Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Rosetta Stone

Thanks to my brother, Robert, I just got hold of a long lost lynchpin of my childhood: Shrieks at Midnight: Macabre Poems, Eerie and Humorous, as selected by Sara and John E. Brewton and illustrated by Ellen Raskin.



He and I each had this book checked out from the Elmwood Elementary School library for ages. Unwrapping the package this morning I recognized the cover immediately and started flipping through it. It's great to have that sense of finding a long lost friend; better yet that it is still fun to read.

Algy saw a bear;
The bear saw Algy.
The bear had a bulge;
The bulge was Algy.

I first read Dorothy Parker between its orange covers (her classic suicide lament "Résumé"), and it was probably also my first exposure to Edward Lear. Who can say the profound effects it had on my developing subconscious?

Little Katy wandered where
She espied a grizzly bear;
Noticing his savage wrath,
Katy kicked him from her path.

Little Katy, darling child,
Met a leopard, fierce and wild;
Ere the ugly creature sped off,
Little Katy bit his head off.

So many of the poems (like the above) lack an attribution. But there are also many well known authors who turn, at least occasionally, to the macabre:

WAKE

Tell all my mourners
To mourn in red --
Cause there ain't no sense
In my bein' dead.

-- Langston Hughes

Thank you, Robert!

2 comments:

K. A. Laity said...

Will wonders never cease? I got the following email from Perilous Cheryl (she of the New England Anomaly):

Kate,

Remember my rant against poetry?

Remember I said, macabre poetry that rhymes is the only poetry I like?

Why?

SHRIEKS AT MIDNIGHT!!! That's why!

This was THE number one book I repeatedly borrowed from the library as a kid. I LOVED this book...

And Joey Zone, my beloved hubby, got an old used library copy (courtesy of Denise Dixson) and gave it to me last year. And guess where it was discarded from? The Houston, TX Public Library!

Is "Shrieks At Midnight" the Holy Grail of poetry or what???!!!!

WHA-HOO!!!!

Cheryl

"Weirdness is in your own backyard."
The New England Anomaly ==> http://www.newenglandanomaly.com

K. A. Laity said...

I should mention the note Robert included in the book:

"CAUTION! CUIDADO!
Read instructions before opening!

Instructions:
Pour glass o' wine, sit down, open, enjoy."

Tee hee -- enjoy it I did.