AHT, damned spot + MFI sofa mnemonics (Dancing in the Waiting Room #3)

Learning a list in a poem can be tricky.

In DITW, Macmillan gives us six aspects of our “myriad selves” to remember (anxious, hopeful, trembling, wishful, fearful, impatient).  But how to remember them? And how to remember them in order?

A poet often gives us some assistance in this matter, threading a cohesive assonance or alliteration through her list to help the mind keep things in sequence. But what if that assisting assonance is diluted by hearing the poem through a translation? ‘Dancing in the waiting room’ was written in Gaelic, and in Gaelic (a language I don’t speak) it sounds as if there might be a few more melodic memory hooks. Have a listen to Angus reading the words from a 2006 reading:

There isn’t a particularly logical grouping to the adjectives either. At first I thought I might be led by “negative”/”positive” ordering:

Anxious (-), hopeful (+), trembling (-),
wishful (+/-), fearful (-) impatient (-).

But there’s no real rhyme or reason to these pluses and minuses{{1}}. The myriad selves -the dancing shadows- don’t line up neatly in alphabetical order to be marked as present on the register like polite middle-class school children in their neatly pressed uniforms. No! Wild and woolly, they “flit” in “fevers of movement”. Catch ’em if you can.

So I resorted to age-old mnemonics: acrynoms.


Well, that’s a South African Lady Macbeth, isn’t it? “Aht, aht demn’d spot! Aht, I say!”

WFI (wishful, fearful, impatient) entailed a bit more head-scratching, and if I’d googled the term, I might have found another list to sift through, some of it quite pertinent to the poem itself{{2}}.


But the mnemonic-grasping mind often relies on Kerouac’s “first thought, best-thought” dictum. WFI reminds me of MFI, only because during the time of year I watch any TV (Christmas) every second advert is for the damned furniture outlet.

“So just turn the M on its head, and you’ve got the mnemonic,” my mind advised.

Which is exactly what I did.

[[1]]And I’m not even sure if the pluses are necessarily always positive and vice-versa, which of course is also what the poem is about.[[1]]

[[2]]I particularly like: Wait For Interrupt, Waiting For Instructions (also Waiting For Igor), Wraparound Fidelity Index, Warfighter Interface, and Worst Case Fairness Index.[[2]]

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