Prayer for Joy

What was it we wanted
to say anyhow, like today
when there were all the letters
in my alphabet soup and suddenly
the ‘j’ rises to the surface.
The ‘j’, a letter that might be
great for Scrabble, but not really
used for much else, unless
we need to jump for joy,
and then all of a sudden
it’s there and ready to
help us soar and to open up
our hearts at the same time,
this simple line with a curved bottom,
an upside down cane that helps
us walk in a new way into this
forest of language, where all the letters
are beginning to speak,
finding each other in just
the right combination
to be understood.

by Stuart Kestenbaum      from Only Now 

appeared on American Life in Poetry and Poetry Foundation

available here: Deerbrook Editions


As letter forms go, “J” is an odd one not found in the original Roman alphabet of Roman caps but may have been a swash version of the “I”. Swash being a flourish, more often seen in the Cancellaresca hand or Italic letterforms. Note the third line “Imperatori” using a swash ‘I’ and see if you can find any more.800px-Cancellaresca_von_Vespasiano_Amphiareo,_1554

There is more regarding the sound of “J” formerly being as “Y” in some other languages. The J is still four or five hundred years old probably first appearing in manuscripts and early printed books after the invention of printing from moveable types attributed to Gutenberg.