Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: And as in Alice

I've been doing a lot of reading this week.

I finished The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia. I'm slowly wrapping my brain around the mind-warping concepts in The Black Hole War: My Battle With Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics.  I dived into The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks yesterday and had to force myself put it down to get sleep. And I'm continuing to dip in and out of Rilke's Book of Hours, which is too intense to gulp in one sitting. 

All of these books together have made me feel that I've fallen down a rabbit hole.* So today's poetry selection might make complete sense. Maybe.

From the middle of Mary Jo Bang's poem, And as in Alice:

She's wondering what possible harm might come to her
If  she fell all the way down the dark she's looking through.
Would strange creatures sing songs
Where odd syllables came to a sibilant end at the end.

Perhaps the sounds would be a form of  light  hissing.
Like when a walrus blows air
Through two fractured front teeth. Perhaps it would

*Both The Magician's Book and The Black Hole War discuss Alice in Wonderland; I think of Frankie as a sort of Alice, exploring society's rules that don't make sense, and as for Rilke, well, he makes rabbit holes. 


  1. Reality beating on the door with an axe *falls over with joy at finding this poem*

    Thanks for sharing this one, Sara. I've almost bought that Magic in Narnia book twice now - will probably find the third time a charm.

  2. Ph my word to write with that rhythm and visual images. Thank you for sharing and introducing me to Mary Jo Bang

  3. I'm so glad you fell into that dark hole and pulled this poem out. Love it!!

  4. Isn't FRANKIE fabulous? Eisha and I did a co-review of that one last year. You're making me want to read it again.

    I read so much Rilke in high school. I need to re-read and re-respond. I'm sure it'd be a much different ride in my mid-30s.

    That is a fabulous poem. Bang is new to me. Thank you.

  5. "the rude noise it was hearing was
    rational thought "


    I love Rilke but I don't think I've found this book yet. I guess I better start looking!

  6. Whoops I think I blurred all your recent posts together. I do have and read the Book of Hours. I haven't yet read The Poet's Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke, edited and translated by Ulrich Baer. That's the one I'm looking for.

  7. I always think that if you fall down a rabbit hole you might as well enjoy the tea party. Hm?

  8. This is my favorite line:

    Perhaps the sounds would be a form of  light  hissing

    But in my mind, before reading the next line, I had the image of visible light, and the hissing sound it would make if it could hiss deliberately.

    And through no fault of your own (bad wiring on my part) I can't read the word walrus without thinking of actor Wilford Brimley.

  9. The Narnia criticism book sounds in the school of Philip Pullman, someone I admire.

  10. She interviews Pullman as well as Neil Gaiman and other writers about their reactions to Narnia. I wouldn't say she's in the Pullman camp, though, since although she agrees with Pullman's theology, she finds much to admire in Lewis' work. I find it interesting how one's adult theological views (in either direction) can distort how you view the series, even to the point of disregarding how children actually encounter the books and digest them. One of the things I loved about Miller's book is that she made me remember how I FELT about certain scenes or characters in Narnia, and the magic of reading in general---which is not something I thought I'd forgotten until she reminded me that I had changed as a reader.

  11. Also, I wanted to say that I'm glad so many of you liked the poem. I thought maybe it had been out there on a PF before, but I could be wrong. Even if it has, no reason not to fall down the rabbit hole again, right?

    On Fridays, I always wish that Blogger was more like LiveJournal, where it was easy to respond to each of you immediately after your comments. Everyone that stops by is so expressive and witty and sharper than a walrus's teeth. (Sorry David. There I go again.) Anyhoo, Fridays are my favorite day.

  12. I'm jealous of your reading week...but that seems shallow, since I had the desert this week...

  13. Oooh, that's a good one. I also so look forward to all of the poetry shared on Fridays. Frankie is on my To Read list this year as well!

  14. Hey...I just discovered your blog..and will be visiting it frequently! I am anxious to get that book...the skeptic's adventure in Narnia...could you elaborate a little about it? I will have to look into it. I am a teacher of third graders, and I'm constantly on the search for good stuff!! Thanks for your work!!

  15. I so love the depiction of rational thought as rude noises. (I am all for rational thoughts, of course. But still.)

  16. Sara,

    Love the poem. Haven't read it before--or any other poems by Bang. Thanks for this introduction to a new poetic voice.

  17. Teaching Enthusiast, I'm glad you stopped by! There are a lot of great reactions to The Magician's Book over at GoodReads, if you're interested.

    It's really a book of literary criticism, which I admit, I read very little of. But I found all the tidbits about Lewis fascinating, even the WHOAH! not-so-nice revelations about his life. (I'm serious. Lewis has been portrayed as a saint, and he was NOT.)

    There was also a long section where Miller goes into the interaction of Lewis and Tolkien, which I thought got way too heavy on the Tolkein bio and away from the comparison with Lewis.

    But on the whole, it was like having a highly knowledgeable, extremely clever but not snooty friend to talk with about Narnia. Yes, she slices and dices and analyzes, but she doesn't forget the emotional experience of reading. I truly enjoyed it.


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