The last line of Tom Raworth's first poem below presents a series of disconnected words that at first glance appear possibly made-up: "camouflet zline unshun fursonae". On my own first reading of the poem, I interpreted the line as the breakdown of language, the result of the flash memory of the previous line having become corrupted through the waterboarding in the previous stanza. To my surprise, however, these words did turn out to have meaning: "camouflet" is "the resulting cavity in a deep underground burst when there is no rupture of the surface"; "zline" becomes "z-line," referring to the borders between the basic units (sarcomeres) of a muscle, the junction that joins the sarcophagus to the stomach, or the blocking of a specific user's IP address; "unshun" combines the negative prefix "un-" with "shun" to create an understandable neologism; and "furusonae" is also a neologism combining "furry" and "personae," referring to "an animal character used to represent oneself online or in furry role-playing."
How surprising is it that these odd words and neologisms turn out to actually mean something in the poem? Raworth's poems dare us to find them as fragments of language, but end up creating striking, and at times horrifying, statements on waterboarding, the treatment of farm animals, and the realities that go along with exerting global dominance. Raworth's accumulation of language asks us to simultaneously rethink our own relationship with the word as well as our ethical relationship (and responsibility) with the world. These two themes have been intertwined in Raworth's body of work and continue to be addressed, showing us new ways to be amazed and at times sickened by our new reality: "stuck in a ditch / by headwinds / twisting from bumps in the road".