)
15. Ere she came to Dorkil Mountain, she met a jirwoc fierce,
16. She turned not pale, a horn of ale gave she to him. Said "cheers!".

17. The knavish ale, laced with poison fierce, at once took its toll,
18. Laid the jirwoc flat, that was that, and skyward rose his soul.
19. She stood on land, saw soul in sky and pants in sea, and laughed
20. And all at once found her head knocked off by a shy B'zaft.

21. But glory be to bark and tree, like a Phoenix she arose,
22. Our twice born friend that cannot end s'long as Ecsta Sea flows,
23. Lingering on like a fermenting wound that reeks of rotting fish,
24. Unharmed, unscathed, unmarked, unchained, no scar or blemish.

25. "Adventure" gumphed the fapjprid "is verily what I need
26. Thrimungles 'n Gronds are rather nice, tho I hate aniseed."
27. She passed o'er Dorkil Mount and came to the edge of Tijus wood,
28. Where three roads forked and a doleful sign read "Go which way you would"

29. Searching in the trees nearby, she caught a four faced coin,
30. One face said head, one said tail, the others were hair and groin.
31. Up spun the coin and landed on her forty 'leventh toe
32. Silence followed, the head then said "Them wood's the way to go!"

33. So she grit her feet and set her teeth and plunged down Middle Way,
34. ("But fapjprids have beak and foot, pray explain!" you may say
35. The reason's simple - 'tis a feat indeed to be fleet with one foot.
36. Ere she'd taken twenty steps, her cerebellum went ka-put.)

37. No matter that...ere long she met a consanguineous har
38. The eyes on his patch made him look really quite bizzare.
39. He was striped, which was odd, for he most surely wasn't a tiger,
40. He twirled his legs, beamed at an X, and went to raid her Geiger.

41. The fapjprid, outraged at this attack on her modesty,
42. Threw a thrimungle at that har which was nobbut lusty
43. "Das har dass war" exploded white and turned into a spider
44. A cutlass in one hand, the others with tankards of cider.

45. Tis' with tender heart and moist eye that we come to this final scene,
46. The sword puts end to jolly breast, alas, God save the bilious spleen,
47. And what of the spider? A more ill-fated creature I have yet to meet,
48. End of tale of jirwoc and ale, and linger thoughts of thrimungles sweet.


1. Deski writes the first line. The word fapjprid is obtained by hitting keys at random. We contemplate changing the name to something more pronounceable, but later decide against altering what Fate has ordained. Not only do we use poetic license in creating the word, but we agree to give you, Gentle Reader, the linguistic license to pronounce it as you will. This makes fapjprid the first of its kind in the English language.

2. Here we begin to get an idea about the anatomy of this curious creature. We also learn its sex...or so we think.

3. This is the first line I wrote. Another hand is added to an already well-limbed f. and a beak is thrown in for good measure. Grond is the hammer of Melkor in the Silmarillion and also the name given to the battering ram that the Lord of the Nazgul directs against the gates of Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings. My Tolkien fetish makes itself evident in the early stages. What a beak the fapjprid must have to hammer Gronds of any sort...

4. To make matters worse for a fapjprid that is in imminent danger of turning into an octopus, Deski proceeds to give it a foot and pants. Though we are unaware at this moment, this foot will go on to play another, more controversial role in the future.

5. Chokgling, Prosh? Perhaps this is a vague reference that Prosh's subconscious has dredged up, to the Chokkalingam who sells aananda maNakkam outside Guindy railway station, Madras, India?

7. The jirowc now gate crashes the party...

9. Another pathetic attempt by yours truly to introduce new things into the poem. Ecsta Sea is actually a solution of LSD in water, which is why everyone wants to dive into it.

11. The oysters are a veiled tribute to Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and the Carpenter. We are all great fans of Do-do Dodgson and we salute the master.

12. At this point, the fapjprid is clearly confused about its sexuality. It started off being a "she", went on to wear pants, and now is ashamed (in spite of being a "she") to wear a frock? Or else, to retain sanity, one could imagine the fapjprid joining the clergy (frock, capisce?) to overcome the shame it felt.

18. This line is of no particular significance, except that my friend Sujit was peering over my shoulder when I typed it, and he expressed amazement at my great poetic skills.

19. This is really where the fapjprid loses it. It must have been a fairly traumatizing and existential moment. To see your clothes (your outside) and your soul (your inside) leave you, you must be a pretty mean sort of thing in the first place. A hitherto absent philosophical spin is added to the poem.

20. In what he claims is the humanitarian thing to do, Prosh does away with our wonderful creation with a single stroke of a "shy B'zaft". Me and Deski are outraged. Things were just beginning to look good for f. A war of e-mails erupts.

21. In desperate attempt to keep the insanity going, I resurrect the fapjprid from doom. Arthur Conan Doyle needed a whole story to bring Holmes back from the dead, we achieve it in one line with a classical allusion.

22. Deski lends his support to my efforts to revive our protagonist.

23. Prosh reluctantly comes around to our way of thinking. He expresses his disgust with the state of affairs in an eloquent and olfactorily stimulating line.

24. Secretly overjoyed that Prosh is back, I pen this inspirational line. My way of saying, "Prosh, friend! We forgive you!".

27. I decide to immortalize Sujit for complimenting my poetical genius by reversing his name and sticking it into the poem. 6 years later, the guy in the purple jacket who knows this fact, wins the Saarang main quiz in a tiebreak and Rs. 10,000 and is deified in Indian quizzing circles. Abraham Thomas is relegated to a footnote.

28. A nice pun there from Deski...How much wood would a fapjprid prid if a fapjrid could and would prid wood?

29. Prosh has a party on Friday which involves inhalation, injection and drinking of several classified substances. He wakes up at four in the evening on Saturday and writes this line, which is probably an accurate portrayal of his state of mind.

30. I toss tempestuously in bed for a night, trying to come up with a polite word that rhymes with coin. Next day, under duress and out of sheer desperation, I decide to go ahead with groin. I am burnt in effigy in Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN - home of Deski and Prosh.

31. More anatomical complications...

33. I make a cardinal error in referring to the fapjprid's "feet". Remember, the fapjprid as originally conceived has just the one foot (line 4)? Deski sends me e-mail with a few choice abuses that are popular in the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Rim of the Eastern Spiral Arm of the galaxy. A reference to Buddhism, to add more philosophical color.

34. Deski attempts to salvage factual integrity by the ancient method of posing rhetorical questions to an imaginary audience, in brackets.

35. Prosh comes up with this perfect riposite to Deski's question. Somehow, we agree to agree that the matter has sorted itself out.

36. In a fit of shame, I kill the fapjprid, in German.

37. Deski decides to ignore my efforts and introduces a har into the scheme of things. A har is something me and Deski conjured up while chatting over the web. I am no longer sure about what it is. It must have been a pretty neat concept.

38. Now we know what the "patch" on the har looks like.

39. I add stripes to the har. This line too (like line 11) is a veiled reference to The Walrus and the Carpenter. The tiger causes problems. I receive hate mail from Deski enquiring of me, "How the $%@& do you expect me to find a word that rhymes with tiger, you $%^$^&&)(!*@^%#%$?" A detailed description, too obscene and violent to be recorded here, of his plans for my body follows. I buy a ticket for Timbuctoo, Mali and spend a week lying low and enjoy sub-Saharan Africa.

40. Deski, smart young chap that he is, finally does come up with a rhyming word. Life goes on.

42. Nobbut is how someone from Yorkshire would say "Nothing but". I picked this tidbit up from James Herriot's stories. A thrimungle turns out to be some sort of throwable object, like a paper weight or a ball. An error of omission occurs when I do not refer to >The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it being line 42 and all that...

43. Deski exhibits his German skills and we also see the beginnings of his arachnomania.

44. Prosh continues to display the effects of substance abuse.

45. We agree that there can be too much of a good thing and decide to put an end to things. This time its all very civil. I am particularly keen on stopping at this point because it will mean that all of us will have written the same number of lines and more significantly, I will have the last word!

47. Prosh joins Deski on the spider bandwagon. Its a good thing we have agreed to stop, or else this might end up looking like a cobweb.

48. A nice sentimental line to end it all.


BoFi said...

One's thought is bent to weekends spent in lands nonsensical

With Dodgson, Lear, and others queer, with divine skills comical.

Humorous tales, born in Seth's vales, did often induce a laugh

And Nash's liqueur, though acting quicker, was never quite enough.

Long has it been, for time unseen, as gone somewhat AWOL

Wonderland too, here now in U Texas, seemed a wee bit small

And just as I, with tear in eye, the end of laughs begun to fear.

From the proverbial blue, like a bolt did you, with Fapjprid now appear.

No word of praise, that I can raise, no email, talk, comment.

Can now therefore, fully explore, and convey what's my intent.

For now that me, through Ecsta Sea, the nonsense have refound

I think its time, to abandon rhyme, to see if Prosh's around!

Opaline said...

Haha, the annotations are particularly funny. =D


Ludwig said...

[bofi] Ah! Knew there had to be someone out there in the Void to whom this kind of stuff will make some sort of sense! Thank you sir, and forthwith find the Weed and confabulate with it.

[srin] The Elusive Pimpernel herself! With the hindsight of nearly 10 years, the annotations are pretty much the only things that are even remotely funny :PP

What else have you been up to in Bong-land? Who knows, with your movie star hair...

Opaline said...

The usual boring things college students do. Read blog nooo, Tomato Pappu. Many many movie star hair photos. And that was a meandig. =)

And one did not think Ludvig was well nigh thirty years old.

Ludwig said...

[srin] i have been pottering in and out of blog on and off. and stop calling me Tomato Pappu. hmph. i saw photos, what's with the sudden autophotographical output? hairstyle continues to rock, BTW :P

yes, poor 'ol Ludvig is well and neigh thirty years old. this doesn't mean you can call me uncle or something. approximately 6.5 million kids already do. so there.