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Someday Someone Will Bet That You Can't Name All Fifty States -- Judith Viorst

       
(Poem #1358) Someday Someone Will Bet That You Can't Name All Fifty States
 California, Mississippi
 North and South Dakota.
 New York, Jersey, Mexico and
 Hampshire, Minnesota.
 Vermont, Wisconsin, Oregon,
 Connecticut and Maine.
 Hawaii, Georgia, Maryland.
 Virginia (West and plain).
 Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas,
 Illinois, Alaska.
 Colorado, Utah, Florida,
 Delaware, Nebraska.
 the Carolinas (North and South).
 Missouri, Idaho.
 Plus Alabama, Washington,
 And Indiana, O-
 Klahoma. Also Iowa,
 Arkansas, Montana,
 Pennsylvania, Arizona,
 And Louisiana.
 Ohio, Massachusetts, and
 Nevada, Michigan,
 Rhode Island, and Wyoming. That
 Makes forty-nine. You win
 As soon as you say ____________.
-- Judith Viorst
It should come as no surprise that I loved this poem. "Someday, Someone..." is
an unabashed piece of playful ingenuity that does for the states what Lehrer
did
for the Elements [Poem #490], and I loved it for the same reasons - the sheer
satisfaction of seeing a hodgepodge list of names organised into a neat series
of rhymes, and the pleasure of the rhymes themselves. Not to mention a
vicarious thrill at the *cleverness* of it all.

This is, indeed, more puzzle than poetry, a puzzle that Viorst does a
brilliant job of solving. Indeed, the brilliance is twofold, for first she
had to formulate the puzzle, to ask herself "would it be possible to...?".
The twist at the end was wonderful too, even if it did cause me to spend a
good fifteen minutes staring at the list and eliminating states in a
scattershot manner (yes, I did solve it. No, I'm not going to spoil the
answer :))

martin

p.s. Some of you will doubtless be amused that my first thought on reading
line 8 was "West Virginia and just Virginia". I apologise to everyone else :)

p.p.s. If anyone knows of other poems in a similar vein, please do send them
in.

Links:

 Biography: http://www.annonline.com/interviews/980112/biography.html
 AAP site: [broken link] http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=62

69 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

Martin DeMello [9/26/2003 5:53 AM] :

> "Someday Someone Will Bet That You Can't Name All Fifty States"
>
> California, Mississippi

[...]

> p.p.s. If anyone knows of other poems in a similar vein, please do send them
> in.

"Tchaikowsky (and Other Russians)", sung by Danny Kaye in "Lady in the
Dark" in 1941, with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ira Gershwin.

Just the extremely polysyllabic names of 49 russian composers, from
Malichevsky, Rubinstein and Arensky to Gretchnaninoff, Kvoschinsky and
Rachmaninoff. Machine gun speed - thirty five seconds flat.

Then Tom Lehrer has the entire periodic table set to the tune of Gilbert
& Sullivan's "Major General's Song".

Cant find lyrics to either of them online ...

srs

Abraham Thomas said...

> > > "Tchaikowsky (and Other Russians)", sung by Danny Kaye in "Lady in the
> > > Dark" in 1941, with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ira Gershwin.

> > Can't find the Gershwin either

> Ask around - there *should* be a copy of this someplace.

I have this on CD, will go home and check if printed sleeve lyrics
exist. They probably don't, which means I'd have to transcribe them. Not
impossible, just don't expect results in a hurry :)

t.

barney said...

I can see the missing state (so to speak), but not the "twist".
Anyone care to put a poor ignorant Brit out of his misery?

Barnaby

Martin DeMello said...

--- Barnaby Page wrote:
> I can see the missing state (so to speak), but not the "twist".
> Anyone care to put a poor ignorant Brit out of his misery?

Well, most such poems wind up neatly in the end - "and that (said John)
is that", "these are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard
/ and there may be many others but they haven't been discovered". The
"twist" was Viorst's building up expectations of a neat finish and,
instead, turning to the reader and saying "well?"

martin

Dale Rosenberg said...

I also don't really get it. I mean, it seems to me that
S
P
O
I
L
E
R

Kansas is the answer. At least I can't find it in the poem and it is a
state. But it doesn't rhyme with "that".... Am I missing something?

Martin DeMello said...

--- Dale Rosenberg wrote:
> I also don't really get it. I mean, it seems to me that
> S
> P
> O
> I
> L
> E
> R
>
> Kansas is the answer. At least I can't find it in the poem and it is a
> state. But it doesn't rhyme with "that".... Am I missing something?

Nope, you're right - Kansas is indeed the answer. It threw me for a
while too, but then I realised that

Ohio, Massachusetts, and
Nevada, Michigan,
Rhode Island, and Wyoming. That
Makes forty-nine. You win

is a complete stanza, and that the last line stands in isolation.

martin

The Danny Hustle Show! said...

The Gershwin song Danny Kaye sang that you were looking for

"Tchaikowsky and Other Russians"

VERSE (not sung in the original production)

Without the least excuse
Or the slightest provocation,
May I fondly introduce,
For your mental delectation,
The names that always give me a concussion,
The names of those composers known as Russian.

REFRAIN

There's Malichevsky, Rubinstein, Arensky, and Tschaikowsky,
Sapelnikoff, Dimitrieff, Tscherepnin, Kryjanowsky,
Godowsky, Arteiboucheff, Moniuszko, Akimenko,
Solovieff, Prokofieff, Tiomkin, Korestchenko.

There's Glinka, Winkler, Bortniansky, Rebikoff, Ilyinsky,
There's Medtner, Balakireff, Zolotareff, and Kvoschinsky.
And Sokoloff and Kopyloff, Dukelsky, and Klenowsky,
And Shostakovitsch, Borodine, Glière, and Nowakofski.

There's Liadoff and Karganoff, Markievitch, Pantschenko
And Dargomyzski, Stcherbatcheff, Scriabine, Vassilenko,
Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Mussorgsky, and Gretchaninoff
And Glazounoff and Caeser Cui, Kalinikoff, Rachmaninoff,

Stravinsky and Gretchnaninoff,
Rumshinsky and Rachmaninoff,
I really have to stop, the subject has been dwelt
Upon enough!

ENSEMBLE: Stravinsky!
RINGMASTER: Gretchaninoff!
ENSEMBLE: Rumshinsky!
RINGMASTER: Rachmaninoff!
ENSEMBLE: He'd better stop because we feel we all have under-
Gone enough!

Anonymous said...

So easy,I mean Kansas is the answer.Me & justin tryed hard and hard to figure it out & couldn't so we tried even harder than mr.Biebs found the answer!!,soo easy!!(: :D

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