Friday, August 29, 2008

Poetry Friday - Opposites, Art and Hot Dogs

I love this photo of Richard Wilbur, taken in the 1940's. Almost 70 years later, he is still writing wonderful poetry. Here is one I love:

Museum Piece
The good gray guardians of art
Patrol the halls on spongy shoes,
Impartially protective, though
Perhaps suspicious of Toulouse.

Here dozes one against the wall,
Disposed upon a funeral chair.
A Degas dancer pirouettes
Upon the parting of his hair.

See how she spins! The grace is there,
But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas loved the two together:
Beauty joined to energy.

Edgar Degas purchased once
A fine El Greco, which he kept
Against the wall beside his bed
To hang his pants on while he slept.

He has written for children, too - most notable are his Opposites and More Opposites. Below is a sample:

The opposite of foot is what?
A mountain top's one answer, but
If you are thinking of a bed,
The opposite of foot is head.
To ancient generals, of course,
The opposite of foot was horse.

It's great fun to work with kids, playing around with words this way. Today, in honor of Poetry Friday, I'm offering up my own poem, a tribute to Mr. Wilbur:

The Opposite of Hot Dog

-after Richard Wilbur

A hot dog’s opposite is prone
to play the alto saxophone
in night clubs— he’s a real cool cat.

It’s also, oddly, quite true that
the opposite of hot dog is,
on summer days, a sloe gin fizz,
which goes down smooth and unembellished,
not gobbled up on a bun with relish.

And if the fate of old hotdoggers
is telling tales and quaffing lagers,
could be their opposites are the nerds
who drink alone and play with words.

I think that does it for the frank,
whose furter stands alone. I thank
all vegetarians, at whose behest,
the opposite of wurst is best.

Poetry Friday this week is over at Charlotte's Library - thanks, Charlotte!


  1. Funny! And now I feel a bit regretful that the last time I drank a sloe gin fizz was way back in college...oh well, there's always next summer.

  2. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing Wilbur's poems...both of which I really liked. And topping it off with your hotdog ode--perfect.

    btw, I just reread Imaginary Menagerie last night. Love that book.

  3. I am unfamiliar with this poet, but I enjoyed reading your samples of his work here. I enjoyed your clever contribution as well.

  4. I am unfamiliar with this poet, but I enjoyed reading your samples of his work here. I enjoyed your clever contribution as well.

  5. Oops -- sorry about the double comment. I got another window saying to retype the word verification.

  6. I so love Richard Wilbur. My absolute favorite is "The Writer."

  7. Thanks for introducing me to Wilbur. I *love* your take on opposites!

  8. Dear Julie:

    Thanks for sharing both of those poems. Both are great for their wit and wordplay. And your original poem matches Wilbur's for humor and fun. Well done!

    Kelly Fineman, who adored your books, and particularly Imaginary Menagerie, which I blogged about a few months back.