(First Things First and Last Things)



Invented in 10th century Japan by Sei Shonagon, this kind of poem has a long tradition. Among the lists in her Pillow Book she includes taxoms, such as "Things that Should be Short" and "Things that Should be Large." Kit Smart's late 18th-century work Jubilato Agno, rooted in the near eastern poetry of the Bible, brings the taxom into English when he considers his cat Jeoffry. And Borges makes the shocking implications of the eastern tradition clear in our own century when he introduces the Celestial Emporium in his essay/fiction on "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins." While some of Mark Strand's "lists" in Chicken, Shadow, Moon & More, which owes much to Smart, follow out these implications and succeed as taxoms.