Friday, July 27

Poetry Friday: There's a little ambiguity over there among the bluebells

and other theater poems
by Ruth Krauss
Something Else Press 1968

First you put an image in your head of Ruth Krauss, author of children's classics The Carrot Seed and Open House for Butterflies. Now you paint a picture in your mind of the late 1960's with hippies performing experimental theatre. Superimpose those two images and you get this odd collection of poetic playlets.

Clearly some of these are merely poems that play with the mind's abilities to imagine their execution on the stage but if the jacket copy is to be believed some of them were actually performed. Some of the work in this collection eventually made it out in other "mainstream" collections but I treasure stumbling on this for-a-quarter-at-a-library-sale score (library sales are made of awesome!) and it's always good for a quick cheering-up, especially when I didn't realize I needed cheering up.

There's a little ambiguity over there
among the bluebells

What a poet wants is a lake in the middle
of his sentence
(a lake appears)

yes and a valid pumpkin
(a pumpkin appears)

and you should slice up language like a
meatcutter abba dabba dabba dabba yack
(sliced up language appears)

It's fine we have inhibitions
otherwise we'd all be dead
(all drop dead)

or flat on our backs
(all roll over onto backs)

yes and everyone on rollerskates in bed
(everyone on rollerskates in bed appears)

and a delayed verb

and an old upright piano
(an old upright piano appears)

(all bow together to the audience and then to each other)

goes to the piano and begins to play
(everyone dances)

It's funny what context can do. With only the slightest of changes and a few more "acts" this could easily play out as a picture book text, or as-is in one of her collections of smaller poetic musings with tiny spot illustrations by Sendak. But on a stage in front of adults, well, things look a little different. What makes a pumpkin valid, and is it a real piano that appears or an actor representing a piano? Conceptual theatre indeed.

Bonus time!

I'm including another poem from the collection that speaks directly to the combination of children's literature and theatre.

Winnie-The-Pooh and William Shakespeare

Winnie: How sweet to be a cloud

WS: when daisies pied and violets

Winnie: floating in the blue

WS: and lady-smocks all silver-white
and cuckoo-buds of yellow hue

Winnie: Iniquum fatum fatu

WS: Cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo

Winnie: every little cloud
always sings aloud
it makes him very proud

WS: on every tree for thus sings he

Winnie: Winnie Ille Pu
Winnie Ille Pu

Together: Ecce Pu Ecce Pu
it makes him very proud
cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo
to paint the meadows with delight
to be a little cloud
Ah, the Bear and the Bard.


Sara said...

No chance at all that the library sale had two copies of this book???

I need this. The Bear and the Bard meet. A valid pumpkin. This is why people think poets are weird. And why I so love the weirdness.

david elzey said...

Sorry, Sara, there was only the one. I would have snatched up more if they had them, so wonderfully strange!

Anonymous said...

I'm late in getting to this but am so glad I did eventually see it. Wow. Gonna have to find a copy one day.