[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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friday feast: mr. cornelius eats mark strand’s poem

“I think what poetry finally does is to help us experience our world as intensely as possible.” (Mark Strand)

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Have I mentioned just how much I love this year’s National Poetry Month poster?

Featuring the first stanza of Mark Strand’s “Eating Poetry” cleverly drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, it’s the poster to top all posters. Period.

As we gear up for the official start of Poetry Month next week, we simply must don our finest bibs, polish our knives and forks, and wholeheartedly nosh on Strand’s delectable words. As he once said, “The reader has to sort of give himself over to the poem and allow the poem to inhabit him.” Ladies and Gentlemen, lick your chops!

EATING POETRY
by Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

~ from Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 1980)

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Clean, precise, surreal. Vintage Strand. A good poem produces a visceral reaction in the reader. As we internalize it, it may momentarily dally with our intellect, but ultimately it taps into our emotional core and arouses our instinctual essence, raw and animalistic. A good poem is a transformative experience.

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