Friday, August 01, 2008

Poetry Friday

When you live in Iowa, you're never 100% sure how a town's name will be pronounced. I was shocked to discover that Madrid, Iowa was pronounced MA (as in cat)-drid. Or Nevada? Just a few states over there's a Nevada. A good model. But here in Iowa, Nevada is pronounced with a long a--ni-VAY-da.

So why had I never thought about Des Moines's pronunciation? Obviously we don't use correct French pronunciation when saying Des Moines. But its odd pronunciation never crossed my mind until I read the wonderful "In the Elementary School Choir" by Gregory Djanikian at Poetry Here's the relevant stanza:

It was a problem which had dogged me
For a few years, this confusion of places,
And when in 5th grade geography I had pronounced
“Des Moines” as though it were a village in France,
Mr. Kephart led me to the map on the front wall,
And so I’d know where I was,
Pressed my forehead squarely against Iowa.
Des Moines, he’d said. Rhymes with coins.

Beautiful! Do read the whole poem here.

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