Friday, March 30, 2007

HEY YOU! A Poetry Friday book review

We interrupt this book review to bring you the following announcement:
Last year, on my blog at Live Journal, I put up daily posts for National Poetry Month. I will again be posting poetry-related material daily during the month of April. Unless I miss a day, but that's not the plan. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming:

Hey, you! Yeah, you! Wanna read a cool new anthology chock-full of poems of address?

I'm guessing you do. But that first, you might want a brief reminder as to what a Poem of Address is. It is a poem written as if addressing a person, place or thing. Think Robert Burns's poem "To a Louse: On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet, At Church". Only in this case, more updated, with less Scots in it, and suitable for kids.

And poetry anthologist extraordinaire Paul B. Janeczko has pulled together quite a collection of poems of address in his latest offering, illustrated by Robert Rayevsky:

HEY, YOU!: Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes and Other Fun Things

Many of the poems are paired by related subject matter. Thus, X.J. Kennedy's "To a Snowflake" is paired on a two-page spread with "Hat Hair" by Joan Bransfield Graham. Emily Dickenson's "Bee, I'm expecting you!" is with "Straight Talk" by Nikki Grimes (which also addresses a bee). Penny Harter's "Buffalo" is with Kristine O'Connell George's "Bison" (one of the only illustrations I have an actual quarrel with -- the Bison looks quite angry based on how its eyes were rendered, yet the poem reads (in part) as follows:

Yet, when I look
into your cloudy eyes
you seem to be trying
to remember something,
something important
you need to tell me.

"Cloudy eyes" to me are soft, not hostile. Yet the bison looks more like a regular bull, ready to charge, than like one of the gentle giants from the central plains. Ah well.)

Two of my favorite poems in the collection are on facing pages of lovely blues and greens, since they are ocean-related poems. The first is Ogden Nash's "The Octopus," the second is Douglas Florian's "The Sea Horse".

So you can compare and contrast:

Tell me, O Octopus, I begs,
Is those arms, or is they legs?


You're not a colt
Nor mare
Nor filly.
You're called a horse.
I call that silly.

Of course the full poems are longer, but you can get an idea of style and content from the excerpts here.

Definitely one to amuse kids, and to get them thinking about poetry in a whole new way. I'm sure many readers will write their own poems to their books, sneakers, stuffed toys, and animals after reading the poems in this anthology. And knowing Paul Janeczko's enthusiasm for getting kids to write, I'm sure that was the point.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Casey Back at Bat

Ever wonder what happened to poor old Casey after he struck out, leaving Mudville joyless?

Apparently, so did Dan Gutman, who has a picture book out with a sequel, called Casey Back at Bat, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher:

It reads like a love-letter to baseball, and knowing Gutman's work and sports mania, I'm sure it's at least partly that. But it's also a major fantasy story, and as such constitutes a dramatic departure from the original poem.

In this version, Mudville makes it to the final game of the series. Three men on. Two men out. And Mighty Casey is coming up to bat. He swings and misses, swings and misses, then miraculously hits the third pitch hard. Very hard. So hard that it flies out of the park, around the world, back through time somehow (knocking the tower at Pisa into a tilt, taking the nose off the Sphinx, causing dinosaurs to go extinct), and out into space where two astronauts see it before streaking, pretty much on fire, back into the park and into the glove of a player from the opposing team.

Is there comedy? Yes.

Drama? A little -- but not at the level of the original which, when read correctly, can literally have you at the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens when Casey takes the final swing.

Excellent rhyme? Not so much. It's a bit herky-jerky here and there, and Gutman, a writer working in the 21st century, doesn't capture the same "feel" as Thayer did in the original.

Still, the story shows true affection for the original poem and for the sport of baseball. And the illustrations make it an engaging and likeable book. I particularly loved the ones inside the baseball stadium, where all the people (and many surfaces) seemed to include old newsprint as part of their appearance, and everything looked like it had been covered in a bit of shoe polish to give it an aged quality. Here -- have a look at Casey and I think you'll see what I'm saying:

And here he is in action:

All in all, I enjoyed the book. The sense of real affection for the original poem and the enthusiasm for (and joy in) the sport of baseball carried it for me, even if I thought the story got a little carried away as the ball traveled around the globe. And the pictures. Well, you can see for yourself.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Mama for Owen

It would appear that picture book authors (and publishing houses) can't get enough of the story of Owen and Mzee, a baby hippo and a very old tortoise who are real-life friends.

First, there was the picture book Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Paula Kahumbu, which featured actual photos of the two animals, along with an excellent description of their story.

Then came the improbably long-titled Mama: A True Story, in which a Baby Hippo Loses his Mama During a Tsunami, but Finds a New Home, and a New Mama, written and illustrated by Jeannette Winter. Inside the book, the only words are "Mama" and "Baby," so I guess she wanted to be sure the actual plot was written somewhere, in case the pictures left any doubt.

Now, in 2007, we have A Mama for Owen by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by John Butler:

You may ask yourself (as I did when I spotted the book at the local bookstore): "Does the world really need a third picture book about Owen and Mzee?"

The answer is a resounding YES. In fact, I'd be willing to argue that if any of the books is on the fence, it should be the one in the middle.

In this version, Marion Dane Bauer tells the story of how Owen was swept downriver and away from his mother during a tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, and later washed ashore. Her explanation is less detailed (and probably slightly less accurate) than in Owen and Mzee, which remains my favorite of the books, but her text plausibly relates why and how Owen might have decided to befriend Mzee, and includes some of the facts of their existence -- how they seem to enjoy one another's company, and how they've developed a "language" all their own, with both of them making a common noise that's native to neither species.

The illustrations in A Mama for Owen are wonderful, in my opinion. Something about them reminds me a little of a Golden Book I had when I was very small named Baby Farm Animals, by Garth Williams, that I adored because the animals were the cutest versions of themselves, and made you want to snuggle them. This book does that for hippos and tortoises. Don't believe me? Take a gander at these images from inside the book, ganked off the Simon & Schuster website:

First, a bit of the text from the page: "Owen loved the river. But even more he loved his great greyish brown -- or was she brownish grey? -- mama."

Or another page:

Owen's favorite game is still hide-and-seek.

Mzee slips beneath the water,and Owen plunges in to find him. Mzee nestles in the long grass, and Owen peers through the grass until he spots him.

Mzee rests behind a rock, and Owen searches and searches until...

There is Mzee!

School Library Journal found this version of the story "too endearing," preferring the photographic books Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship and its sequel, Owen and Mzee: The Language of Friendship. And truly, if I had to pick only one book (okay, two, with the sequel), I'd stick with the Hatkoff and Kahumbu book(s). But A Mama for Owen is an excellent choice on the merits if you can have more than one book on the topic, and is probably a slightly better choice, text-wise, for very young readers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Your Own, Sylvia

Yesterday, I finished reading a biography of Sylvia Plath. Only it's not called a biography, because it's in verse, and therefore the way they're stated is fictive, but the truth of the contents is clear. It's called "a verse portrait," much the same sort of beastie as my WIP, a biography of Jane Austen in verse. Which, having read this book, I will assume might be deemed fiction as well, since the people I attribute things to didn't necessarily say them. Sigh. But I digress.

The book I just read is Your Own, Sylvia: a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill.

First, a word about the book's cover. I love this one, and not just for its front. See that small photo on the cover? On the spine of the cover, it's much much larger, with the right-hand edge being the same as in the small photo, but the left hand edge lining up with the corner of her mouth, so that only a fraction of her iris is on the spine. Kinda like the face on the spine of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, only much, much thinner. But equally compelling when it's on your book shelf.

And, on the back, it's what appears to be a reverse image of this image of her face and hair, only wearing a hat and coat, with her hands in the pocket. And the muted color choices are wonderful. Yeah, I don't usually go on and on about it, but truly, this is a great cover in my opinion.

And now, about the content. The book is written in verse appropriate to the period in which Sylvia wrote. Much of it is free verse, but there's a villanelle, some rhymed couplets and other forays into rhyme. I have a niggling suspicion there may have been a sonnet in there, but I can't put my finger on it for sure right now.

Each of the poems is attributed to someone who knew Sylvia (a family member, friend, teacher/boss or neighbor) or are labelled as "Imagining Sylvia Plath", in which the perspective is the narrator's, and the poem is written in the style of a particular Plath poem.

Here, an excerpt from "August 1953", one of Stephanie Hemphill's poems:

Her summer is a winter --
Frostbite, gangrene that devours her inside out.

Her wintering is a glass bell ---
Frozen crystal tongue without tingle, without chime.

Her glass bell suffocates fireflies, honeybees,
Jars them in heat, turns off their little minds.

Her fireflies must be shocked, relit.
Depression oozes from her fingers, softens her brain.

According to Hemphill, this poem is "in the style of 'The Fearful'". Here's how that Plath poem begins:

This man makes a pseudonym
And crawls behind it like a worm.

This woman on the telephone
Says she is a man, not a woman.
The mask increases, eats the worm,
Stripes for mouth and eyes and nose,

The voice of the woman hollows—
More and more like a dead one . . .

"The Fearful" provides us with imagery of selves being devoured by their attributes, with cannibalistic overtones. "August 1953" uses some of those types of images as well, pulling in other iconic images associated so closely with Plath: bees, and bell jars. "August 1953" serves the purpose of describing Sylvia's attempt at suicide in the summer between her junior and senior year at Smith College, which led to her being institutionalized. Unlike "The Fearful", it can't examine only the one concept too closely, but must relay useful biographical information, which it does in powerful manner.

Later in the poem, for instance, Hemphill writes:

She broke her mother's locked box
Of pills and swallowed them all.

Broke her mother's heart, but her stomach
Saves her, betrays her, won't keep death down.

Powerful, gut-wrenching (pun not intended, but appropriate) stuff, indeed.

Each of the poems is short -- usually not much more than a single page. Each poem appears on the page in the usual black ink. At the bottoms of the pages, single-spaced and in a light grey text, are additional biographical notes to fill the gaps, or explain who a particular person was (a roommate, perhaps, or a fellow poet).

The end includes copious source information identifying the source notes for each of the poems, and an enormous bibliography entitled "Sources and Further Reading".

This collection of poems describing the life of Sylvia Plath is beautifully done, and provides not just factual information -- the who, what, where and when of her life -- but also some of the hows and whys and wherefores. It doesn't truly get inside Sylvia's head, but is more like a close observation of her from outside. Part of the issue is that a lot of information about her remains legally surpressed for a while longer, compliments of her husband, Ted Hughes. Who, I may add, comes across as a real douchebag (as he did when Daniel Craig played him in the movie Sylvia, starring Gwyneth Paltrow).

I am left, after reading the book, moved and saddened by her life, and impressed by her art. And angry at the many people who failed her, even when they knew she needed help. Even when SHE knew she needed help.

I am also left, as some of you know, a bit mopey that someone else has published "a verse portrait" of a famous female author in period verse, since that is precisely what I'm working on for Jane Austen. But hey, at least it shows that my idea to do a biography in verse (which may, in fact, have to be marketed as fiction, the more I think it through) isn't an unmarketable idea. In fact, Sonya Sones says that the idea to tell Plath's story through verse is "inspired." So, there you have it.
I Capture the Castle

Last night, I finished reading I Capture the Castle, a novel by Dodie Smith, actress, playwright and author of numerous other books including the children's classic, One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

There are lots of covers for this particular book, but the one I own looks like this:

The story is written in first-person by Cassandra Mortmain, a member of a rather eccentric family living in a ramshackle house attached to the ruins of a Norman castle in rural England, in the 1930s. They have no electricity or refrigeration (not even an icebox, as best I can tell). The father is an apparently washed-up author whose one book was a hit, but who's written nothing since. The stepmother, Topaz, is much younger than Mortmain, and very desperate to be his muse. She likes being out of doors in the nude, among other things. The elder sister is Rose, who seems to believe that life should be very much like a Brontë or Austen novel, and typically employs the same manners as described in those novels and in Gothic romances. There's a younger brother, Thomas, who seems quite normal (surprisingly), and a ward (of sorts) named Stephen, who does all the work around the place, and then goes out to be the only wage-earner.

Cassandra keeps a journal to teach herself to write, and that is what the text consists of. And at the beginning, I was a bit distracted and bored and not ready to commit to it. Like, it took me a few bouts of reading to get to chapter 2. But then I did, and it was okay for a chapter, and then I was hooked. I loved the voice and the characters and wanted to find out all about it. And the way it was written, often I knew before the MC what exactly was going on. And that was good with me.


Until I got about two chapters from the end. And then, I got bored again. And when I hit the very end, after Topaz returns from London, I turned out not to care about the MC all that much.

The whole point of the story is following this girl for about nine months as she loses the last vestiges of childhood. And once she did, I no longer cared for her. Or about her. And if I come right down to it, I was a wee bit sad for the things she'd lost or let go along the way.

Weird, huh?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Something from Edward Lear: a Poetry Friday post

Edward Lear was a landscape painter as well as a poet. Perhaps that explains some of the color choices in his texts. He was especially fond of colors like "pea-green," which appeared not only in his famous verse, The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, but also in The Jumblies, a poem in which folks set to see in a sieve to "the lands where the Jumblies live;/Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,/ And they went to see in a Sieve."

Lear was the 20th child in a family of 21, and was raised by his eldest sister (a mere 21 years older than him -- Lear's poor mother!), who gave him drawing lessons. Lear had epilepsy as well as some respiratory ailments, so that his health was fairly precarious for much of his life. Nevertheless, he achieved success as a painter, with wealthy patrons, and was at one time asked to give painting lessons to a young Queen Victoria. He also published A Book of Nonsense in 1846, which went into three printings and popularized the Limerick as a form.

No doubt you know or have read The Owl and the Pussycat, so today, I give you The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.

The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò
by Edward Lear


On the Coast of Coromandel
&ensp Where the early pumpkins blow,
&emsp In the middle of the woods
&ensp Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
Two old chairs, and half a candle, --
One old jug without a handle,--
&emsp These were all his worldly goods:
&emsp In the middle of the woods,
&emsp These were all the worldly goods
&ensp Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
&ensp Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.


Once, among the Bong-trees walking
&ensp Where the early pumpkins blow,
&emsp To a little heap of stones
&ensp Came the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
There he heard a Lady talking,
To some milk-white Hens of Dorking,--
&emsp "'Tis the Lady Jingly Jones!
&emsp "On that little heap of stones
&emsp "Sits the Lady Jingly Jones!"
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.


"Lady Jingly! Lady Jingly!
&ensp "Sitting where the pumpkins blow,
&emsp "Will you come and be my wife?"
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
"I am tired of living singly,--
"On this coast so wild and shingly,--
&emsp "I'm a-weary of my life:
&emsp "If you'll come and be my wife,
&emsp "Quite serene would be my life!"
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.


"On this Coast of Coromandel
&ensp "Shrimps and watercresses grow,
&emsp "Prawns are plentiful and cheap,"
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
"You shall have my Chairs and candle,
"And my jug without a handle! --
&emsp "Gaze upon the rolling deep
&emsp ("Fish is plentiful and cheap):
&emsp "As the sea, my love is deep!"
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.


Lady Jingly answered sadly,
&ensp And her tears began to flow,--
&emsp "Your proposal comes too late,
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!
"I would be your wife most gladly!"
(Here she twirled her fingers madly,)
&emsp "But in England I've a mate!
&emsp "Yes! you've asked me far too late,
&emsp "For in England I've a mate,
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!"


"Mr. Jones -- (his name is Handel,--
&ensp "Handel Jones, Esquire & Co.)
&emsp "Dorking fowls delights to send,
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!
"Keep, oh, keep your chairs and candle,
"And your jug without a handle,--
&emsp "I can merely be your friend!
&emsp "--Should my Jones more Dorkings send,
&emsp "I will give you three, my friend!
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!"


"Though you've such a tiny body,
&ensp "And your head so large doth grow,--
&emsp "Though your hat may blow away,
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!
"Though you're such a Hoddy Doddy --
"Yet I wish that I could modi-
&emsp "fy the words I needs must say!
&emsp "Will you please to go away?
&emsp "That is all I have to say, --
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!
&ensp "Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò!"


Down the slippery slopes of Myrtle,
&ensp Where the early pumpkins blow,
&emsp To the calm and silent sea
&ensp Fled the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
There, beyond the Bay of Gurtle,
Lay a large and lively Turtle. --
&emsp "You're the Cove," he said, "for me:
&emsp "On your back beyond the sea,
&emsp "Turtle, you shall carry me!"
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
&ensp Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.


Through the silent-roaring ocean
&ensp Did the Turtle swiftly go;
&emsp Holding fast upon his shell
&ensp Rode the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
With a sad primaeval motion
Toward the sunset isles of Boshen
&emsp Still the Turtle bore him well,
&emsp Holding fast upon his shell.
&emsp "Lady Jingly Jones, farewell!"
&ensp Sang the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
&ensp Sang the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.


From the Coast of Coromandel
&ensp Did that Lady never go,
&emsp On that heap of stones she mourns
&ensp For the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
On that Coast of Coromandel,
In his jug without a handle
&emsp Still she weeps, and daily moans;
&emsp On the little heap of stones
&emsp To her Dorking Hens she moans,
&ensp For the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
&ensp For the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.

There are two lines in particular that I adore in this, and I'll tell you what they are. In stanza VII, I love the line-break in the midst of the word "modify": "Though you're such a Hoddy Doddy --/Yet I wish that I could modi-/fy the words I needs must say." Genius. And the other line I love is the first line of stanza IX, where he employs the phrase "the silent-roaring ocean." How perfectly beautiful and brilliant a phrase that is.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend

I read an ARC of Carrie Jones's forthcoming book, Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend, yesterday, and while I won't review it here (yet -- I'm waiting until the release date is closer), I can tell you that it's pretty damn terrific, and that I love-love-loved the writing, and that I'll probably have to buy the actual book, too, just so I can get Carrie to sign it for me.

So, rather than a review, here are some Tips on Why You Should Add Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend to your must-buy list:

1. It contains lists inside it from time to time. And everyone knows that lists rule. Especially funny lists, like on the merits of Postum (for real).

2. The MC drinks Postum, a beverage that, to my knowledge, is only used by the over-60 set.

3. The idea of a 17-year old teen girl actually drinking Postum is rendered entirely believable by her seizure disorder.

4. The MC has a seizure disorder, but that is so not the point of the book.

5. The book made me think hard about international policies and the Constitution and how our country has shifted some of its policies in a post-9/11 world in such a way as to make me really uncomfortable. And that's not the point of the book either.

6. The book made me think hard about discrimination and its dangers, but it never once got preachy on the subject. And it had to do with discrimination againt folks based on things they can't help, like health issues and sexual orientation. And I have a niggling suspicion that that may be one of the points of the book, but the fact that I'm not sure tells you that it wasn't the major plot line, and that it doesn't become pedantic in any way.

7. In spite of all the stuff I just mentioned, the book is about coming to terms with finding out your boyfriend isn't what you thought he was (and not just because he's gay).

8. In spite of what I just said about the boyfriend, the book is about finding yourself, your real true self, and being okay with that.

9. In spite of what I just said about finding yourself, the book is about finding your true friends.

10. The writing in the book made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up from time to time, because some of the turns of phrase are pure genius, and Carrie's use of compact imagery will delight you and make you think about your own writing, and how you might boost some of her techniques to improve it.

And now, I'm off to think up interview questions for my wonderful author friend, Carrie Jones, who I will be interviewing for April's The Edge of the Forest.

For further news about Carrie, check out her blog and/or website.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Song of Wandering Aengus -- a Poetry Friday post

Today, the day before St. Patrick's Day, a beautiful poem from William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet:

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Those last two lines in particular are to me almost magical in their music.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Edge of the Forest

Hey, you! Yeah, you!

Why not pop on over to The Edge of the Forest to check out what's new and exciting? There's a hilarious review of How To Get Suspended and Influence People by Adam Selzer (the review being by Brian Farrey). Better yet, there's an Open Letter to Adam Selzer from Brian Farrey that will give you a real feel for this new YA title.

There's an interview with Laura Ruby, author of two kids' titles I reviewed, Lily's Ghosts and The Wall and The Wing, of the YA title Good Girls, and of a new book for adults called I'm Not Julia Roberts. And another interview with Jenny Han, author of Shug (which M stole from me, and loved, and now S has it in her reading pile), and member of The Longstockings.

And there are more book reviews. More! Including (ahem) four by yours truly. Three picture books and one middle grade novel.

I hope you'll stop by The Edge of the Forest and have a look!

Friday, March 09, 2007

If I Had a Camera . . .

Actually, the title should read "If I had a DIGITAL camera," but I liked it the other way because in my head, it's sung to the tune of "If I had a hammer." But most of you already knew that, right?

Anyhoo -- if I had a digital camera, then right


would be a photo of me and Adam Rex at Head House Books from earlier this evening, where he was reading from Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and The Tree-Ring Circus, and drawing pictures of pigs with pans on their heads, and signing stuff. But he did give me a poster that looks like this:

And then, right


would be a photo of me and Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author of the most excellent Dairy Queen. Who flashed me a copy of the ARC of her new book, The Off Season, the sequel to Dairy Queen. It doesn't have a tiara-wearing cow on the cover (bummer!), but it does promise to be excellent. And it comes out in the merry merry month of May. Sadly, I only got to see the ARC, which she (understandably) gave to the owner of Head House Books. I didn't get to keep it. If you're going to ALA, keep an eye out of Catherine. She's tall and gorgeous and generous in spirit. And she can write, too.

Oh, and the cow in the tiara? Here 'tis:

But I only had a film camera with me, so those photos will have to wait for another day.
And you read your Emily Dickinson, and I my Robert Frost -- a Poetry Friday post

So many poets. So very many poems. And that's just in the current anthology I've been wandering in and out of, The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost, "Selected and with Commentary by Harold Bloom."

It looks like this, only instead of bright green, the color in the box on the cover (and on the spine) is a periwinkle blue:

It's heavy enough to hold a screen door open in a stiff wind, just as any good anthology should be. And it's full of wonderful poems by wonderful poets, although one could argue about how much emphasis various poets are given. For instance, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, considered by many to be the finest female poet in Victorian England, has precisely one poem. She is one of eleven female poets in this book containing the work of 104 poets. Nice to see that just over 10% of the poets represented were female, I suppose. The poets are organized by year of birth, from the early years of English poetry (Chaucer, 1343) to 1899 (the birth year of Léonie Adams and Hart Crane).

But before you get to the poems themselves, you come to "The Art of Reading Poetry", described by the publisher as "a substantial and significant introductory essay" which "presents Bloom's critical reflections on more than a half century devoted to reading, teaching, and writing about the literary achievement he loves best, and conveys his passionate concern for how a poem should be interpreted and appreciated." (Quoted material here taken from the "From the Publisher" bit at the Barnes & Noble website.)

I've not met Mr. Bloom (nor do I believe it likely I ever shall), but I can tell you now that if he teaches his courses at Yale with the same "passionate concern" that infuses the essay, then his classes must all be stunned into inaction by their recognition that they are woefully ignorant in all the important ways one apparently must be in order to actually read and truly appreciate poetry. Their startled sense of profound ignorance is, perhaps, lessened by their appreciation of Bloom's supreme confidence in his own correctness and, dare I say, genius.

If you're thinking I found his essay to be a tad pretentious, nay, pompous, then you are correct, and have earned yourself 20 points. Take another 20 points if you believe I'm going to give concrete examples, because here they are:

The salient points of the essay are as follows:

1. "Poetry essentially is figurative langage, concentrated so that its form is both expressive and evocative. Figuration is a departure from the literal, and the form of a great poem itself can be a trope ("turning") or figure."
He then tells us that the "four fundamental tropes" are "irony, synecdoche, metonymy, and metaphor." As if we didn't already know that. Or, more to the point, as if anyone but a cloistered intellectual would understand what he meant. Seriously? Just because one knows the big words doesn't require one to use them.

If he'd said that the four techniques most commly used in writing poetry were irony, symbolism, and metaphor, more readers would understand him. And yeah, I boiled it down to three things, and here's why: synecdoche and metonymy are both forms of symbolism, where one word or phrase stands in for a different concept. In synecdoche, a more inclusive term is used to describe a lesser inclusive term, or vice versa (e.g., "law" instead of "policeman", or "head" instead of "cattle"). In metonymy, "an attribute or commonly associated feature is used to name or designate something, as in The pen is mightier than the sword." My thanks to the Webster's II New College Dictionary for making clear what Mr. Bloom chose to obfuscate. Don't believe me? Here's his take on metonymy: "In metonymy, contiguity replaces resemblance, since the name or prime aspect of anything is sufficient to indicate it, provided it is near in space to what serves as a substitute." Even knowing the definition of metonymy, I'm hard-pressed to sort out Mr. Bloom's definition.

Moving on:

2. "Language, to a considerable extent, is concealed figuration". With him so far? Poetry is figurative language, and language is concealed figuration. Thus, poetry is figurative concealed figuration. Thereafter follows a discussion on the clever use of words that have their roots in other languages, all of which he presupposes the particular poets were fully aware of (an assumption that I, as a practicing poet, find questionable). Let's move on.

3. "Greatness in poetry depends upon splendor of figurative language and on cognitive power" Seriously? That made sense, and I can't even say I disagree with the assertion. What follows, however, is a presumption by Bloom that poets build their poems based on the memory of prior poems, whether consciously or subconsciously. In the particular case Bloom cites where Shakespeare echoes and mocks and/or elaborates on something Christopher Marlowe said, he's undoubtedly correct. But let's see what comes next:

4. "The art of reading poetry begins with mastering allusiveness in particular poems, from the very simple to the very complex." Here's where his theory gets interesting, and, quite possibly, runs amok. Because he presupposes that, in many cases, if he finds a phrase or idea in two poems, the latter must have been alluding to the one written earlier. Which assumes that all poets are terribly well-read, and not only that they've read prior poems, but that they invoke the themes, ideas, and words within them on purpose.

That may be the case from time to time, but it's almost certainly not the case all of the time. Further, the intellectual posturing behind it suggests that in order to appreciate a poem, you must be well-read in poetry through the ages, so as to understand and appreciate the subtleties that Bloom is now reading into the texts, whether they were intended or not.

5. Allusion isn't the only strand in the relationship between later and earlier poems. The discussion in this section of the essay is actually about the importance of voice to a poem, with examples from nine poets, all examining a common theme.

6. "What makes one poem better than another?" Now here's an interesting question. Only Bloom sidesteps it a bit, asserting that only the truly great poems are in this book he's put together. He does, however, offer some examples of good and bad poems, and although he doesn't say so clearly, here's what I take away from it: some of what makes a particular poem good or bad has to do with its identity with a particular writer. A poem that emulates someone else or is imitative is more likely to be bad than one that is a wholly original creation. Thus, a poem by Edgar Allen Poe that is imitative of Byron isn't good -- not only because it's derivative, but also because he uses mopey, self-pitying words. A poem by Emerson, that foretells the future writings of Robert Frost, however, is seen as good: it is confident, it has layers of meaning and subtlety.

He also tracks a revision of a poem called "Luke Havergal" by Edwin Arlington Robinson. In the revised version, simple description ("The wind will moan, the leaves will whisper some --/Whisper of her, and strike you as they fall") is replaced with metaphorical language that also evokes a famous poem by an earlier poet ("The leaves will whisper there of her, and some,/Like flying words, will strike you as they fall.")

7. "'Inevitability,' unavoidable phrasing, . . .a crucial attribute of great poetry." I suppose this is one of those "a place for everything and everything in its place" sort of arguments. Bloom doesn't argue his point here; instead, he walks the reader through a reading of Hart Crane's Voyages II, which he asserts is one of the "great but truly difficult poems of the twentieth century." Bloom concludes that the poem makes enormous cognitive demands on the reader, which are compensated by its "'inevitability' in phrasing, measure, and rhythm." Because the language is so wonderful and complex, it must be a great poem, or so runs the argument.

8. ". . .poetry at its greatest -- in Dante, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Blake -- has one broad and essential difficulty: it is the true mode for expanding our consciousness."

To sum up, Mr. Bloom is a huge fan of poetry who delights in reading meanings into poems. Not just the meanings of metaphors and whether the color red is symbolic of blood or revolution, but also the meanings of particular words (by examining their etymology and use throughout history) and, if he finds it, allusions (intentional or not) to the works of other poets.

Bloom's conclusion is that poetry, and in particular, great poetry, is the best way to expand one's consciousness. Now, THAT I understand. And applaud. I just wish that more of the essay had been in language that is accessible to the masses, and not in intellectual snooty-speak. While the language and tone he uses to describe the elements and interpretation of poetry reflect an unnecessarily elitist slant, I believe (or at least hope) that it reflects Mr. Bloom's long isolation in the higher tiers of academia, and not a belief that poetry is only for the well-educated portion of society.

For a more restrictive view on the subject of what poetry should be promoted or read, check out what another Yale alumnus, poet J. D. McClatchy, editor of The Yale Review, said about the efforts of the Poetry Foundation to promote awareness and accessibility of poetry. Here's what he said in an article in The New Yorker:

"The aura of mediocrity has settled like a fog over the business of the foundation. The new awards, for example. It's not the winners who trouble me, it's the categories. Children's poetry? Funny poetry? If those are a way for the foundation to carve a niche for itself, it's a shallow one and too low down on the wall. It signals a lack of ambition and seriousness that may ultimately be fatal. Ironically, they risk marginalizing themselves by appealing to people who think of the 'Prairie Home Companion' as high art. It's the culture of sidebars, poems suitable for the fronts of tote bags. The foundation seems to want to promote poetry, the way you'd promote cereal or a sitcom."

And yeah, that McClatchy quote pissed me off. It seems to mean that if lots of people can appreciate a poem, it must be crap. Or that if it's a poem for children, or it's funny, that it must be crap. And that ain't necessarily so. But that is, perhaps, a topic for another day.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Secret History of Tom Trueheart

Ian Beck has written quite a good story here, particularly for folks who love fairy tales and like the occasional bit of metafiction. Picture if you will a little white thatch-roofed cottage, snug and warm, and somewhat overly full of burly Viking-esque men. So far, so good. Each of these six burly young men is named some variant of Jack. Also in the house? Mrs. Trueheart and a young boy, just turning twelve, named Tom.

The Trueheart family is the last of the great adventuring families, and they live just outside the Land of Stories, which is governed by the Story Bureau. The premise is that the story bureau devises scenarios, sends them to an adventurer, and then the adventurer must go off, make decisions and live out the story, then report back to the Story Bureau, which will write it all down and sell it in a book.

But evil is afoot, as it must needs be in this sort of story, in the form of a story deviser names Julius Ormestone. Try as I might, I couldn't puzzle out whether that name had any deeper meaning or could be abbreviated or condensed in such a way as to turn out to be something else (like, say, "Grimm"). Ormestone wants to write the whole story himself, you see, from beginning to end. So he sets all 6 of the Jacks on adventures from which they do not return, and it is up to Tom Trueheart, novice adventurer, to set out and find them all. Tom is accompanied by a crow named Jollity (actually a sprite in disguise) as he sets off to rescue his brothers and restore order to the Land of Stories.

Young readers will, I believe, like recognizing the identity of the people in the adventures -- a girl who loses a shoe, a girl with exceedingly long hair that's been locked in a tall tower, a talking cow who must be sold at the fair, etc. -- and they will know what it is that the Jacks will do, if ever they can be found. The descriptions are excellent, allowing the book to play very much like a movie in one's mind -- I credit Mr. Beck's experience as an illustrator for his wonderful physical descriptions throughout the book. I also really enjoyed the silhouettes that pass for the only art inside the book (apart from the Map showing the Land of Stories and some other areas that make up the end pages fore and aft).

Tom does good detective work in figuring out how far in each adventure his brothers got, and in sorting out where (and how) they went missing, but he doesn't face any real adversity until almost the end of the book.

This story is essentially a heroic quest, and I found it a bit lacking because the only real adversity Tom faced for most of the book was his nervousness at being alone in the woods (and he had Jollity for company, which abated that immediately) and the occasional attack of nerves about being a newbie adventurer. Most of these episodes were of the (cue scary music) -- "Is something there? Is it bad? -- Nope, just a leaf!" variety (music turns happy again). The lack of truly high stakes makes this a terrific read for younger independent readers, for whom the idea of being on an adventure is all the scare they need. But I found myself wishing that Ormestone might have gotten wind of Tom much sooner and tried to mess with Tom through misdirection, as by sending him false instructions, or trying to intercept, capture, or at least trick him. In fact, I kept expecting it, but it didn't happen. Still, I enjoyed the story, and the bit of metafiction that comes from having stories be real, but staged, and being there for the purpose of generating a written story to be shared with others.

The ending makes clear that at least one more book will follow. Tom lets us know it, and so does Ormestone. And I can't help but remark that this one would make an excellent movie, as well (think Shrek meets Happily N'Ever After).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

the bunnies are not in their beds

Is that a great title or what? Too bad I didn't think of it myself -- it's the title of a new picture book by Marasabina Russo:

And let me tell you, the title is no lie. Because after Mama and Daddy put the three little bunnies to bed, saying "good night, good night, sleep tight," they head downstairs to do the various things that grownups do after children are in bed. But as soon as they settle in to their appointed tasks, there's a thump or a bump or another sort of noise, and when Mama and Daddy get upstairs, the bunnies are not in their beds.

First they are playing with tracks, then trains, then horses, then cars, then -- well, you get the picture. And eventually Mama and Daddy have to COUNT TO THREE! And the bunnies get into their beds, but only for a while. Because once Mama and Daddy have gone to bed, the bunnies are not in their beds again!

I loved the simple and colorful illustrations of the bunnies in this book, and all the clever imaginitive play that the young bunnies get themselves into instead of going dutifully off to sleep, although I have to say that Mama and Daddy made some bizarro color-mixing choices. Yikes! I also really loved that even when the bunnies seem to have acquiesced to their parents' request for them to stay in bed, with a "good night, good night, sleep tight," the bunnies just wait it out, then get up and head downstairs to party all night long. Inevitably they fall asleep as well, but in the living room.

I'm sure that kids will love this one, although parents who want to get their kids to settle down in their own beds and go to sleep might question it as a bedtime reading choice.

good night, good night, sleep tight

Friday, March 02, 2007

Vitæ Summa Brevis

Oh to be Decadent for a day. Part of the Decadent movement in poetry, that is. Back in the late 1900s, writers influenced by Gothic novels and those who turned from the realism of the day to include symbolism and a renewed appreciation of the aesthetic, earned the title "decadent" from their critics. Many of them embraced the term and applied it to themselves.

In some ways, the decadent movement is an outcropping of the Romantic era (think Victor Hugo and the like). It really is a bridge between the Romantic era and Modernism, if you, like me, studied those movements in college and therefore have some idea what it all means.

Ernest Dowson was one of the poets of the Decadent movement. He was raised mostly in France, but attended Oxford. He left without a degree, however, and then spent his life living pretty much hand-to-mouth. He contributed to The Critic, The Yellow Book (a literary magazine, not a phone book), and The Savoy, and belonged to the Rhymers' Club, which was founded by W.B. Yeats and Ernest Rhys. Oscar Wilde turned out for some of the meetings (when they were in private homes).

Dowson lost both of his parents to tuberculosis in the mid 1890's, and himself started to decline in health as well. When he was 22, he'd fallen in love with an eleven-year old girl (eww, ick, I know), and when he was 30, she married someone else. He died at the age of 32, either of tuberculosis or alcoholism, or a combination. But not before he wrote a few great poems that gave rise to other works of art in later years. His poem, Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae (from one of Horace's Odes: "I am not what once I was under the reign of the kind Cynara"). Dowson's poem was a paen to the young girl he'd loved, and a rich source of inspiration to later writers: The phrase "gone with the wind" inspired Margaret Mitchell to apply the phrase to her only novel; the last line of the same poem, "I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion" inspired Cole Porter's song, "Always True to You in my Fashion" (from Kiss Me, Kate).

Today's featured poem reminds us that "Lives are short."

Vitæ Summa Brevis
by Ernest Dowson

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
    Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
    We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
    Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
    Within a dream.

Caught "the days of wine and roses", did you? Yeah, he came up with that one too. Both the film and the song of the same name won the Oscar in 1963. Interesting that somebody you probably never heard of contributed to so many different forms of art with a few turns of phrase, isn't it?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

An Interview with Adam Rex

I had so much fun interviewing Joyce Sidman for the CYBILS site that I thought I might like to add interviews to my own blog from time to time. And I was so tickled by Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex that I decided to send him some fan mail and ask if he might be the very first one. And he said yes (squee!).

I sat down with Adam Rex and asked him a bunch of questions, which he was kind enough to answer. Oh, who am I kidding? I sent him the questions and then, much later, he wrote the answers and sent them back. It was very, very nice of him to do, and I think you'll all enjoy my visit with Adam.

I read in an interview that you did with David over at Ironic Sans that you studied with David Christiana, author and illustrator of one of my favorite picture books, The First Snow. Would you care to tell us a bit about your training, formal and otherwise, and whether illustrating for children was your original intent in going to school?

It was. I worked at a bookstore during the waning years of high school, and was really taken with the picture books that were coming out at that time. This was the late eighties and very early nineties, so I was hearing about Lane Smith, William Joyce, Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, and so forth. The market seemed so utterly different from the books I remembered from my childhood. These were very vibrant, painterly, irreverent, etc. So at 16 or 17 I decided picture books might be a way to reconcile my love of making pictures and inventing stories. Studying under David really reinforced this. I'm not sure if I would have kept at it if I wasn't seeing a working author/illustrator at school every day.

For my illustrator friends, can you tell us a bit about the media you work in, and whether it changes from project to project? In Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, for instance, the illustrator's note reads "The illustrations in this book were created with oil and . . . oh gosh, lots of stuff. What? Sure, he used some of that. Yep, that too."

Frankenstein was a rare opportunity to try a lot of things within the same picture book, being a collection of poems as it is. So FMAS contains oils, gouache, ink and scratchboard, colored pencils, and even a page of Sculpey figures that I photographed and assembled in Photoshop. But I primarily paint in oils. My next picture book will be oils over acrylic and opaque ink backgrounds.

Tell us a bit about the clay heads you've made as models for some of your work -- how that came about, and which came first, the sketches or the heads. Also, whether you do other sculpting as well.

Sculpting is something I've been doing a long time to aid in drawing and painting. I use as much reference material to make my illustrations as possible–often that means photographing myself of my wife or a friend in something approximating the correct costume so I can really get a sense of authentic form, light, drapery, and so forth. Or I'll gather as much as I can from books and the web to help me render things I can't photograph myself. But in the case of someone like my version of Frankenstein, even a photo of the biggest, most flat-headed person I know is only going to help so much. That's where the sculpted figures come in. I try to at least sculpt those characters that I know I'll have to depict a number of times in a number of ways. But the characters always start in my sketchbooks – I may draw dozens of versions before I feel I've gotten it right, and only then do I pull out the clay.

Let's talk a bit about Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, one of my very favorite poetry books from 2006. The writing in this book of poems about a variety of "monsters" is funny and fresh. How did the topic of monsters come to you, and why did you decide to write rhymes about them?

In the beginning I think I was just looking for a theme on which to write verse, which I was really just trying out for the first time, that would provide some great illustration opportunities as well. Who wouldn't want to make pictures of monsters? The title popped into my head from nowhere, and that set the tone–monsters with mundane, un-monster-like problems.

The illustration styles seem to me to vary widely (or is it wildly?) in style among the various poems in Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. Where the Yeti and the Bigfoot remind me of illustrations from books from the mid-20th century, "The Dentist" calls to mind Charles Schulz (even before I read an interview where I realized that was deliberate!), and the illustrations for "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Henderson" appear to be genuine Victorian pen and ink drawings. Are the varying styles an homage to specific artists and illustrators (or styles of illustration) over time, and if so, what attracted you to them? If not, can you talk about how you decided what "look" you were going for with each poem?

Many of the images are deliberate homages to particular illustrators and eras. The Yeti and Bigfoot poems are meant to have a Richard Scarry/Gustaf Tenggren vibe. Jekyll and Henderson is based on old Harper's Weekly magazines from the turn of the century, especially the work of Charles Dana Gibson. I wanted it to have a real "society pages" feel to it. The Charles Schulz thing was practically a mistake–I just started sketching Frankenjunior and he looked like Linus, so I gave him a blanket. After that it became obvious what Son of Dracula needed to look like.

In some cases the styles were strongly dictated by the needs of the subject matter. In others, I just wanted to try something new. In either case I usually latched on to one or two particular illustrators to give myself an anchor for my work.

You've done a lot of illustration work for Wizards of the Coast (for Magic The Gathering), and for other people's work as well. Which is more challenging, illustrating your own text, or someone else's?

I suppose it's more challenging to illustrate someone else's text, because you're really jumping into the deep end of the pool that way. When I write a story myself, I can't help but begin thinking immediately about color, composition, style, and so on. I'm building the illustrations in my head, even if I may not actually put pencil to paper until the manuscript is nearly complete. By the time I actually start working on the illustrations, they already have a pretty solid foundation. I may even have nudged the text in certain directions or pared it down because I knew the illustration could fill in the blanks.

For example, take the text, "Joe had an unusual morning. He burned the toast, broke a plate, and then of course there was the circus monkey." You can create an illustration of a smoky kitchen, toaster on fire, shattered plate, and monkey on roller skates, but then suddenly there's a certain amount of redundancy. Maybe the text should just be, "Joe had an unusual morning." Or maybe the text should stay as is but the illustration should be more ambiguous–a cloud of smoke through which you can just make out a monkey's tail, roller skates, some flying plate pieces, Joe's silhouette, etc. Illustrating someone else's manuscript means you don't have that control, though sometimes the best art comes from working around limitations.

Also out last year was your picture book The Tree Ring Circus, in which a number of animals (if one can also call a clown an animal, and I'll assume for now that we'll let it slide) move into a rapidly growing tree. I love the illustrations and the idea of it -- can you tell me how you decided what animals to use in the story, which were your favorites to draw, and why?

Well, rhyming verse has a way of making a lot of decisions for you. You suddenly need another two syllable animal with the stress on the first syllable, for example, or a word that rhymes with tree. Otherwise, some of the animals choices were just intuitive, others came out of a strong desire to paint a polar bear. I think the elephant was my absolute favorite to paint. Not so much eye-straining detail, and I enjoyed trying to capture her skin texture in paint. She makes a cameo in my next picture book, which is set in a zoo.

What's easier for you -- writing the words or making the pictures?

Probably the pictures – I've been doing it longer.

Betsy Bird ove at Fuse #8 named you a Hot Man of Children's Literature in September, 2006. Has your life changed as a result and, if so, how?

Well, the pageant was nice. But before you're crowned you don't realize how many library ribbon-cuttings and the like you'll be asked to attend.

On your website, you and your wife are decked out in pretty awesome cowboy regalia. Is that your every day mode of dress? If not, why not?

No, it was just an Arbor Day thing. The grocery-bag chaps tear too easily.

You did the illustrations for The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake, which won a bunch of awards including the SCBWI Golden Kite award and a Parents' Choice Gold Award, but has since been banned from at least one school in Texas because the cowboy took his clothes off to bathe. (I told Adam I'd link to the picture on his site that shows the cowboy with a cleverly placed frog in front of his scrotum (yeah, I said it), and so I shall.) Would you care to comment?

I sympathize with parents and librarians, even when I don't agree with their decisions. The question of children's welfare often leads to irrational outcomes. When I needed photo reference of kids for Jill Esbaum's Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A-Comin'!, I was confronted with the reality that I have no kids myself, and have few friends in the area who do, either. Deadline concerns forced me to visit playgrounds, where I tried to explain to parents who I was, what I was working on, and why I was asking to photograph their children. It wasn't difficult to prove I actually was a picture book illustrator, and I wasn't asking to take their kids anywhere, dress them in costumes, or anything like that. I was just looking for them to pose in a manner similar to the drawings I had with me, right there at the park. I still received refusals about half the time from some very unsettled mothers. And I couldn't blame them.

It's a particular shame when a librarian or principal makes the same kind of irrational, fear-based decision for an entire community, however, and I think it's proper that these sorts of incidents receive media attention. Only then can the community know what's being done in their name, and decide whether or not they agree.

Can you tell us a bit about your forthcoming book from Harcourt, which is, if I'm not mistaken, a picture book called Pssst! about a day at the zoo?

PSSST! is indeed about a zoo, and one where the gorilla needs a new tire swing. The turkeys want corn, the sloths want bicycle helmets, and the penguins want to repaint their enclosure. And all the animals seem to want a girl named Zooey to get these things for them. They might not be entirely honest about their reasons, either.

You also have an "illustrated novel" called The True Meaning of Smekday coming out (unless Wikipedia is having me on). Will your novel be illustrated as in the U.S. version of Harry Potter, with one small illustration per chapter, or in the nature of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, or somewhere in the middle?

The True Meaning of Smekday is narrated by Gratuity Tucci (her friends call her Tip), who drives herself and her cat cross-country to find the reservation where everyone lives now that the aliens have taken over. On the way she picks up an alien named J.Lo who seems to have an odd desire to avoid the rest of his species.

Smekday will have more illustrations than a Harry Potter, probably less than Hugo Cabret. There are about 15 pages of comics storytelling within its pages, and dozens of photographs and clippings from newspapers and books (all actually drawings). It's over 400 pages, and mostly orange.

Lightning round:

a. Cheese or chocolate?

Chocolate AND cheese. With the Ween album Chocolate and Cheese playing in the background, if possible.

b. Coffee or tea?

Usually coffee.

c. Cats or dogs?

I'm allergic to both.

d. Favorite color?


e. Favorite snack food?

I love them all, don't make me choose.

f. Favorite ice cream?

This bittersweet chocolate gelato you can get in downtown Philadelphia. If that's not too specific.

g. Water or soda?


h. What's in your CD player/on iTunes right now?

And the Glass Handed Kites by Mew, and the new Shins album.

i. What's the last movie you memorized lines from?


Adam will be reading, drawing, and signing books on Friday, March 9th, between 5 and 7 PM at Head House Books in Philadelphia. Those of you who are not from the area should know that Head House is a reference to a market area dating back to Colonial times, and absolutely nothing to do with cannabis.

A HUGE thanks to Adam for the interview!