|Mother Goose illustrated by Jesse Wilcox Smith|
I've always found Mother Goose a perfect beginning point for anyone wanting to learn about writing poetry, and I don't just mean writing poetry for kids. One of my professors at the University of Washington, Rick Kenney, directed me toward Mother Goose rhymes - for their musicality, their memorability, and for their weird and wonderful and nonsensical content.
|Mother Goose illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright|
Later, as a creative writing teacher myself, I asked my students to write "new" Mother Goose rhymes, paying attention to the traditional sound a Mother Goose rhyme makes (often a jump-rope rhythm, with bizarre little tweeks and twists) but with modern content. What resulted were some of the best poems written by those students in any given semester.
|Mother Goose - Artist Unknown|
So today, in honor of Poetry Friday, I'm offering up another poem that takes Mother Goose as the baseline and plays with it in a slightly different way, abandoning the rhythms but focusing on the content and turning it inside out, or maybe pushing it sideways. I recognize Humpty Dumpty, Little Nanny Etticot, Three Blind Mice, and Rock-a-Bye Baby, but what is the poet saying about them? Full confession: I don't know what the poet is saying - it's as if a Mother Goose rhyme had been turned into a modern riddle. Or as if the nonsensical nature could be imported to a poem for adults that is equally nonsensical. I need to study it more.
|Mother Goose - Artist Unknown|
|Mother Goose illustrated by Rosemary Wells|
Here is Josephine Jacobsen's poem (from her book In the Crevice of Time) - and if you want to learn more about this wonderful poet, you can read many of her poems over at Poetry Explorer, and you can read my essay about her over at Numero Cinq magazine by clicking here.
I said in my youth
“they lie to children”
but it is not so.
Mother my goose I know
told me the truth.
I remember that treetop minute.
That was a baby is a woman now;
in a rough wind, it was a broken bough
brought down the cradle with the baby in it.
I had a dumpy friend (you would not know his name
though he indeed had several), after his fall
lay in live pieces by my garden wall
in a vain tide of epaulets and manes.
I had another friend (and you would know her name),
took up her candle on her way to bed.
She had a steady hand and a yellow head
up the tall stairway, but the chopper came.
So small they meant to run away, from sightless eyes
three mice ran toward my mind instead;
I seized the shapely knife. They fled
in scarlet haste, the blind and tailless mice.
Cock robin was three birds of a single feather.
Three times cock robin fell when a breeze blew;
eye of fly watched; arrow of sparrow flew:
three times cock robin died in the same weather.
You can check out what other people have posted this week over at Diane Mayr's wonderful blog, Random Noodling. And let's all shout hooray: It's summer, the season of full belief. Time for raspberries, ripe peaches, Rainier cherries. Time to run through some sprinklers. Time to be a little lazy in the noonday sun. And in the noonday shade.