MIT Press Bookstore bookseller Barry Duncan stumbled onto the book “An Almanac of Words at Play” four decades ago and it changed his life. Duncan discovered that words could go backwards. The realization set him on a course he would follow for years. For fun, and then out of habit, he began reversing words he saw in print, noticing words that took on new meaning when flipped, and writing sentences that could be read backward and forward — palindromes.
Duncan’s palindromes have been featured in galleries, selected anthologies, and are the subject of a documentary. He’s written 800-word epics that don’t lose their meaning when flipped. He’s written reversible poems and tributes that were used as auction prizes. And he’s written countless palindromes to serve as gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions. But, mostly, though, Duncan just writes palindromes for fun.
“I hope it gives people an idea of what can be accomplished in two directions,” he says. “Of course, I also hope that people will appreciate them. It’s always better if the person or organization for whom you’ve written a palindrome replies in a positive way. “
“The thing I really want to do is establish palindrome writing as a literary form, to show people you can write palindromes that are beautiful and funny and factual and have real literary merit,” he says.
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