Longtime readers may recall that I posted an excerpt from this poem last August, along with video of Neil Gaiman reading the poem. (He is, as always, a most excellent reader.) What I may not have told you is that earlier this year, I began a new commonplace book, and the very first thing I copied into it was this poem, which I adore. Not just because I wish I'd written it - although that, of course, doesn't hurt - but because it is an inspired, inspirational piece of writing. On the surface, it is a poem containing just what it says: instructions. On its face, these instructions are there to help one navigate through a fairy tale sort of world, and it includes tips like "Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where you are going" and "If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe." It contains, of course, so much more, since so many of the instructions apply in the real world (or should). Such as:
However,And in the middle is excellent advice for writers, whether that is precisely what Mr. Gaiman intended it to be or not:
if any creature tells you that it hungers,
If it tells you that it is dirty,
If it cries to you that it hurts,
if you can,
ease its pain.
Do not be jealous of your sister:Long story short? You need this book. Or someone you know and love does. A writer, perhaps. Or a graduate.
know that diamonds and roses
are as uncomfortable when they tumble from one's lips as toads and frogs:
colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.
Remember your name.
Do not lose hope--
What you seek will be found.
Trust those that you have helped to help you in your turn.
Trust your heart,
and trust your story.
Physically, this book is lovely. It is a small size, for a picture book, roughly 7-1/2" wide x 8" high in size, and it contains 40 pages, all of them covered with Vess's art. The illustrations capture the magic and adventure of a fairy tale world. And since I'd love for you to see and hear this book as soon as possible, I've added the book trailer for this book below - which features a complete reading of the text by Neil Gaiman, along with semi-animated images of the illustrations (including some that move from sketch to completed artwork before your eyes):