Saturday, May 7, 2011

J Desk: Poems from Beyond

It's been a busy week, and because I'd promised myself blogging would never come before writing, I haven't been able to check in here. But before we're too far past National Poetry Month, I wanted to mention a couple of poetry-related things.

First I did find a poem for Poem in Your Pocket Day. Actually it was given to me by a library colleague, Karen Rose. It's a neat excerpt from a rap song she wrote:

I've got poems in my pocket
And sand in my shoes
And I wanted you to know
I could rhyme if I choose.

I wrote it on a slip of note paper and slid it into my shirt pocket. The actual day was frantic (like so many of them) and I never worked the presence of the poem into a conversation. But I was prepared. Thanks, Karen!

I also wanted to mention a few books of children's verse from the library shelves that might tickle the feathers of science fiction and fantasy fans.

Imaginary Menagerie by Julie Larios is a beautiful book of short poems about fantastic creatures. Familiar entries like the centaur and dragon are here, but there's also the firebird, the naga, and the will o'the wisp. Here's a bit from the poem on hobgoblins:

They spit and they polish and putter and shine.
And while they work, you can hear them mutter --
All mine! All mine!
The vivid illustrations by Julie Paschkis are great, like an Art Deco take on medieval Celtic manuscript illuminations. This is a fairly short book but a lot of fun to flip through.

Zombies! Evacuate the School! by Sara Holbrook, colorfully illustrated by Karen Sandstrom, is both a book of poetry and a how-to book on writing, where every piece gets sidebars about what's going on in the poem and what techniques the writer is using. As an introduction to verse-writing, or any creative writing, it seems like it would work well, and be lots more fun than many other options. The only drawback this geek sees is that most of the poems actually aren't about zombies, but instead are about the ordinary ups-and-downs of being a kid. Oh, well. It's still worth a shamble down to the library or bookstore to take a look.

Jack Prelutsky is known for children's verse, and sometimes downright bizarre children's verse (witness The Wizard and Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant) and he takes his talents to the stars in The Swamps of Sleethe: Poems from Beyond the Solar System. Sort of like Clark Ashton Smith for grade schoolers, this award-winning book takes you to places where unfortunate explorers have gone before, like cold Drifig Prime where you can expect to freeze solid, or Wonthoo whose waters shrink you to into nothingness, or the world of the title with its all-devouring "mucid horrords." My inner child (a young man of occasionally morbid disposition) thrilled to visions of Lonithor with its demon birds --

They soar above their planet
On perennial patrol --
To feast on otherworlders
Is their all-consuming goal.

-- and Ogdofod with its monopods --

The monopods of Ogdofod
Will snare you in their nets,
Then process you and package you
To feed their hungry pets.

-- and Fesstor of the deadly forests --

Every bush, every bud, every blossom
Is filled with malevolent will.
The prettiest mosses may poison,
The loveliest lichens may kill.

As you might have noticed some of the planet names are anagrams, which gives space explorers a diverting puzzle or two before they are devoured by the Bugs of Gub or dissolved into nothingness on Theentor. Jimmy Pickering's artwork has an appropriately colorful and pulpy look.

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