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The Owl and the Pussycat
by Edward Lear
Illustrated by Jan Brett
Growing up, I had an illustrated book of poetry for children, the illustrations of which were pretty lousy, but the poetry of which was pretty great. “The Owl and the Pussycat,” Edward Lear’s nonsense poem, was one of my favorite selections. So I was super-stoked to find the poem in board book form, meticulously illustrated by Jan Brett, when my son was about five months old.
He’s always been opinionated about books (screaming and batting away the ones he deems unacceptable), and I’ll be honest: he was indifferent to “The Owl and the Pussycat” at first. But he clearly didn’t hate it, so I kept at it, and eventually he succumbed to its charms, which are many.
The lush romanticism of it kills me. The Owl is an elegant fowl; he looks up to the stars above and sings to his small guitar (imagine poor Pussy’s discomfort if he creepily stared into her eyes while he sang about her) (though even with his discreet technique, after a year and a day, I’d be ready to abandon ship). The Pussycat is a decisive lady: O! let us be married, too long have we tarried.
New Year's resolutions are something I never really resolved to make. Considering my "New Year" is a different time of year than it is for everyone else, I never really considered December 31st such a big deal. The only thing that always catches my attention, besides the obvious hard to miss fireworks, giant disco balls, etc., is everyone else's resolve to do a 180 for the year ahead. But if every year we all do a 180, we'd all be doing 360's every other year and never really change anything. Looking forward to the big picture is always admirable, but I like to think that it's just as important if not more so to also be able to look back. If we can see where we got lost along the way, it only helps our resolve to change directions in our lives with purpose. Which, personally, I think beats going in circles.
Today, we're featuring the writing of our guest blogger, Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her stories.
Ice Cream Dreams
This bite is about dreams
Reba Trimbolli knew from a young age that she was an ice cream girl. She lived in Tucson all her life and the many years she had suffered under the scorching heat has given her true appreciation for the cold treat. In fact, to this day, she remembers the moment she fell in love. The pavement was hot and the sunset maintained a look that was both beautiful and passive aggressive, threatening the smoldering descent of sun and expansiveness of sky. She had gotten a cone from a little shack, and the operator turned to her, said not a word, turned back and returned with what appeared to be some kind of chocolate. He explained it was a homemade creation of chocolate, three types of nuts, and the slightest hint of cherry. As she bit into the cold, she was overcome with the joy of chocolate. And that was it. Love.
Today, we're featuring the writing of our guest blogger, Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her stories. Keep an eye out for more writing from Eleanor in the next month.
The bamboo wood, supporting the wall of glass, didn’t feel trusted. Bamboo wasn’t enough for Walls and there was Steel, outlining its every crevice. Bamboo wasn’t sure whether to be relieved of the weight or disheartened that it could not bear the weight of lives. Bamboo speculated people are like that too.
Today, we're featuring the writing of our guest blogger, Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her stories. Keep an eye out for more writing from Eleanor in the next few months!
A burst of color smattered across her face. And by her, I mean my. I don’t mean to be so loud, but sometimes, my interest speaks louder than volumes, and what I feel is not quite equitable to words. So one day, they ask you, “What is Eleanor?” To which you reply, “Eleanor is a burst of color across my eyelids, and she’s never quite predictable, but sometimes she jumps just to get the point across. To say Eleanor, one is to say dancing of hands and the light of her eyes, brimming with all the things she cannot wait to say.” But this is just the capacity to which you know me.
This week, we're introducing our second guest blogger of the Fall: Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her poems. Keep an eye out for more writing from Eleanor in the next few months!
The Weeping Angels surrounded the Doctor and his companion, all angles in a building made of glass. How he landed in this god-forsaken place, he did not know...but couches...couches! Suddenly, he possessed thoughts no longer, only thoughts, ideas, tangents. Couches, couches, leather from dead animals dyed red and black. Couches...couches...the angels advanced. Show time.
When I was young and falling in love with poetry, most of the poems I read were written by dead poets, but even if they lived long ago and far away, I wondered about their lives. Where did they live? What were their childhoods like? Did they have other jobs? Why did they write poetry? And so began my research. Discovering more about the lives of the poets increased my interest in and love of poetry.
Although poets don’t trend high in the celebrities we follow these days, we can find biographical notes in collections of their poetry and the occasional full-book biography. I’m encouraged that more books about poets are being published for childrens and teens, who can read about poets in picture book, middle grade, or YA biographies, and can find fictional works, too, in which the poets appear. Here are a few selected titles that provide insights into the lives and personalities of poets whose works deserve to be read and pondered. (All of the poets are dead except one.) Included, too, are collections of the poet’s work in editions targeting children or teens.
Marge Pellegrino recommends...
Poetry books for children make wonderful springboards to writing. Anyone who's been to a Family Days' event at the Poetry Center has witnessed the excitement that can ensue when the just-right poem inspires original words.
Since I've only got room for ten, I'll include books I've used more than a few times because they work with students and intergenerational groups in school, library and community settings:
For eight to twelve year olds:
Jeannie Wood is a junior at the University of Arizona studying poetry, astronomy, and Latin. She’s from Northern Arizona and spends her time writing for the Daily Wildcat, playing rough with UA’s Derby Cats, and biking. She enjoys disappearing into different areas of the state, and parts of California, on weekends.
It’s October, which is the greatest month of the year because it brings Halloween. I don’t know about you, but Halloween is my favorite holiday -- we get to dress up wildly (or not) and gorge on sweet delicious things (or not) and spend a whole night having fun and enacting another world for a while (or not...but why not?) Not to mention, Tucson starts cooling down a little bit, giving us all a little break. In honor of this ghoulish month, we’re going to look at elegies, poems for the dead.
According to the Academy of American Poets, the elegy started as a poetic response to death in a metrical form. These days, an elegy isn’t always in metrical form, in fact, the two we’ll listen to aren’t, but all elegies traditionally mirror the three stages of loss 1.) expression of grief and sorrow 2.) idealization of the dead by admiration, and 3.) consolation.
David Wojahn’s White Lanterns is a seven-part elegy about the speaker’s accountant mother. Listen here, and read along here. What’s neat about this poem, is that it plays with time throughout the whole piece. Wojahn takes us back and forth from the 1960’s to the late 1980’s, showing the mother in her younger years from a child’s perspective, and then to her aging and ultimate death. Wojahn also weaves us through the three stages previously mentioned, but they aren’t in any overt order-- something the temporal changes aid. The speaker is obsessed with his mother’s lipstick, a characteristic that represents her younger vitality and precision, the latter being an important and constant attribute the speaker is sure to bring to our attention.
Zaza Karaim is thirteen years old and will be entering eighth grade at St. Michael's Parish Day School this coming fall. She loves writing poetry and playing guitar. Zaza volunteered this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. Below are a selection of her poems that she has graciously shared with Wordplay.
The White Cat Under a Shredded Black Cloak
The stars are holes in the dark night
The small points where day seeps through
A white cat under a shredded black cloak
The moon was the sun’s dearest friend
Peacefully willing to sleep through the day
But they fought one day and it was never the same
Earth longs to sparkle like the sun
So we light our torches
The sun laughs as our candles flicker and die
The earth and the sun and the moon
The twirling paparazzi and the smiling star
So different from the lonely white spot in the night
Yet still, at dawn, they all hold hands