Stephin Merritt’s 101 Two-Letter Words (W.W. Norton) is a collection of illustrated poems based on all the legal two-letter words playable in Scrabble. Merritt originally began writing the poems as mnemonic devices during downtime while on tour with his band, The Magnetic Fields. Each four-line rhyming poem is accompanied by a humorous illustration from New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast; running themes include sloths, songwriting, Scotland, and vampire dogs. Perhaps my favourite was OH, which proposes new curses (“oh, cheesemongers! oh folk art!”) or RE, which is a take on different pronunciations of the word (“Re: about, in memos / Rays: how microwaves make pork”). Merritt’s poetry is like The Gashleycrumb Tinies for Scrabble lovers: a witty, charming, and slightly macabre ode to language.
This review first appeared as “All My Little Words” in Geist 95.