Friday, May 20, 2011

Poetry Friday: Cosmic and E.E. Cummings

Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, opens with a boy in a rocket ship, far above the Earth---and it's not science fiction. Not really. It's contemporary, with a solidly classic feel to the prose. My far-too short Goodreads commentary was: "Oh, yes, it's cosmic: a book with a totally believable voice and a wildly unbelievable plot.  And it doesn't leave you feeling like you ate cotton candy.  Wise and funny and wonderful." 

I should've also said that it gave me the same feeling as E.E. Cummings's poem, "anyone lived in a pretty how town."

My first meeting with Cummings was in English class, in a hard-edged desk, with a worn anthology open in front of me.  We were supposed to be bored. We were supposed to be cajoled into loving this stuff. We were supposed to not want to dance when we read these words:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

What the what? My brain spun. I flipped the words around on my tongue like those ubiquitous Pop Rocks that were popular in the 70s.

And there was more.

Of course, we had to discuss the poet's unconventional use of punctuation, syntax and grammar, etc., etc. What the what, in other words. (Later I learned that he was influenced by Picasso's cubism, which makes complete sense.) But why the why---that's what I wondered. Why couldn't we sing like this all the time?

In Cosmic, the boy hero doesn't "down forget as up he grows." And up he does grow, prematurely, so that everyone mistakes him for an adult. Which puts him in some intensely sticky situations, like on a rocket bound for the moon as the one responsible "dad" overseeing a group of kid astronauts. (I told you it was unbelievable.)

I'm not sure why the why I delight in the otherworldly---and the other-wordy, like E.E.'s poems. I'm just grateful nothing has to be as it seems at first glance. That our pretty how towns can be mundane and extraordinary at the same time. That poetry and classic kids book share much in common----mostly, a belief in the cosmic.  

Julie at The Drift Record has the Poetry Friday roundup today.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Poetry Friday: Found

Yesterday, I spent an hour writing letters to three of my readers. One wrote me about Operation Yes (and quizzed me about my life); two wrote me about Letters From Rapunzel (each with a drawing---one on a custom bookmark with my face in a tower, and the other, a fabulous portrait of Rapunzel with bangs. Because, as the writer explained, of course she would get bored and "experiment" with her hair.)

I answered all of them on plain notebook paper. Notebook paper helps me remember how much fun it was to steal a moment of class time to create a story, something I did a lot of in high school. I also need the lines, because my handwriting has always been of "C" quality (or below.) I save the letters to answer in batches of three to six at a time, because I find it takes the right frame of mind to deliver a response that's both kind and personal and informative--- and once I'm in the zone, I don't want to quit.

If I received more fan mail than I do, I could never keep up. Or afford to relish it. But I don't, so I do---relish it, love it, honor it. I always tell the senders that I appreciate and save their letters, and I hope they save mine. I doubt that one day, a letter I've written will show up on a blog like Letters of Note. But I try to remember that letters change lives. Letters give hope. Letters are a small way of listening to one another.

So, for today's Poetry Friday, I'm featuring a found poem, adapted from a letter sent by E.B. White to the children of Troy, Michigan, to congratulate them on their new public library. I think he knew his letter was more than a formality, or a publicity stunt. It was one alive person speaking to another alive person: I'm here! Find me!

Hide and Seek

A library is a good place to go
when you feel unhappy,
for there, in a book,
you may find encouragement
and comfort.

A library is a good place to go
when you feel bewildered,
for there, in a book,
you may have your question

Books are company,
in sad times and happy times,
for books are people---
people who have managed to stay alive
by hiding between the covers of a book.

You can read more letters to the kids at the library, from authors such as Dr. Seuss, here, at Letters of Note.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Terry at Family Bookshelf (formerly Scrub-a-Dub-Tub)