Thursday, June 16, 2005

Poetry I've enjoyed

I think my favorite poem is The Chipmunk, by Ogden Nash. I'm sure this is some sort of copyright violation, but it goes like this:

My friends all know that I am shy,
But the chipmunk is twice and shy and I.
He moves with flickering indecision
Like stripes across the television.
He's like the shadow of a cloud,
Or Emily Dickinson read aloud.
Yet his ultimate purpose is obvious, very:
To get back to his chipmonastery.

(Interestingly, as I searched the web for this poem, I found many pages on which it was incomplete, missing the last two lines, which, of course, make the poem worth its beans.)

In fact, my 10th/12th grade English teacher once told me that my writing is like a cross between Ogden Nash and Emily Dickinson. However, I don't think I 'get' what I've read of Dickinson.

I like rhymes, like the tombstone epitaphs at the Haunted Mansion:
Here lies good ol' Fred. A great big rock fell on his head.

Dear departed brother Dave, He chased a bear into a cave.

I also liked Love That Dog, but I read that as a book about poetry, rather than a book of poetry.

As long as we're talking about childrens' books, I'll say that I usually don't like the ones that rhyme. Madeline gets too singsongy to read aloud. Exceptions are certain Seuss, like Horton Hears a Who:

On the fifteenth day of May, in the jungle of Nool,
In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool,
He was splashing . . . enjoying the jungle's great joys . . .
When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.

So Horton stopped splashing. He looked toward the sound.
"That's funny," thought Horton. "There's no one around."
Then he heard it again! Just a very faint yelp.
As if some tiny person were calling for help.
"I'll help you," said Horton. "But who are you? Where?
He looked and he looked. He could see nothing there
But a small speck of dust blowing past through the air.
. . .

and Silverstein, like The Unicorn:

A long time ago when the earth was green
And there was more kinds of animals than you've ever seen,
And they run around free while the earth was bein' born
And the loveliest of all was the Unicorn.
There was green alligators and long-necked geese.
There was humpy bumpy camels and chimpanzees.
There was catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
The loveliest of all was the Unicorn.
. . .

I admit that I haven't had much experience with poetry. I think I haven't read any more than what was thrust upon me in school or by kids wanting a bedtime story. :shrug:

So it goes.


  1. I humbly submit, for your approval:


    Once there was an elephant,
    Who tried to use the telephant- -
    No! no! I mean an elephone
    Who tried to use the telephone- -
    (Dear me! I am not certain quite
    That even now I’ve got it right.)
    How ere it was, he got his trunk
    Entangled in the telephunk;
    The more he tried to get it free
    The louder buzzed the telephee- -
    (I fear I’d better drop the song
    Of elephop and telephong!)

    Laura E. Richards

    Fun, but not quite as clever as Senor Nash.

  2. Tee hee. Me likey! Thank you!

  3. E,

    I know there's some non-rhyming poems in the world that you will like. Let's experiment, shall we?

    Here's one that made me think of you.

    On Turning Ten

    The whole idea of it makes me feel
    like I'm coming down with something,
    something worse than any stomach ache
    or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
    a kind of measles of the spirit,
    a mumps of the psyche,
    a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

    You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
    but that is because you have forgotten
    the perfect simplicity of being one
    and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
    But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
    At four I was an Arabian wizard.
    I could make myself invisible
    by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
    At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

    But now I am mostly at the window
    watching the late afternoon light.
    Back then it never fell so solemnly
    against the side of my tree house,
    and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
    as it does today,
    all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

    This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
    as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
    It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
    time to turn the first big number.

    It seems only yesterday I used to believe
    there was nothing under my skin but light.
    If you cut me I could shine.
    But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
    I skin my knees. I bleed.

    -- Billy Collins

  4. Was just trying to find the complete text of Ogden Nash's Chipmunk so I don't have to type it for a Facebook post - probably about ten Web sites that lack the last couplet are all plagiarized from each other. Glad yours has it complete. I learned this poem from my high school English teacher in 1954.
    I learned Eletelephony from a grade school English book in 1947 (I was 8 years old) and memorized it because I thought it was the funniest thing I ever read in my life.