friday feast: the biting humor of why do i chase thee by jessica swaim and chet phillips

“He who chases his own tail has a full circle moment.” ~ Issa Shih Tzu


I’ve got my nose in the best book!

Why Do I Chase Thee: Classic Poetry for Dogs from Elizabeth Basset Browning and Other Canine Masters by Jessica Swaim and Chet Phillips is tail-waggin’ brilliant and totally blows my ears back. Can you dig it?

Finally, finally, dogs have their day and their say. For far too long, silly humans have discounted their random bow wows, arfs, woofs, yips, and yaps. Here’s proof that some of these mutts were actually sniffing out sonnets and licking limericks with the best of them.

Make no bones about it, this snappy little volume features sixteen of the most celebrated poetic pooches of all time, including four-time Poolitzer Prize winner Rover Frost, iambic puptameter whizzard William Shakespaw, haiku master Issa Shih Tzu, and the somewhat repentant Dogden Dash, who knows just what to do with a rhymed puplet:


Judging by their ankles, here’s my educated guess:
The FedEx man tastes better than the guy from UPS.

Friends, Rovers, Country dogs, lend me your ears.

Now, I’ve enjoyed Jessica’s children’s books all along (remember when she came to the 2011 Poetry Potluck with spooky “I-Scream”?), but I had NO IDEA she was so wickedly funny. We’re talkin’ supremely clever laugh-out-loud parodies of well-known poems with devilishly delicious diction, taking spoofdom to new howling heights.

Since her rapier wit is on full tilt throughout, it’s impossible to pick favorites, but consider Emily Doginson’s “Skunk is the Thing with Stink Bombs,” Edgar Allan Pug’s “The Maven” (ouch!), Rover Frost’s “Sizing Up Shoes on a Soulful Evening,” and Droolin’ Thomas’s “Do Not Annoy Me with Your Constant Yap.” She had me at the titles, and even the bios of the poets spayed slayed me.

Emily Doginson

Emily Doginson, a skittish saluki mix, loved to spy on passersby from the front window of her family’s luxurious digs in Scramherst, Massachusetts. When visitors rang the doorbell, shy Emily retreated to her crate, refusing to emerge except for choice bits of chopped liver. Paper-trained from an early age, she wrote copious letters to the world, most of which were returned for insufficient postage. Ultimately, she selected her own society, then shut the doggy door.

Today, three of Jessica’s hounds of renown are here to bark to the beat. Sit, stay, and put your paws together for William Shakespaw, William Corgi Williams, and P. P. Cummings (a dalmation with ever so spotty punctuation). Chow down!

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All literary portraits ©2014 Chet Phillips



Shall I compare thee to a steak fillet?
Thou art more flaccid and more apt to spoil;
Fat cows do graze on sweet alfalfa hay,
And nibble grass from rich organic soil,
Perchance with tender offspring at their sides;
They roam the range and breathe the freshen’d air,
Ere men with ill intent do smite their hides,
Then cook their flesh, well done or medium rare;
But thy aquatic diet makes thee frail,
From pucker’d lip to piteous dorsal fin,
With naught but bones betwixt thy head and tail,
And Death’s cold kiss upon thy scaly skin;
So long as men may stoop to fill my dish,
I pray for steak, not thee, O slimy fish.


*   *   *




I have gobbled
the bratwurst
you left on
the counter,

the fries,
the kosher pickle,
and two-ply

then threw them
all up
on the new rug
in the foyer.

Forgive me,
but was white
a wise
choice of colors?



so much depends

a red fire

in the sun

beside the relieved


*   *   *




anydog lived in a bowwow house
with schnoodle guinea pig lovebird mouse
lick by muzzle and twitch by dream
he sniffed his fluffies he whizzed his stream

schnoodle and anydog scruffyandspot
trotted one day to a vacant lot
fetch by frisbee and toy by squeak
they ran their zoomies they growled their speak.

anydog strayed to a hot wire fence
(lift leg aim fire dumb by dense)
anydog’s Winkie most magical thing
yip yap howl yowl zip zap zing


*   *   *


WHY DO I CHASE THEE: Classic Poetry for Dogs from Elizabeth Basset Browning and Other Canine Masters
written by Jessica Swaim
illustrated by Chet Phillips
published by Gibbs Smith, March 2014
Humorous Poetry for cultured canines and unleashed humans, high school age and up, 88pp.

“The book is aimed at the discriminating dog, the well-read dog owner, and anybody with twelve bucks to spare.” (Jeb’s DogBlog)


Enjoy the official book trailer, where Jessica reads the title  poem:

*   *   *

Mr Cornelius and the Weiner Rhymer



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poetryfriday180Kara is hosting today’s Roundup at Rogue Anthropologist. Flee your kennel and race over to sniff out the poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere. Go fetch!


*Literary Dog Portraits from Why Do I Chase Thee posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2014 Jessica Swaim, illustrations © 2014 Chet Phillips, published by Gibbs Smith. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

70 thoughts on “friday feast: the biting humor of why do i chase thee by jessica swaim and chet phillips

    1. Did you mean I picked a winner or a weiner? 😀 We now have a plate of dog face cookies without ears, thanks to Cornelius.


  1. Oh Jama how wag we compare flea to a summer’s play! That is awesome. I can’t wait to read it.


  2. Jama — your post and this book had me laughing this morning. Our resident pooch, Sam, approves mightily of Julius Schnauzer.

    To quote William Shakespaw:

    Why, dog, he doth bestride the narrow tree
    Like a Great Dane; and we house pets
    walk under his huge legs


  3. Sammy, Stella and I echo your Ahhrrroooo! I have my very own copy of this book and it is fabulous indeed. Jessica is a friend from my Colorado days, and she is such a brilliant and witty poet. Combine that with her love of dogs — magic! And Chet Phillips’ illustrations are a perfect match. Thanks for the treat!


    1. Her love of dogs definitely shines through. It was fabulous to see Jessica’s wit and talent spotlighted this way. I was also happy to find out about Chet Phillips’ very cool work.


    1. The kids have to be old enough to know the classic poems to really understand the humor — hence, the suggested age of high school and up recommendation.


  4. Oh this post had me howling like my dearly departed beagle, especially: “forgive me, but was white a wise choice of colors?” And the Shakespaw titles! What a hoot.


    1. That same line from the WCW poem gets me every time. It’s such a surprise, even though I’ve read the poem over and over. Proof of how genius it is. Love those Shakespaw titles too. “As You Lick It” sounds especially tempting . . . 🙂


  5. Jama,
    I ALWAYS love coming to visit, Thanks for the tea and cookies. I always learn something new and fun when I come to visit. Thanks for the good time.


  6. THis looks wonderful–Taming of the Schnoodle? Hahahaha! Going to go look for this now. Thanks, Jama, and congrats, Jessica. (I LOVE Scarum Fair, which definitely shows some of her humor!)


  7. This little book is Jessica in full bark! I knew my dear friend had bit the postman when I read her very first iteration of Edgar Allan Pug’s “The Maven!” Every college prep poetry teacher could take poetry to new heights of interest with this precocious book! And as others have said, it just outright makes you howl! You go Jeb! You’ve done it! My two corgis LOVE it! However my cat Mr Claus is asking for a cat sequel, SOON! Thanks Jama for a great review and blog site!


    1. Hah — lucky you with your inside tidy scoop on “Jeb.” A cat sequel would be faboo! I can totally see high school kids eating this up. Thanks for arfing with us today, Cath. 🙂


  8. The comments are nearly as funny as Jessica’s own humor, Jama. Every one is worthy of a huge laugh. I know that many, many students will adore this, as I will too. A must! Also love the Weiner Rhymer! Ha! My tail is wagging!


    1. These poems are great read alouds for high school kids. Nice to see your tail wagging . . . and are you panting as well? 😀


  9. Wow! Or should I say bowwow?! My day started off with a lovely email from Jama, which made me cry, then I read her review, which made me smile and sob at the same time, and just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any better, I find this hilarious tea party in progress, with the best guests imaginable! Iza, JoAnn, Laura, Linda Ashman, I have cherished your books and shared them with lots of storytime kids when I worked at the library, and I am so honored by your delight in my little book. Cath, my best bud since pre-kindergarten days who NEVER reads blogs, I should have known would show up here because that’s the kind of friend she is. And new friends, with beagles and schnauzers even, I am so pleased to meet. Linda Baie, you are quite right, the comments are rip-snortin’ fun (hmm, Jama, what did you put in those weiner rhymers?). “To beagle or not to beagle” is priceless — wish I’d thought of that! Here’s to dogs, to poetry, and to all of you!


    1. Thanks again for writing this supremely funny book, Jessica. Cath’s comment was a riot — sounds like you grew up with funny friends :).

      As for the weiner rhymer, you’ll have to ask Cornelius for his secret recipe.


      1. And thank you again, Jama, for shining such a bright spotlight on my book!
        Yes, Cath has a delicious sense of humor. My parents also were very funny people who loved life and loved to laugh. Make no bones about it: I was and am a very lucky dog. Wishing you a cookie-filled weekend.


  10. Oh. My. Gosh. Brilliant. Thank you, Jama, for the generous peek into this poetic dog park, and thanks to Jessica and Chet for the new entry on my MUST HAVE list!
    (& Love Mr. Cornelius’s Weiner Rhymer – hilarious!)


    1. Thank you, Robyn! So happy you “must have”. And yes, isn’t Jama generous in every way with her “peeks”? Mr. Cornelius’s weiner rhymer is so adorable, it made me burst into tears!


  11. Delightful! I was going to name a favorite (William Corgi Williams? No, Emily Doginson…no, it would be … Oh, I can’t name a favorite. Great stuff! Thanks, as always, Jama!


    1. It’s definitely impossible to pick a favorite. No need to, though — just enjoy all the poems, then go back for another bite or two or three. 🙂


  12. Oh my, I HAVE to get my paws, uh I mean, hands on this book! My pooch, Smidgey, will appreciate it from cover to cover. Another fabulous post, Jama. Woof! = )


    1. Sorry to hear you were bitten once — but I’m sure you know none of us here is suggesting that such a bite would be funny. We are celebrating the brilliant humor of the poetry. 🙂


  13. This is wonderful, Jama!!! Thank you so much for sharing this with us–what a fabulous idea!


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