This is the kind of book that I wish was not just hanging out in the children's book ghetto. I complain a lot, and loudly, about the books I endure at bedtime - although there are many, many good ones out there, do not get me wrong. Kids tastes are weird though, and they do not necessarily freak out on the things I find enjoyable. This one happily hit some kind of spot for all of us, and that is a wonderful thing.
Adults do not read poetry much anymore. There are many reasons for this, and not all of them are because people are stupid. Some of the reasons have to do with boring historical/cultural reasons for how we read, what we read, the places where poetry is taking place. Younger Ceridwen worked on a degree in poetry, although much of her knowledge is now occult to Older Ceridwen. She would probably drone about the rise of Romanticism and the ascendancy of literary poetry in the 19th Century, and then how Modernism broke this with the break of form and so much else. Younger Ceridwen should probably shut up though. Older Ceridwen will only note that form and rhyme and all of those things we associate with traditional poetry takes place in the nursery, and always has. It is play with language, a pattycake game that has parent mirroring child, and child parent; spitting out words by rote that create a connection in the slap of hands and the transmission of language from one person to another. Honest to God, it makes me tear up.
Anyway, Older Ceridwen is now getting maudlin. In this book, we encounter a new form of poetry, the reverso. The reverso is a poem that is to be read down and then up, not reversed exactly in word order but in line breaks. Allowances for changes in punctuation - which also makes me freak out - are made, but the words do not change. An example:
it's true --
the only view?
If you believe that,
if you believe that
the only view
It pisses me off that I cannot figure out how to format this poem as a side-by-side text here in the review box, but there you are. The poems in this collections are all about fairy tales, ones that you have heard before, and many of them blow my mind. (You should probably check out Elizabeth Bird's review
- she does a really nice job of talking about this collection more closely.)
There are many ways to evaluate poetry, but one of the best and truest metrics I think exists is if the poems make you want to create poetry yourself. I did try my hand at the reverso, but it is wicked hard, and so far everything is painful and torn up. You should try it too; it is superfun.
I am going to be a jerk and knock off a star because I do not like these illustrations, and the titling font makes me insane. I still earnestly recommend this book to people with kiddies. My kids really enjoyed the word play, and so did I, and that is not always the way of it. And for those of you without kiddies, pick up your pen and start writing. The reverso is a great new form.