Monday, October 09, 2006

Owning My Name

Today is John Lennon's birthday as the radio keeps reminding me. I wonder if he ever went through the problem of owning his name. My name, Craig Chaffin, is rhythmically equivalent to his--a spondee followed by a trochee. I don't remember ever liking my name. Most of the Craigs I ever knew were dorks. Think of how many famous actors, writers and musicians are named "Craig." What? You can't think of one?

My mother had two criteria for her three sons' names: 1) That they begin with 'C' to match our last name; 2) That they could not be shortened or easily turned into nicknames. My older brother had his name, "Christopher," changed by common parlance into "Chris." And irony of ironies, my younger brother, Clay, had his name turned into "Dobey" by his own family (after the clay used in traditional southwestern construction). "Craig" alone went unmodified. "Craig" alone fulfilled my mother's stated criteria.

Why don't I like my first name?

First, because of the echo of a sulphurous "egg," whether the raw variety tossed on Halloween or the Easter variety that eventually turns rotten. My mother hated to waste anything, so after dyeing Easter eggs she would chase us down for weeks afterward trying to get us to eat our art. When I mention Easter eggs I smell not only the egg but the vinegar in the dye. For these and other reasons I don't like the "egg" sound in my name. It's that visceral and that simple, though I don't mind eating eggs now and then.

Maybe here's a good place to post today's sonnet, which illustrates the difference between poetry and verse, as it is merely verse:

Owning My Name

You, Craig Erick, time to own your name.
You’re running from its homonym, the sound
Of “egg” within the “Craig,” the childhood shame
Of being called “egghead,” when friends would hound
You with “Professor,” “Brainiac” and the like
While you desperately wanted to be cool,
So much you walked to school, leaving your bike
At home since bikes were not. As a rule
You never cared too much what others thought.
But when you ran for president of your school
You made up buttons: “Craig the Egg.” Your plot
Succeeded. For a semester you would rule--
Also as quarterback, lead in the play--
Until depression washed it all away.

My first name also feels or looks round to me, like someone with a lollipop for a head. (I call young anorexics like Lindsey Lohan "Lollipop Girls" because with their skinny bodies, round faces and big hair, they remind me of lollipops.) I think the open 'C' and the closed 'a' and 'g' contribute to this notion visually, not to mention the sustained "ay" of the vowel, encapsulated by the 'C' and 'g' curves. Pictures of me as a young child show a round head accentuated by a butch haircut. The sound of "Craig" thus has two negative connotations for me: the association with 'egg' and the idea of a very round head.

Enough "Craig" for a day.

Thine at one kilobunny,

Craig Erick


  1. Craig Erick,

    I have been reading your stuff for a while without commenting, as I am shy about speaking out of turn. I have always loved your name. Your surname reminds me of a chaffinch, a beautiful songbird. Your Christian name looks like a craggy outcrop.Together, your names conjure an image of a chaffinch singing from the top of a slate or sandstone cliff. That depression is a despicable albatross.


  2. Craig Erick

    Here is another link as I’m not sure you have these birds in your part of the world.


  3. You are too kind. Glad you came out of the woodwork. I liked your reptile link. Now I'll go look at a Chaffinch. (My mother couldn't name a son "Charlie" for obvious reasons.

  4. Craig Erick,

    Make sure you click on the audio in the left margin to listen to the chaffinch. It is a quite haunting and hypnotic experience in real life.


  5. Great poem. Wish I was more of a sonnet writer myself so I could add more constructive comments. But I'm not.

    Funny what you think about 'Craig'. I always thought it a rather nice name, unusual but not unpleasant.

  6. Craig Erick,

    Re: The sonnet -L4 – You give the reader a couple of alternative scansions:

    of BEing CALLED “eggHEAD,” when your FRIENDS would HOUND

    You could delete “your” thereby obliterating the pyrrhic foot. I try to avoid pyrrhic feet and spondees if possible. That’s just a quirk of mine.

    of BEing CALLED “eggHEAD,” when FRIENDS would HOUND


    Of course, you may have written this line without a pyrrhic foot

    of BEing CALLED “eggHEAD,” WHEN your FRIENDS would HOUND

    which gives six beats, a spondee in the middle but it is still pentameter so it is all good. The blog format chops this line up, though, as I have discovered.


  7. You are right, and I will eliminate "your." I can read these with five beats out loud, but I do stretch the form with unstressed beats, which occasionally result in a minor stressed beat that I miss, as in this example. The great thing about the net is that I can log in and correct it now.

    Thanks for being my meter Nazi, and I mean that!

  8. Craig Erick,

    You are very welcome!

    I sent you an email. I hope you don't mind.


  9. Anonymous1:52 PM PDT

    well -- there's Craig Ferguson -- and Craig T. Nelsona -- and Jenny Craig.

    None of my kids have names that are easily made into nicknames -- they hate me for that.



Please share your opinion!

Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!