Monday, June 26, 2017

P Is For Portmanteau

We now have a lesson plan to go along with Atrocious Poems A To Z and several schools, church groups, and literaacy organizations are interested already. It's extremely gratifying to to know people are enjoying the book and think of it as a learning tool. P Is For Portmanteau was one of my favorite poems to write for the book. 

Illustration By Jenny Mathews
P Is For Portmanteau

In the end, I needed to simplify this poem quite a bit because my original conception was far too ambitious. I wanted to combine elements of portmanteau and chimera in a poem that would take place at a zoo. It was far too much for the 12-15 lines I had allotted myself, but I had it up on my wall for over five years trying to force it into existence. In the end just not biting off more than I could chew was the solution. Jenny came up with the portmanteus she illustrated on the stairs. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

E Is For Eye Patch

I'm one of those people who has never been able to fully enjoy a 3d movie. I just never got the full effect, and even if I did, I wasn't entirely impressed, but I always wondered what it would be like to be a kid wearing an eye patch at a 3d movie. So I tried to incorporate that sense of wondering into a poem about eye rhymes. Two fruit bats with one chiclet, so to speak.

For some reason I spent more time on this poem than any other in the book. I think because originally I had a much grander vision of what the poem would entail. In the end I just had to stick with the central image I was trying to convey of a child at a 3d movie unable to enjoy the full effect while everyone around her was completely transfixed. Of course Jenny got it right away and did her usual bang up job of conveying even more than I was able to in my poem.

Illustration by Jenny Mathews

I think some of the more complex poems like this one in the book make me feel much better about writing about dog poop and urine because it gives children a sense that in poetry one is free to explore many different levels of subject matter, from absolute nonsense to deep, philosophical quandaries, like in the W poem. Everything is fair game. Wherever your mind might wander, and all aspects of the human experience are worthy of poetry. 

D Is For Dog Poop

D Is For Dog Poop

I don't think it would be a gross exaggeration if I told you one of the proudest moments of my poetry career was being asked to write my poem about dog poop from my new book Atrocious Poems A To Z on the walls of the Rockford Art Museum, then getting local morning show anchor Andy Gannon to read from my dog poop poem live on the air. We don't get paid much as poets so we must take our secret pleasures where we can. Sort of gather our leavings where we may, so to speak.

Although I made sincere attempts to teach some heavy literary lessons about form, meter, and literary device in the book, D Is For Dog Poop is not one of those cases. It is an unabashed cry for attention.

Illustration by Jenny Mathews

As Willy Wonka says in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

The expression on the face of the dog is a great touch by illustrator Jenny Mathews here. 

I'd like to go on to describe the complexity of this poem and its literary merits, but it's a poem about dog poop.

See why Paul can't stop eating his crayons
See why it's hard to watch a 3d movie with an Eye Patch 

Monday, June 19, 2017

C Is For Crayons

Who hasn't eaten a crayon?

Why make them so tantalizing, and give them such tempting names, if they're off limits for eating?

In my grade school we had one of the world class crayon eaters... Paul Drake. I name him here because he has no reason to feel shame. In fact, in my childhood, he became a legendary figure by eating his entire box of crayons over a week at Mary Morgan GRade School. And he had the big 64 crayon box with the sharpener. 

I used to go over to his house sometimes because we had the same walking route home, and he'd fry sugar in a frying pan and we'd eat it then watch Speed Racer. 

Illustration by Jenny Mathews
I think this poem is a Triolet. But really it's about the age-old tradition of taking a bite out of one of your Crayons. It's really just another right of passage every child must experience for him or herself.

When I got to the Rockford Art Museum and they wanted me to write my poems on the wall next to Jenny's illustrations I thought of this poem first and suggested doing it in several different colors. The curator was all about the idea so I drove out to the art suppy store and bought a bunch of different colors of markers. It took three days to do all 26 poems, and I was sore all over because there really aren't many corresponding situations in life where one uses the muscle groups one does writing on the wall of a museum about groovy things like crayon eating.

Atrocious Poems A To Z is a book I began as a class project in the 5th grade, and procrastinated on so long I ended up writing the first draft over the weekend. Almost forty years later I got this idea when they demolished the grade school that I went to that I shoudl finish it. 

One thing I tried to do in the book was work in various forms, meters, and rhyme schemes to give young readers a broad range of poetic approaches to be exposed to. 

If anyone would be willing to write a review on Amazon I can send a PDF review copy of the book. 

B Is For Bullies

In my new book Atrocious Poems A To Z I wanted to address a phenomenon I coined called "parental amnesia." I believe it stems from adults selectively minimizing the traumas of childhood because they have been repressed or replaced with adult stresses, which may seem far more serious than what children go through. We forget how hard it was being a child. In the book my original concept was also to poke fun at those things children were taking too seriously, like haircuts, ir immunizations, that we know as adults we all survive. But as I worked on the book, and watched my own children go through their day to day battles with stress and anxiety, I started to realize these aren't always dilemmas to be taken lightly. 

The first panel Jenny and I worked on was about asparagus. I intended for the rest of the book to be light-hearted as well, but I couldn't help harkening back to my own childhood, and how on a daily basis I might deal with bullies, loneliness, and a dozen other anxiety provoking stressers that weren't funny at all. So, it became my goal in the book to write about these topics in such a way that parents might even be able to bring them up and discuss them with children. Of course Jenny's illustrations are invaluable in offering a counterpoint to my words so when the words are offering one perspective the images can be offering an even deeper or more nuanced one. 

B Is For Bullies Illustration by Jenny Mathews From Atrocious 
Poems A To Z

For instance, in this particular panel I think my poem is a little weak, but Jenny has enhanced it with a complex illustration. She explained to me that girls can bully in quite different ways than boys do. Much more subtle. They can be doing it right in the open and it is difficult to tell. In this illustration she asked me which girl is the bully, and I had to admit I couldn't decicde which one was. And that was her point. This is one of the benefits of having one of the most sought after illustrators in the Midwest sitting at the next next.

I just went through the effort of download PAINT.NET so I could send myself all 26 illustrations from Jenny's computer while she and the kids are camping with grandpa in Rhinelander, home of the Hodag, and since this is the first time I have JPEGs of the panels I'm going to post them here at Outsider Poetry and break one of the rules of creating by talking about them and the process. 

I hope you'll be interested enough to read a few of the blog entries, and if the poems and illustrations win you over, maybe you'll go ahead and buy the book

On to C is for Crayons 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Atrocious Poems A To Z Makes Me the Leading Dadaist of the 21st Century

I know, I know, like 97% of Americans at this point, you too have written a children's book. And like 68% of Americans, you've published it, too. But like 0% of everyone else mine is on the walls of a major American museum. 

My book, Atrocious Poems A To Z debuted in a show titled Bittersweet Observations at the Rockford Art Museum last night, and I want to say that's pretty much a huge deal. 

Here are children writing on Zombie Logic Press typewriters in front of the 26 panels from the book.

They also let me write my poem about urination on the wall. 

I'm not sure if any other poets in America have ever been able to accomplish this task. Here's the poem I am writing on the wall in this picture.


U is for urination,
With boys and girls
There is a variation.
Boys pee, it seems,
Comes out in streams,
But often misses its
While girls, we all know,
When they have to go,
Deliver theirs' with
Grace and precision.

It is unquestionably true that with the opening of this exhibit I must now be considered the foremost Dadaist of the 21st century. 

Both local papers have described the how as a roaring success. Not only have I given them poop and urine, and I've made them like it. 

You can now buy the book Atrocious Poems A To Z at Amazon