Thursday, September 3, 2009
Four Syllables, That's All It Takes.
I admire brevity in poems, probably because I tend to be long-winded and need editing. I did once write a 14-line sonnet where each line had only three syllables, and it rhymed - that's as close as I've come to diamond-level compression. But some people KNOW what a short poem is. For Poetry Friday, I want to post a poem I just read in J. Patrick Lewis's new book, SPOT THE PLOT: A RIDDLE BOOK OF BOOK RIDDLES (illustrated by the very talented Lynn Munsinger, please see note at the end.) I was going to wait until the book actually appeared in bookstores (release date is October) but no, I can't wait. Here's the concept: Each poem in the book describes a character from a familiar children's book, fairy tale or nursery rhyme. And here is the poem Pat wrote, all four syllables of it (and it rhymes!):
No, I'm not going to tell you the answer - it's a riddle, so you have to figure it out. But I am saying this: I wish I'd written it.
Maybe you've noticed I go on and on about J. Patrick Lewis. That's because he knows what he's doing, he's a pro, he honors both the silliness and the sobriety of words, he knows what tickles a kid's funny bone, he's got the courage to be political (you can see some of his political ruminations over at Elaine Magliaro's blog, Political Verses. ) I love Pat's work. When I was little, my dad played around a lot with language, loved to make puns (loved to listen to us groan about them.) One day my dad told me he had memorized a poem, asked me if I wanted to hear it, and I was pretty amazed - he sounded so serious -I was prepared for something elegant. This is what he recited:
Four syllables (and it rhymes!) and it makes sense. I loved it. So when I read Pat's poem, I thought of my dad, and I thought of my sonnet, and I laughed. Hooray for fun, and hooray for brevity.
Just look at the girls laughing in the photo below. And look at Pat's pleasure in their laughter - that's a joy to see.
Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Kelly Herold at Crossover.
Be sure to check out what all PoeFri's are up to.
And note re: Lynn Munsinger - I would like a pair of flannel pj's with the same designs she uses for the endpapers of SPOT THE PLOT - birds, cows, pigs, bunnies, cats, bears, dogs, magic wands, clocks, balloons, straw hats....
at 8:51 PM