Steven Cramer’s “Clangings”

Out this week, Steven Cramer’s Clangings, a series of poems based on the musical-associative verbal life of schizophrenics. (Quoth the DSM: Clanging is the pairing of words that have no relation to one another beyond the fact that they rhyme or sound alike. Clanging speech often sounds like nonsense.) We’re editors, Jim, not doctors, but we love the way these poems move and sound. One man’s
nonsense …

Here are two from Little Star #3 (2012).

Parents are the nations that thrust you
half ’n’ half into The Quiz. That’s what
parents engineer, and you jump into it.
Vegetable manuals; rooks, ruts; and so

when somebody asks me my name,
I’ll think twice, since I was given it
away and, in my opinion, that’s what
made mine swim, but yeah, it’s Tim

at times. Their ploys were Bull and Woo.
Taught me to pronounce a winter wren
trill like a house wren. I’d already flown
from home, and didn’t they even know?

I knew: people in trios don’t survive.
Now I’m a curious binocular, floored by
the ocean flowering two dives a day.
And fish are flying like petals are alive!

It’s the beginning of believing season.
Time to keep an eye on me, a right eye
up-brought to mind my left-behind I—
since it’s less than seconds till I’m born.


From the time he opened his mouth his talk was off.
Tuesday’s today; yesterday, Sunday; Tuesday
we see Gramma Ray on Tuesday. She told a story
about the navy dockship, drunken, I dove off of.

In a tiresome sort of way it took him many times
to get to the point. Always your mitt, your tepee,
nothing on TV clicking between you and me.
I only swiped single fingers of your Seagrams.

He swears too much, but he’s also excessively polite.
When manikins got to bawling in our bodies,
I vetoed your hammering, bad company sighs.
Held them to my mirror. That’s one way to edit

the nettlings out of your net, old man, no?
No, he isn’t shy, and brought friends to the house
after school, took down their names and addresses.
Yes, if I said grace, I’d feel a minnow miaow

wannasays from my teeth. What’s that mean?
Double-dare, dare-devil, don’t go there, triple-
faced Sir…Da…Father, call me independable.
I won’t be spoken to in scalpels.
                           Your yellow sun.


Fellow Little Star author Jean McGarry said Clangings “may well be the most disturbing book of verse ever written!” Hear the author read from Clangings here.

Steven Cramer is the author of four books of poems directs the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge.