Robin Camille Davis
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Holy Grail

October 28, 2009
Tags: art, words

In the Boston Public Library, there's a room paneled with fifteen paintings by Edwin Austin Abbey. They follow Sir Galahad's quest for the Holy Grail. I went to the Boston Book Festival (entry forthcoming) and one of the talks was held in the Abbey Room. I could barely pay attention to the historical fiction talk because I was so enthralled by the above painting, "Galahad and the Holy Grail" (1895). I think it's the hooded figure. It reminded me of some of my fave things:


Left, photographs by Alison Scarpulla, and right, the cover of Cat's Eye.


Answer to last week's riddle: Deven, you're totes right. The term you described is amphisbaenic rhyme, which is, according to my shiny new Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory, is:

amphisbaenic rhyme | The term derives from the Greek word amphisbaina, 'a monster with a head at each end'. It denotes a backward rhyme. For example: liar/rail. A rare poetical device.

I'm not sure if my use of it (leer/real, leap/peel, rake/care, rate/tear) counts, as the backwardsness is phonetic and not orthographic. Apparently the poet/scholar Lewis Turco (Turko Files?!) would classify these pairs as amphisbaenic, so I think I'm in the clear. So does this random website, which says the writer/critic Edmund Wilson (friend of Fitzgerald & Nabokov) used it, too. Said random website mentions Nabokov, but I can't tell if they're saying he used backward rhyme or not. He'd probably enjoy wordplay like this, though.