Monday, March 3, 2014

Inspiration Monday: Dr. Seuss

Yesterday was the 110th birthday of the late great Dr. Seuss, who is another obvious source of inspiration for many of the poems in my book. Like most kids I would assume, his pictures, rhymes and rhythms were among my first introductions to books in general as a wee lad...and now in the past few years with my own kids, I have been re-introduced to him again with fresh eyes. Even more recently I have researched closer into his life, career, and taken a closer look at works of his that I missed when I was younger.

The rhythm inherent in reading his books out loud with my kids have given me great inspiration for some of the poems I've been writing. One of the advantages that Seuss always had with his work, however, was that he built up such a fantasy world of his own, that if he couldn't find a word that rhymed with something, he could always just make one up!

In addition to his rhyming books though, another fantastic discovery has been re-visiting some of his earlier works which were written in prose, as straight-forward stories. In particular, The King's Stilts and Bartholomew and the Oobleck. I remember having these books in my family's home collection from when I was a kid, though I had very little memory of the stories themselves, until I picked up copies recently from a used-book store downtown.

The King's Stilts is a brilliant story about a kingdom surrounded by water, and the only thing keeping them from drowning is a protective perimeter of dike tress. These trees, however, are fed upon by giant birds called nizzards, and the king's army of patrol cats works day and night to keep the nizzards at bay. The king works all day watching over the trees and cats to keep his kingdom safe, and then at the end of his day, delights in playing around town on his giant stilts. The plot thickens when the stingy Lord Droon steals the king's stilts, which drives the king into a depression so deep he cannot focus on keeping his kingdom safe....the patrol cats become lazy and fat, the trees begin to spring leaks, and it is up to a young page boy to save the kingdom. It's a brilliant story with a fantastic climax that would make an amazing movie...although I'm kind of glad this rare book is off the radar enough to be safe from another degrading Seuss-film-adaptation.

Bartholomew and the Oobleck is probably my favorite, and I love reading this one to my kids, complete with voices for the various characters. Also a tale about a king and his page boy, this one concerns King Derwin and his desire to have something new fall from the sky besides fog, rain, snow and sunshine. He consults his royal magicians, and through the only rhyming verse used in the book, they concoct a spell which causes a green gooey substance called oobleck to fall from the sky. The results are disastrous, and once again it's up to the page boy to talk some sense into the king and save the kingdom. It is a wonderfully-paced, fantastically-illustrated tale of redemption and grace, and would also make a great movie (but still works better-than-fine as a book).

The inspiration from these rare early Seuss works continues to carry me forward, directly inspiring a few specific poems for my book (which will most likely be featured on this blog at some point), and quite likely fueling other future stories & projects which haven't been born yet.

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