Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Pop-Up Defined

Here's the haiku I sent to !an in Australia, who posted it yesterday over at Hot Cross Haiku.

A pop-up defined

Between book pages,
in flat anticipation,
fixed origami.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The poem heard (or at least seen) around the world. Literally.

The talented !an of Hot Cross Haiku has posted one of my poems, a haiku defining a pop-up book.

He has also made me hungry for chocolate cake.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich

Because the word "Frankenstein" is in the title, a lot of folks seem to have the impression that this wonderful bit of writing and illustrating by Adam Rex is somehow a Halloween book. I understand that, given the cover, but that's simply not correct. If you click on the link I made from Adam's name, you can check out some of the art (and pages) inside the book in nice, big fashion.

Oh yeah, the cover:

Now, I could see how you might think it looks all Halloween-y because it has a monster on the cover, but this book is all about monsters, and not at all about Halloween, with the possible exception of the poem "Count Dracula Doesnt Know He's Been Walking Around All Night with Spinach in His Teeth," (apostrophe missing from "doesn't" in the original) which may (or may not) be following some sort of Monster Mash party.

This book is an all-around winner, and not just the winner of the prize for incredibly long subtitles. Full title? Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich: And Other Stories You're Sure To Like Because They're All About Monsters, And Some Of Them Are Also About Food. You Like Food, Don't You? Well, All Right Then.

Even the page containing the front matter is clever in this one -- subtitled "The Invisible Man Makes A Snow Angel," all the copyright and publishing info are scooted about to leave white space where the invisible man is at work. The giving of thanks to "John James Audobon, Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak, Edward Gorey, Charles M. Schulz, and the casts and crews of rather a lot of motion pictures from the last eighty-odd years" explains Rex's roots more clearly than my having a go at them.

I really enjoyed the several poems that can be sung, including all of the Phantom of the Opera poems. These include "The Phantom of the Opera Can't Get 'It's a Small World' Out of His Head," "If The Phantom of the Opera Can't Get 'Pop Goes the Weasel' Out of His Head HE'S GOING TO FREAK OUT," "Now The Phantom of the Opera Can't Get 'The Girl from Ipanema' Out of His Head"("Every song comes out a samba, although he wants to write an aria, so his top blows and he tears his clothes and goes, 'AAAHRG!'") and "The Phantom of the Opera is Considering Giving Up Music and Doing His Haunting Somewhere Else", which is set to the tune of "B-I-N-G-O". Another immediately singable title is "The Mummy Won't Go to His Eternal Rest Without a Story and Some Cookies", which goes to a playground/jumprope tune involving the girls in France and their underpants.

The mixture of forms in this book is well-handled and entertaining. Whether it's the limericks from Mitchell and von Fuzz found inside the illustrations of some of the Phantom poems, on a café menu, and elsewhere, rhymed couplets, abab quatrains, or the song forms, the poetic forms were all handled well and with excellent humor. A particular favorite is "The Dentist", which has the benefit of being very funny while putting kids at ease about dentists.

The illustrations are in many cases integral to the poems, as in "The Middlewich Witch-Watchers Club", where illustrated "information cards" make up part of the poem. Sadly, it's the one poem where his metre goes wonky -- in the very last line, where one must really manipulate "cack cack-a doodle-a DOOOOO!" in order for it to fit the scheme in the last stanza by taking a pause after the initial cack. I believe some syllables are missing, in fact. Still, it got such a giggle from both of my kids (ages 12 and nearly 14) that I'm not overly bothered by it.

I particularly enjoyed the variet of illustration styles in this book, which are cleverly described in the aforementioned front matter: "The illustrations in this book were created with oils and . . . oh gosh, lots of stuff." The variety of styles and palettes really kept this one alive, and I was easily able to remember several of the poems after a few days, and wanted to go back and have another look at a few of them.

Those of you in the writing game know that "funny" is not easy to do, and it's not easy to do well. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich is funny throughout, including "Zombie? Zombie!", which is probably the weakest poem in the book from a poetic standpoint. Yet it is funny, and is funny in a very different way from some of the more erudite pieces. Adam Rex is my hero for taking extremely diverse literary subjects like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Yeti/Bigfoot, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Dentist, the Phantom of the Opera and more and making them interrelate. It's no small feat, and is actually a highly literary endeavor, even if the end result is a collection of humorous verse. It is based in some extremely intellectual and metaphysical literature, and it takes that literary angle and shoots it through a comedic prism, the result being a collection of poems that hang together nicely and are accessible on at least some level to even the youngest audience.

Bravo to you, Mr. Rex!
I can't wait to see what you'll do next.
Your poems are great,
Your pictures first-rate,
If you don't write more books I'll be vexed.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Martian Poetry: A Poetry Friday Post

Let me begin by noting that I come in peace.

For purposes of understanding what Martian poetry is, assume that a visitor from another planet -- say, Mars -- arrived here and described what it saw. Suspend your disbelief enough to assume that the visitor would use a language you understand -- say, English -- but wouldn't always know or understand what things are and/or how they work or are perceived. And then assume that the visitor wrote it all down on a postcard to send home. What you'd end up with, if you were Craig Raine, is a poem called "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home", 34 lines of riddle poems using clever, descriptive (some would say wild or improbable) similes and metaphors. Full text can be found on the internet, including at Rice University.

Here are the first six lines:

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings -

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

"Caxtons" is, of course, a sly reference to English history disguised as a Martian word. Place your bets now.

The answer? A caxton is a book. Yeah, I could've wasted time asking you to guess what it is, but I want to focus on the descriptions that the space-visitor used. Google "caxton" and you're likely to learn about William Caxton, who lived in the 1400s and was reportedly the first to print books in England.

While this is only 3/17 of the poem, I don't think the similes and metaphors used are all that wild or improbable.

Let's talk about some of the similes and metaphors used in these six lines:

"Mechanical birds with many wings": Oh how I love the language here. Books are man-made, not organic, and when opened, they do resemble a bird in flight. In fact, if you're at all like me, you've seen lots of images of flying books over the years, indicative of the imagination taking wing and knowledge setting the mind free, whether in children's books, in posters, or in the movies.

Books are not usually thought of as "mechanical", but take a look at the definitions from my Webster's II New College Dictionary:

1. Of or relating to machines or tools.
2. Operated or produced by a machine.
3. Of, relating to, or governed by mechanics (mechanic: a worker skilled in using, making, or repairing machines and tools).
4. Performing or acting like a machine.
5. Relating to, produced by, or dominated by physical forces.
6. Interpreting and explaining the phenomena of the universe by referring to causally determined material forces
7. Of or relating to manual labor, its tools, and its skills.

I'm betting that, like me, you could argue that any or all of those definitions perfectly describe a book. My personal favorite definition is number 6, as applied to a book, "interpreting and explaining the phenomena of the universe."

"they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain."

What a description of the impact that writing can have. Eyes melting is probably a description of crying, shrieking without pain could be as simple as describing laughter. But both of them can be read on other levels. Maybe the melting eyes is an attempt to describe being riveted by the text. Perhaps saying that a body shrieking without pain is a reference to the physical tension (bordering on distress) that a good thriller or particularly gripping passage can cause.

Here's another portion of the poem, from very near the end:

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

Betcha never thought about bathroom matters quite that way before, did you? And yet my guess is you figured out what our Martian friend was talking about without my help. And if you think it through in all its impolite detail, it seems apt that an observer unfamiliar with the bodily functions of humans might equate defecation with pain (and hey, at least sometimes the visitor would be correct -- we've all been there, even if it's not something we usually discuss openly).

Craig Raine wrote "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home" in 1979, and this poem, the title poem of a collection of poems using a similar descriptive technique, gave rise to Martian poetry, an English school of surrealism with roots in Anglo-Saxon riddles, metaphysical poetry, and the nonsense poems of (who else?) Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. The term "Martian poetry" was applied by James Fenton to the work of Christopher Reid as well, with Raine and Reid sharing a British poetry award.

In this form riddlesare "married . . . to the wit of 'outrageous simile', as a way of 'viewing the commonplace with wonder and innocence'." (The quote is from the Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry, ed. by Ian Hamilton.) Unlike some earlier "movements" in poetry, there was no central school of thought about this form of poetry. Rather, the label was applied to a variety of poets who, at or around the same time in the late '70s and early '80s, wrote using (almost floridly) descriptive visual imagery as a means of "finding wonder in the ordinary."

Martian poetry is very popular amongst school children, particularly in the U.K. where the form was founded. And certainly applying some of the devices in the poems can lead to fresh imagery and the use of rich language so many poets aspire to.

Enjoy your day, whether driving your Model Ts (cars), looking at caxtons, or hanging out in the punishment room.

As for me, I'm off to look into Craig Raine's poems a bit more. He had a collection called The Onion, Memory that was divided into six sections, including one section called "Significance of Nothing" (I'm guessing it refers to Shakespeare's line from The Tempest: "'Tis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"), which includes a poem called "An Enquiry Into Two Inches of Ivory" (a reference to a comment made by Jane Austen about her writing). With literary references like those, it's worth having a look at the poems, I think.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I am, like, all over the internet today.

No, seriously. As if a poem calling me a goddess weren't enough, check out where else you can find me these days:

At the Carnival
Just in time for Carnivale (or Mardi Gras), check out this month's Carnival of Children's Literature over at Mother Reader, where I have a post about the nature of poetry.

At the Awards
I had the privilege of interviewing Joyce Sidman, whose book, Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, won the first-ever CYBIL award for poetry. You can read my interview with Joyce over at the CYBILS site.

At Brotherhood 2.0
In a pure vanity sort of moment, I should note that I was thrilled to hear John Green ask and answer my "if you could ask any question not on the survey" question and answer it -- and he totally says "Kelly Fineman asks". Does that put me within one degree of John Green, or do I actually have to meet him in order for that to be so?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lookie What I Just Got

That's right, it's a collection of the best poems in the English language. How do I know they're the best? Well, because the title says so -- the title is The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost, and it's edited by Harold Bloom. And they couldn't say it if it weren't true, right?

I'm excited about the collection because as you may have deduced, I love poetry. Also, it includes a poem by William Cowper, a favorite poet of Jane Austen's, and I was looking for some of his stuff to read, and lo and behold, this swanky anthology caught my eye and there it was -- the very poem read aloud by Hugh Grant (badly) and Kate Winslet (dramatically) in the screen version of Sense and Sensibility. The added bonus to this particular anthology is that, given it's heft, it can double as a workout device.

I also added the following books to my reading pile:

Because a blog tour such as the one recently embarked on by Lisa Graff is such an excellent marketing strategy that I had to buy the book. Check out her stops at Fuse #8, Big A little a and Mother Reader, for starters.

Because Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a long-time blog friend and a kick-ass author, and I can't wait to read this one (and to hand it off to S, who love-love-loved GOLDEN). My only disappointment? No tattoo stickers. I am sadder than you know about that. First I didn't get the toenail decals for Cecil Castellucci's Queen of Cool, and now no tattoos with TATTOO. Sigh.

Because I was so happy with The Professor and the Madman (about the creation of the OED) that this seemed like a logical follow-up.

Because the book trailer that I saw about it last month made me want to read the book. And when I picked it up to have a look-see at the start of the book, I liked what I saw enough to put out the cash for it. And I'm pretty sure M will love it.

Because it's that good. And yes, faithful readers, I already own it, but I bought this copy to send to my cousin's family, because my cousin-in-law Rick is an engineer who specializes in historical restorations and whatnot, and is currently helping to restore and preserve one of the Rosenwald schools in South Carolina, and I figure this book will help him explain its significance to his children better than all the talking about roofing in the world.

There are two more books on my "to-buy" list at present, but really, I couldn't carry them. One is The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, which is something like a million pages long and weighs about 50 pounds. Okay, those are both exaggerations, but because it's a cross between a novel and a graphic novel and it's in hard cover, it's frakkin' huge. (Use of the word "frakkin'" inspired by my continued fascination with the Green brother's vblog, which you can see on You Tube, at Brotherhood 2.0, and on John Green's blog.) The other book I've got my eye on is Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, a guy with many piercings (based on his author photo). It comes recommended for fans of Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker, and although it's in the middle grade collection at the local Barnes & Noble, the Library Journal recommends it for adult sci-fi collections as well.

So, what books have you bought recently, and which are on your must-buy list?

Friday, February 16, 2007

An Agony in Eight Fits -- a Poetry Friday post

As I indicate last week, I've been reading The Annotated Hunting of the Snark: The Definitive Edition by Lewis Carroll,, edited with notes by Martin Gardner.

The beauty of a poem this old is that it's no longer under copyright, so if you'd care to have gander at the text, you can easily find it on the Web. The University of Virginia has a nice version online, and so does The University of Adelaide, although neither appears to include the dedicatory poems to Gertrude Chataway, one of Carroll's (many) female "child-friends."

The first is brief, and reads as follows:

Inscribed to a dear Child:
in memory of golden summer hours
and whispers of a summer sea.

The second is an acrostic poem based on Gertrude Chataway's name. Carroll was a wiz at these, by the way, and wrote many of them for young girls who received copies of his books. Gertrude Chataway was, like Alice Liddell, a particular favorite of Carroll's. She is somewhat singular amongst Carroll's child-friends in that she and Carroll remained close friends even after she hit puberty, whereas Carroll usually lost interest once girls began to become women. Skeevy much? Perhaps. But I digress.

The poem is an excellent bit of nonsense that nonetheless leaves the reader satisfied that they've heard a story through to its conclusion, and perhaps learned a little something along the way. The annotations by Martin Gardner are interesting to read; they offer interpretations and possible shades of meaning to the various characters in the story and to their actions. Gardner relates the poem to other Carroll works (such as the Jabberwocky, with which it shares a bit of its lexicon), and to the work of other writers, as well as to current events at or near the time the poem was written.

One thing Gardner fails to mention is Carroll's -- or rather, his alter ego, Rev. Dodgson's -- membership in the London Philological Society and his participation in the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary, which was so well-documented in The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. Carroll's participation in the collection and definition of words used in the English language make it easier to understand why he chose some of his words, and also make looking into the particular words that much more important.

Agony in Eight Fits
For instance, Carroll subtitles his story "An Agony in Eight Fits". "Agony" is probably meant to replace the more typical "Comedy" or "Tragedy" denominations so popular at the time. It also hints at the precise nature of the story, as one of the definitions of "agony" is "the struggle that precedes death." And the "Eight Fits" at first appears to be a simple replacement for "three acts" or something similar, but it's much more than that. "Fit" here primarily refers to "a section of a poem or ballad", a use of the word that was archaic even in Carroll's time, but he'd have known more archaic words than the average bear on account of being in the Philological Society and working on the OED. It also probably modifies "agony", as a fit can be "a sudden accute attack of a disease," "a convulsion," or "a sudden period of vigorous activity." It can therefore be meant to indicate, for want of a better term, "death throes."

In Fit the Third, the Baker's Tale, the Baker relates how his uncle said
'But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away
And never be met with again.'

"Beamish" is sometimes considered a nonsense word (also appearing in Jabberwocky), but it is, in fact, an archaic variant on the word beaming found (where else?) in the Oxford English Dictionary as far back as 1520.

Throughout The Hunting of the Snark, the following stanza is repeated many times. Six, in fact, or two times the three needed to make it true. (Remember what the Bellman said, "What I tell you three times is true.")

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

Martin Gardner, in his notes, posits that the devices used against the Snark are all related to the five primary marks of the Snark enumerated in Fit the Second, the Bellman's Speech. The forks are for eating the Snark (it's first characteristic being taste), the railway shares to appeal to the Snark's ambition, smiles relate to puns, soap is for use in the bathing machines the Snark is so fond of carrying about, and the thimble is used to thump the Snark awake.

Gardner allows that other readings are possible, and so, here is mine:

I believe that the Snark is whatever you say it is. It is, in fact, what you want most, whatever that may be. It may be wealth, fame, glory, success, or something else entirely. Each line discusses the different ways people have of getting what it is they want, and as a metaphor, it works exceedingly well.

"They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care": a thimble is used in sewing to prevent one's finger getting pricked, and to allow for greater speed in sewing. A thimble is, itself, an item showing care. This line, read as a whole, shows that the Snark-seekers try to protect themselves while seeking the Snark, therefore showing care toward their own safety, but they also are probably proceeding with care, as one might do with a powerful personage. (Perhaps this is where Teddy Roosevelt, already established as a fan of The Hunting of the Snark, arrived at his conclusion that one should "speak softly, but carry a big stick"?)

"They pursued it with forks and hope": This is rather a more desperate way of going after something you seek, more the way that villagers might chase after Frankenstein or big game hunters might go all out on safari. Or perhaps it's indicative of how people are willing to try hard to climb their particular ladder, egged on by their hope in fulfilling their own dreams. Maybe it's neither, or maybe it's both. Either way, it shows dedication in pursuing and attaining one's goal.

"They threatened its life with a railway share": A railway share is, in fact, stock in the railroad. Perhaps they are threatening to deplete the Snark's habitat by building a railway through it, or perhaps they are, in fact, trying the bribe the Snark. These are both related to other tactics folks might employ in trying to achieve their ultimate goal, no?

"They charmed it with smiles and soap.": Who, in trying to get ahead, will not occasionally try to charm their way their, whether through good looks, good hygiene, or outright flattery?

This stanza is, as I said before, repeated a number of times. Gardner (and many others) believe that there may be a hidden message in the poem, and that this stanza is the most likely to hold it. I believe it's repeated to remind the reader that the pursuit of the Snark (and whatever it stands for) is ongoing, and involves a number of mixed methods.

Then in Fit the Eighth, The Vanishing, we learn what happens to the Baker, who manages to find what he believes is a Snark, only to find out that it wasn't what it seemed to be:

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away --
For the Snark
was a Boojum, you see.

Perhaps what it all means is that in all that chasing and smiling and use of devices, people lose themselves in pursuit of their goals. Sounds like a plausible message, particularly for a member of the clergy in Victorian England, right? I think so. But I could be wrong.

I still have to read the after-matter in The Annotated Hunting of the Snark: The Definitive Edition, which includes other commentaries on the poem. I look forward to reading them and seeing whether they agree with my theory, or whether they have other, equally interesting theories to posit.

In the meantime, I will ponder whether "Miss Snark" means her name to imply her general snarkiness, or whether she is, in fact, holding herself out as something to be sought after. With forks.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What I tell you three times is true!

As regular Poetry Friday readers know, I'm reading The Annotated Hunting of the Snark: The Definitive Edition by Lewis Carroll, edited by Martin Gardner.

Yesterday, I spent time reading the Preface (by Lewis Carroll -- totally worth reading, and it's a hoot!) and "Fit the First -- The Landing".

In the First Fit*, readers are introduced to the members of the crew on this Snark-hunting mission. One quickly learns that the Bellman is the captain of the ship. Here's the second stanza of the second fit:

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."**

*In the annotations, I learned the origin of the word "fit" (undoubtedly meant to be a double entendre here -- fit meaning "spasm" or "period of vigorous activity" and also "a section of a poem or ballad").

**I also learned that President Theodore Roosevelt and Edith Wharton were huge fans of the Snark. On one visit to the White House, Wharton learned of the following exchange that occurred between the President and the Secretary of the Navy (undoubtedly unaware of Carroll's poem, or at least unaware that Roosevelt was quoting):

During discussion, Roosevelt said to the secretary of the Navy, "Mr. Secretary, what I tell you three times is true!"

The Secretary replied stiffly, "Mr. President, it would never for a moment have occurred to me to impugn your veracity."

Funny stuff. More to come as I make my way through the book.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Here are your CYBILS' awards poetry results.


But you will be able to find out soon enough which of these excellent books of children's poetry is the winner of the first-ever CYBILS' poetry award:

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow: Poems by Joyce Sidman, illus. by Beth Krommes

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich: And Other Stories You're Sure to Like Because They're All About Monsters, and Some of Them Are Also About Food: You Like Food, Don't You? Well, All Right Then by Adam Rex

Handsprings: Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian

Jazz by Walter Dean Myers, illus. by Christopher Myers

Tour America by Diane Siebert, illus. by Stephen T. Johnson

Oh sure, I could tell you who's going to win, but then I'd have to kill you. I could also tell you who I voted for to win, but, well, again with the death thing. You'll just have to wait a few more days. No, don't hold your breath, but working yourself into a tizzy resulting in a low hover is acceptable.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Snark was a Boojum, you see -- a Poetry Friday post

Until I began doing my Poetry Friday posts last May over at my LJ blog, I didn't realize what a Lewis Carroll fan I seem to be. If you were to ask me my favorite poets, then or now, I probably wouldn't list Carroll. And yet. Here it is, another Carrollian post.

This one is because I only yesterday purchased The Annotated Hunting of the Snark: The Definitive Edition by Lewis Carroll, edited with notes by Martin Gardner. Isn't it pretty?

Or maybe you can't tell from the thumbnail. But take my word for it, it is pretty. It contains scholarly forewords by Martin Gardner from two previous editions, copies of the original illustrations by Henry Holiday, and the entire text of The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits by Lewis Carroll, complete with dedicatory poem and the Easter Greeting that accompanied it when it was first published on April Fool's Day, 1876.

As I've not yet read the actual poem in its entirety yet, but merely the prefatory matter and some snippets, I will comment a bit on what I know so far, and invite any of you who are so inclined to read the book along with me, since I plan on returning to it next week to discuss the poem.

First, a word about Carroll's process in writing this particular nonsense poem, which features phenomenal lines like this:

They roused him with muffins -- they roused him with ice --
They roused him with mustard and cress --
They roused him with jam and judicious advice --
They set him conundrums to guess.

From "The Baker's Tale", which was "Fit the Third".

Carroll wrote this poem (roughly) backwards. He was visiting his sister in Guildford, a sad visit because the family was sitting vigil, waiting for the death of Carroll's nephew, who suffered from tuberculosis. On July 18, 1874, Carroll began this poem. Here's what he said of how it came about:

I was walking on a hillside, alone, one bright summer day, when suddenly there came into my head one line of verse -- one solitary line -- "For the Snark was a Boojum, you see." I knew not what it meant, then: I know not what it means, now; but I wrote it down: and, some time afterwards, the rest of the stanza occurred to me, that being its last line: and so by degrees, at odd moments during the next year or two, the rest of the poem pieced itself together, that being its last stanza.

From "Alice on Stage," The Theatre, April 1887.

I must say, who can blame Mr. Dodgson (aka Carroll) for pursuing his rhyme, with an excellent line such as "For the Snark was a Boojum, you see" to start with (or, in his case, to end with)? I would have to chase that line down had it come to me.

And how reassuring to know that Carroll's ideas for poems came to him in dribbles, the way that some of mine do, and that sometimes just one little line can be enough to start a lengthy work.

And now a brief overview of what I (and perhaps you) will find if you read The Hunting of the Snark: A series of eight "fits", which are set in the voice of various crewmates on a ship that has set out to find a Snark, led by The Bellman, and including such shipmates as The Beaver, The Barrister, The Banker and The Baker. The Baker warns his nephew that one must be careful, lest their Snark turn out to be a Boojum:

"But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
And never be met with again!"

During his lifetime, Carroll insisted that he had no idea what the poem truly meant, but that he liked the theories that had sprung up that it was a metaphor for the pursuit of happiness. Since then, additional theories abound, including one that it was about tuberculosis (TB), since all the named characters have names with initials "TB". Some believe that the Snark is material gain, and that greed swallows one whole. Some believe that it is, in fact, an existentialist poem, and that one finds out in the end that one does not, in fact, exist.

I am looking forward to some time with my lovely new book this week, and I will be back to "tingle my bell" about it next Friday. I hope you'll join me!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Elegy for my Grandmother -- a Poetry Friday post

Initially, I thought to post a poem by an African-American poet, this being Black History Month. Then I reconsidered and thought about putting up a poem for ground-hog's day, this being February 2nd and all. Here's a link to the (poorly written) rhyming proclamation read this morning in Punxsatawney, declaring spring is around the corner. But then something happened to change my mind.

This morning at around 6:30, my grandmother died. She was over 90 years old, and in relatively ill health but in good spirits until, earlier this week, she suffered a massive stroke. Her name was Dorothy, but everyone called her Mommie Dot -- 2 or her 3 kids (my Dad was the holdout and called her "Mom"), her eight grandchildren and (in many cases) their spouses, her 10 great-grand children (with more on the way), and even friends of the family. She is much-loved and will be missed.

From La Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri

A portion of
XXXI: His canzone mourning Beatrice

The grieving eyes for pity of the heart
have so suffered the pain of tears,
that having conquered none remain.
Now, if I wish to ease their sadness,
that leads me step by step to death,
I must speak to find my help.
And so remembering how I spoke
of my lady, while she was alive,
sweet ladies, freely with you,
I do not wish to speak with others,
unless they have the gentle hearts of women:
and I will speak of her, weeping,
since she has gone suddenly to Heaven,
and has left Love grieving with me.

Beatrice has gone to the highest Heaven,
to the realm where the angels have peace,
and stays with them, and has left you ladies:
no quality of coldness took her,
or of heat, as it is with others,
but it was only her great gentleness:
since light from her humility
pierced the skies with so much virtue,
that it made the Eternal Lord marvel,
so that a sweet desire
moved him to claim such greeting:
and called her from the heights to come to him,
since he saw our harmful life
was not worthy of such a gentle one.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oh frabjous joy!

Mark the date and preorder your copies now, folks. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrives in stores on July 21, 2007.