Danielle Blau

Hapax Legomenon
May 25, 2020 Blau Danielle

Hapax Legomenon


Literally “thing said once,” hapax legomenon refers to a word that appears in a text on only one occasion. When the text is an ancient one in a dead language, hapax legomena create difficulties in decipherment, since inferring the meaning of a given word from its context becomes increasingly uncertain the fewer examples of the word there are in existence.
She said, Last night really
was hapax legomenon, which I
nodding, took
(with the ricocheted
door, plus the draft let in)
to mean: bound to
not happen again.
Well, more
than enough
on my
plate, thank you, without her & her
outlandish diction, what
with this toilsome coupling
of referents & names: every
day, I swear, worse than
the last & every last
day worse than Tolstoy. Say, why
not call
the lot of us Anna
Alexandrovna Ivanovna Stetlovna & go
whole hog, hmm? Who
could have told much
difference, given
how unrelenting the present
demand for
marginalia is
on a man
wishing simply
to follow
the gist! Yet no matter where
he turns: things
sloughing off their
terms; signs freshly
threshed from
the chaff of events — oh, did it ever get
cut &
dried each
passing year I
lived: this world’s
a wicked wheat field.


But what
about her: good as her
word? Ha! Hardly
could leave
alone, it seems, dear
thing. As a Kurdish boy (gently
sprouting acne, touchingly
bent on calling me
Sir) she’d often come
to read
my meter
& then — that one
April (glistening, brief) —
a hurt starling, she
made her
below my eaves deep in my walls I felt her walk I felt her limp her listing
lovelorn pulse
— not to mention
the guy (I’m all but certain)
at the market last week who sold me

sturgeon; she said, Since
prehistoric age unchanged

which, nodding, I                took to mean: this fish
is eaten      poached
or braised.

Danielle Blau’s debut full-length poetry collection peep was selected by Vijay Seshadri for the 2021 Anthony Hecht Prize and was published in April of 2022 in both the US and the UK by the Waywiser Press. Her nonfiction book Rhyme or Reason: Poets and Philosophers on the Problem of Being Here Now is forthcoming from W.W. Norton.

Blau’s mere eye was selected for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Award and published with an introduction by D.A. Powell, and her poems won first place in the multi-genre Narrative 30 Below Contest. Poetry, short stories, articles, and interviews by Blau appear in The Atlantic, Australian Book Review, The Baffler, The Literary Review, Narrative, The New Yorker’s book blog, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Saint Ann’s Review, several volumes of the Plume Anthology of Poetry, and elsewhere.

Her work has been set to music by composers of various stripes and performed in such venues as Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Carnegie Hall. A graduate of Brown University with an honors degree in philosophy, and of New York University with an MFA in poetry, she curates and hosts the monthly Gavagai Music + Reading Series in Brooklyn, teaches at Hunter College in Manhattan, and lives with her son Kai in Queens.