Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blake-ish Poems

(original artwork by yours truly)


Instructional Poems for Young and Old 
(with a Practical Moral to Close Each Piece) 


Little Mouse so proudly sat
on kitchen table, plump and fat.
Mrs. Mouse, as mothers do,
said, “I should be so very blue
if Mr. Cat should find you there
and eat you, bone, skin, and hair.”
Little Mouse, against her fears
let her words go out his ears.
A pounce. A crunch. And then a fart:
Sometimes staying ain’t so smart.

*****

Mr. Cat asked, “Mrs. Mouse,
would you come into my house?”
Mrs. Mouse said, “Mr. Cat,
I am fine just where I’m at.”
“But look and see—it is quite nice.
A perfect place to raise some mice.
It’s warm and dry; you’ll live in style,
not like in your old woodpile.”
“All the same, I think I’ll pass”:
Sometimes staying saves your ass.

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A word about this set of poems. I actually wrote and posted them a few months ago, but since they were not linked to any online poetry groups they had maybe a dozen readers. So while they are not spankin' brand new, they are gently used and I feel justified in reposting. I think they fit what Victoria Slotto, host of tonight's Meeting At the Bar over at dVerse, is looking for. Or one can sincerely hope so.

Now, as for the literary influence, I definitely had William Blake in mind when I wrote them, specifically Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. I've spent a lot of time with Blake, and he has undoubtedly worked an influence on my own stuff. There are superficial similarities between these poems and Blake's, such as the title. And the original artwork. (For those not familiar, Blake is as well-known for his striking "illuminations" as he is for his poems. I have my doubts whether my drawing will enjoy the same appeal.) Couched within the sometimes (seemingly) simplistic poems contained in Songs, especially those in the Innocence section, Blake deals with some deeper issues of human existence. I like the way he views things from more than one perspective, and it is this aspect of Blake I was most trying to mimic. I also admit to poking fun at the moralistic poems geared toward children that were popular at the time.

All that aside, I've written what my oldest daughter calls "sad" poems the last few weeks, so it was time for some fun. But look closely--there may be a deeper message somewhere in there after all!

35 comments:

  1. Don't get me started on the farts... just kiddin'

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    1. Some cats just have no manners at all--not even an "Excuse me."

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  2. ha ha. It is a fun rhythmic piece, and even though morbid... my four year old son LOVED it. :)

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    1. a poem with "fart" is always funny.

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    2. Even little babies, too young to speak, respond with laughter to farting noises. Four year old boys--now, they can spend an entire afternoon making farting noises without tiring of it! I've a confession to make. We never grow out of it.

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  3. well I took the compost from the kitchen down the field to the big compost heap with the carpet on it to keep the moisture in and as I pulled it away.....out jumped a family ...of mice! loved this one very much!

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    1. My brush pile out back was home to a mouse family--after I burned the pile they moved to the neighbor's yard. I'm sure they appreciate that. Thanks Gerry!

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  4. Thanks for the chuckles...I agree with Margaret...a fart and saving someone's ass is good for a laugh. Liked the gentle moral in each too.

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    1. Thanks Bren--if you're going for laughs, you can't go wrong with potty humor.

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  5. Delightfully Blake-ish! I bet he would enjoy these~

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    1. Thank you, Mary. Blake was something of an oddball, so maybe he would enjoy these.

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  6. haha what a treat...these were fun and playful...and love the fart in the first...lol...and i like your morals...i guess we are left to our discernment on when we should stay...smiles.

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    1. I don't know how fun they were to read, but I did have fun writing them! Yeah, that bit about discernment--laying down an inflexible commandment for behavior ignores the complexities of life. Thanks Brian!

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  7. i like your funny-fanged cat! these poems are chipper and delightful. I second your perspective on poking fun at moralistic poems.

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    1. Thanks Jane--my drawing skills are, well, undeveloped, but I couldn't allude to Blake without some attempt!

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  8. Yes, always best to save one's "ass." How playful and fun to read, and very cleverly penned!

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  9. Yes, stay put it's the only way to save one's ass... what a wonderful little rhyme and I did so love your drawing... thanks for the fun.

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    1. I'm glad you liked them Di, thanks!

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  10. Witty and endearing while poking good fun at moralizing poetry. Very nicely done.

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    1. Thanks Anna. I probably should have given Mark Twain a nod for his influence as well--now that was a man who knew how to poke fun at moralizers!

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  11. Ha! A very funny take on songs of innocence and experience! Now you need to somehow work London into them! k.

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    1. Karin, thank you. I'll have to leave the London critique to Blake--there's plenty for me to write about right here!

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  12. such fun, nico. thanks for the smiles - very well done!

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    1. Thanks Miriam, I'm always happy when people smile.

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  13. there sure is a deeper message...and you worked it out beautifully and with a light pen...really enjoyed this...also your footnote about the bridge to blake..good stuff sir

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    1. Thank you, Claudia--this is the kind of poetry I used to write for school assignments, to the dismay of my teachers. Those are great memories!

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  14. Nico, so fun and definitely perfect for the prompt. I'm so glad you reposted it. Very nice rhyme/meter, as well. Have you thought about submitting it to a child's magazine? They love anything to do with farts!

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    1. Victoria, thanks for providing the prompt! Farts appeal to the kid in all of us.

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  15. Fun mice stories and fun poems. The allusions to Blake (unread, except a few) escape me. But I am a literary idiot. Nonetheless, I enjoyed your poems -- as I usually do. Thanx.

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    1. Thanks Sabio. Blake is a strange, strange character--he kind of created his own mythical world, and wrote a lot of obscure poetry that takes a lot of effort to interpret(probably one reason he is studied in university classes!). However, his Songs are quite accessible.

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    2. Thanx, Nico, I will remember that when I take a look.
      Allusion Poetry is one of my most unfavorite -- it is often intensionally obscure and feigning intellectualism. When it is written for a small audience that knows the allusions, that is fine. But when put out for a large audience, it seems like random violence! :-)

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    3. Poetry allusions--some people like 'em, some hate 'em. Often it depends on how much work the reader is willing to do, and this is something that changes with time constraints, frame of mind, etc. I read difficult poets the same way I read philosophy or religion, or even history--I take it slow, try to find where the writer is coming from, and look up any obscure or unknown references. Yeah, it takes time, and in the beginning cannot be said to be pleasurable, but the pleasure comes later--after understanding sinks in.

      It helps if a poet gives the reader endnotes for deeper understanding--Richard Wilbur often (but not always) does this. T. S. Eliot seldom gives his reader help, but I think he's worth the effort. Reading Milton requires a lot of reference back to Greek/Roman as well as Christian mythology. I also think he's worth the effort.

      Blake is another animal entirely. He did not make allusions to an existing mythology/literature--he invented his OWN mythology, so there is no other source for research but his own work. W. B. Yeats did something similar. Not everyone appreciates having to work so hard for pleasure!

      On the other hand, you have poets such as Kooser, Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, etc. writing in a very accessible style, somehow managing to plumb great depths but in such a plain-spoken manner it appeals to a wider audience. I like the more difficult poets, but I like these poets better--in fact, it is a lofty kind of genius that can make something difficult look so easy!

      Sorry to go on about this stuff, but it really is something I enjoy!

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