[book review] No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood by Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast

Do you have a bossy older sibling? Wish you could eat ice cream for breakfast instead of oatmeal? Why ride the bus to school when a helicopter would be so much better?

Ah yes, life’s little injustices! If you can’t change them, may as well laugh about them.

In No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood (Orchard Books, 2016), eminent New Yorker contributors Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast serve up big helpings of funny with their poems and pictures about various and sundry everyday things that can drive kids nuts. No matter our age, we’ve all been there. Ever have a wardrobe crisis in the morning?

GETTING DRESSED

Oh, this is such a silly rule —
That people must wear pants to school.
A better rule, a wise man said,
is wear your underpants instead.

This little morning complaint is just the beginning. There are complaints about school and for the evening, too. As the title states, no fair! no fair!

Many of the 23 rib-ticklers in this collection were inspired by real-life experiences from Trillin’s children, grandchildren, and his own childhood. Young readers will giggle in recognition at the ploys used to convince one’s parents to get a pet, the earnest desire to send back a new baby brother, and horror of all horrors — sitting next to a scoocher sister who won’t stay on her side of the backseat. Grrrrrr.

She’s over the line,
she’s over the line.
She occupies space
That’s rightfully mine.

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to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

“He’s a poet. Basically he’s a poet. He does not trust his voice. He doesn’t trust his guitar playing. He doesn’t think he’s good at anything, except writing—and even then he has self-doubts. Have you heard that thing he wrote about Woody Guthrie? That to me is the sum of his life’s work so far. Whatever happens, that is it. That sums it up.” ~ Eric Clapton on Bob Dylan

Glory Be! The man has gone and done it!

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature is such a crowning achievement for our favorite song and dance man. Bob turned 75 this year and is still breaking boundaries as the only singer-songwriter to have ever been awarded this coveted prize.

Aside from my inner fangirl whooping for joy and turning cartwheels at the sheer awesomeness of the whole thing, what I’m most happy about is that perhaps this distinction will inspire the average person to broaden his/her view of what constitutes “poetry.”

A rare smile!

Poetry doesn’t have to be esoteric, elitist, abstract or inaccessible. It doesn’t have to live in slim volumes with boring covers. It can be the well crafted lyrics of anthemic compositions that capture the heartbeat of personal and social history through time.

After all, poetry began as an oral tradition, much of it meant to be performed with music. To those who find Dylan undeserving, I would ask that they throw off their cloaks of intellectual snobbery and abandon preconceptions about conventional “Literature.”

Bob with his son Jesse.

“Literature” is not limited to printed novels, plays, or short stories. Talk to me about more than five decades of enormous cultural influence, words of searing truth, crackling inventiveness. Talk to me about enlarging the possibilities of American popular music.

Take the average Joe in a grocery store check-out line. Chances are he’s never read any of the Nobel Prize winning novels, but he’s heard a Dylan song or two.

A song is a poem for everyman.

I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.

Eight years ago, the very first time I hosted Poetry Friday, I asked participants to post their favorite Dylan lyrics. I shared the 8th of Dylan’s “11 Outlined Epigraphs.” He was 22 when he wrote this in 1963:

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[review, recipe, giveaway!] Miss Muffet, or What Came After by Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield

 

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

 

Well, no. Not exactly.

There’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Curtain Up!

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🎻ACT ONE, or The Real Story 🎻

It seems nursery rhymers of yore mistook our dear Miss Muffet for a dainty scaredy-cat milquetoast without really considering:

  1. her true potential
  2. some spiders are undeniably cool
  3. the inherent power of cottage cheese.

Now, thanks to Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield, Miss Patience Muffet finally gets her props in a hilarious new picture book, Miss Muffet, or What Came After (Clarion, 2016), proving, once and for all, that where there’s a will there’s a whey.🙂

Told in sprightly verse as a rousing musical theatre production, the book features a fetching cast that includes an off-stage narrator, a chorus of three (gardener + 2 maids), Webster the spider, and nursery characters Little Bo-Peep and Old King Cole, among others. These clever players had me from their opening lines.

Narrator:

Her given name was Patience.
Her schoolmates called her Pat.
In the garden on a stool
is where one day she sat.
What do we know about her?
Just this much, if you please:
She didn’t care for spiders,
but she did love cottage cheese.

Chorus:

Cottage cheese, cottage cheese,
she eats it every day.
Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese,
she calls it curds and whey.

In December or in June,
in a bowl, with a spoon.
Cottage cheese, cottage cheese.
Very tasty (slightly pasty),
or so we’ve heard her say!

We soon learn that much to her parents’ dismay (her mother yearns for a perfect little miss and her father wishes she’d share his passion for bugs), Pat has a mind of her own.

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friday feast: Lesléa Newman’s “Ode to Chocolate” (+ recipe and giveaway winner!)

“Nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen.” ~ George Lang

Ready to take a walk on the dark side?

Slip into these luscious chocolate beauties, then gently sashay through the lines of this impassioned verse by acclaimed author, poet and editor Lesléa Newman.

Can you tell she  LOVES ♥  chocolate?

Yeah, she’s totally one of us.🙂

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ODE TO CHOCOLATE

I need a sweet, I need a treat,
I need to eat some chocolate.

Dark as wood and so damn good,
If I could, I’d live on chocolate.

Shaped like a kiss, delivers bliss,
The deep abyss of chocolate.

Just one bite, I’m up all night,
Such is the might of chocolate.

You’ll never wed me or even bed me
Until you’ve fed me chocolate.

I’m sick and sure the only cure
Is more and more pure chocolate.

The smallest bite brings huge delight,
High as a kite from chocolate.

I drink it hot, right from the pot,
Nothing hits the spot like chocolate.

A day without, I’m sure to pout
And shout out, “Give me chocolate!”

I must confess, I’m one hot mess
Unless I possess chocolate.

Without that cocoa, I go loco,
This ain’t no joke—oh chocolate!

Before I dribble, I’ll end this scribble,
I need to nibble chocolate!

~ Copyright © 2016 Lesléa Newman. All rights reserved.

Dark Chocolate Lucky Cats via Not on the High Street

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Lesléa: I was on a self-imposed week-long writing retreat, between projects, not knowing what on earth to write about. When in doubt, I always turn to poetry and when in double doubt, I frequently turn to form.

“Ode to Chocolate” is a variation on the ghazal, one of my favorite forms. The ghazal originated in Persia, and literally means “the talk of boys and girls” or sweet talk. I took the notion of “sweet talk” literally and decided to write a love poem to one of my great loves — chocolate! The form of the ghazal  uses internal rhyme and a refrain at the end of the second line of each couplet. It does not tell a story like a narrative poem, but is unified by theme.

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[book review + giveaway] Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta and Alfonso Ruano

“Like the clouds, like dreams, our children come and go. Nothing and no one can stop them.” ~ Jorge Argueta

Immigration is certainly one of the most contentious issues and complex humanitarian challenges facing our country today.

When you hear the word “immigrant,” what kind of mental image pops into your head? Do you picture a destitute Syrian refugee, an adult male attempting to smuggle drugs across the border, or maybe a stereotypical Spanish speaking person in a service-oriented job?

Often when I drive to the library I see a group of young Hispanic males waiting by the side of the road hoping to be picked up for a day’s labor paid for in cash. I wonder about where they came from, how they’re coping, whether their families are intact.

Though I often hear a lot about “undocumented immigrants,” the plight of “unaccompanied immigrant children” wasn’t something I seriously considered until I read Jorge Argueta’s new bilingual poetry book, Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds (Groundwood Books, 2016).

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