Children’s poetry is not so fashionable these days… but I love it. In 2004, I wrote my Honours Thesis on Edward Lear, and recently revived and expanded my research as a two-part celebration for the 170th anniversary of the publication of A Book of Nonsense (here and here).
On Sunday 23rd of July 2017, I had the honour of talking with Lish Fejer of ABC Radio Canberra about Lear’s life and work. You can listen to the full interview here.
In honour of the Great Lear, here are a few of my own poems for children. Hopefully they will join my collection of other poems in a published volume some day soon!
The Snowbird & The Fox
“Hello, Snowbird,” said the Fox, “where have been, my dear?”
“I’ve been learning martial arts,” she smiled. “To tear you ear from ear.”
“But without my ears,” grinned Fox, “I cannot hear you, darling thing!
And besides … I know you love that I adore to hear you sing.”
“Don’t push it,” Snowbird snapped, “Or I will clear your gums of teeth,
And use your fur to stitch you up a dainty funeral wreath!
Your organs I will send post-haste to save some hunter’s life,
And your bloodied head I’ll mail to Anne, the taxidermist’s wife!”
“A charming thought,” the Fox replied. “Who doesn’t like real fur?
And to have you at my funeral will make death worthwhile, I’m sure!
To save another life has been this Fox’s lifelong dream,
And another one has been to make Mad Annie scream!”
“What’s that noise?” Fox cried. “Oh, don’t you pull that trick on me!”
“No look!” cried Fox. “There’s someone hiding just behind that tree!”
The Snowbird gasped, behind the tree the Huntsman and his hound,
“Well done, my girl!” the Huntsman growled. “This is a catch you’ve found!”
Augusta barked, the Huntsman aimed, his antique rifle clapped,
And Snowbird screamed as Fox collapsed, his neck – it seems – had snapped,
“That Fox,” the Huntsman cussed, “the darndest thing I’ve seen or heard,
Unless my eyes deceive me, took a bullet for that bird!”
The Snowbird did not waste more time; she knew the thing to do;
And, bowing to the fallen Fox, unleashed her new kung fu!
The Spinning Golden Dragon-Kick, the Shanghai Murder Fist,
Connected with the Huntsman’s head, and never Snowbird missed,
Augusta, yelping, ran away, the Huntsman’s fight was ended,
But the Snowbird kept on kicking him, until he had surrendered!
“To have had you at my funeral, would have made my death worthwhile,
But it’s when I’m still alive that I can most enjoy your smile…”
The Fox thus spoke, alive, but weak, the bullet had been stuck,
Inside a box of chocolates that in his coat was tucked,
“These were for you,” the Foxy sighed, “And yet, no more, it seems,
The Huntsman’s rifle decimated all your Berry Creams…”
“Outside and in a fox I am, and you the fairest bird,
But please, dear Snowbird, don’t suspect my every look and word.”
The Snowbird smiling, sweetly sung, then took his trembling hand,
And ever more dear friends they were, the dearest in the land!
A Lonely Old Crustacean Finds a Friend
(An Aquatic Amore)
A hermit crab saw no connection,
Between himself and his reflection,
And so for days and months on end,
He stood a-waving to his friend
Each night his darling went away,
But with the sun returned each day,
His only friend, amour, and light,
Was simply that: a trick of light
There even rang no mental bells,
When both together left their shells,
Nor when (by chance!) they both made plans,
To dwell inside red baked bean cans
When caught crab’s summer days did stop,
Kept in a bag, sent to a shop,
His pincers quaked, he’d ne’er more see,
His friend of seven months and three
Yet crab faced not, as feared, the tomb,
Instead, a tank in Sarah’s room,
Her mirrored cupboards brought elation,
To that lonely old crustacean!
The hermit crab saw no connection,
Between himself and his reflection,
In Sarah’s room for years on end,
He waved to his beloved friend
The Problem With That Ocelot
(A Recipe For Murder)
The problem with that ocelot,
Was that she always ate a lot,
Grace, charm, and manners had she not,
A glutton was that ocelot
When ocelot took to the town,
The ladies pointed, waiters frowned,
As l’escargot and beans washed down,
With sauces red and gravies brown
From Jacques who was to kitchen born,
She earned a culinary scorn,
And so he baked a Tart of Prawn,
With hemlock glaze and chloroform
As soon as Jacques had served the treat,
With no delay, the beast did eat!
(Despite her hungry canines sweet,
Dessert would now be obsolete…)
The creature screamed and clutched her heart,
And sobbed: “Alas, I now depart!
But, by the gods, who baked that tart?
It was not food, but art!!!”
A Terpsichorean Tale
(Dedicated To Unknown Dancers)
“Are aphids meant to dance?” inquired young Susan of her Dad,
“For on this prickly rosebush here, they’re caught up in this fad,
First they tango to the left, then they Charleston to the right,
Until the hungry caterpillars scamper off in fright!
It’s true I go to school, oh Dad, to learn of rules and sense,
But it seems quite clear this insect dance is done in self-defence!”
“Nonsense!” scoffed her Father, at this tale of insect dance,
Until with his own eyes he saw how well they skipped and pranced
He cried: “Oh Susan, you were right, these bugs inside must stay,
Until a contract can be signed with agents from Broadway!”
Her Father kept the aphids in a box to let them train,
And played the Sound of Music, Fame, and Singin’ In the Rain,
Those aphids mastered every dance; they trained to bitter end;
Kept in the dark with but the sound of Hammerstein and friend,
Their debut night came round at last, but signs were hardly glad,
In neon lights – not insect name – but that of Susan’s Dad
As drums did roll, and spotlights shone, to each patron was passed,
A telescope, binoculars, or magnifying glass,
Yet as the curtain lifted high, the crowd shook angry head,
For the promised dancing insect folk had from the stage just fled,
Avoiding flying fruit and stoves, shamed Father left the stage,
And cursed the named of Webber, in a Broadway hating rage!
Months later playing in the garden, Susan saw by chance,
A leaf aquiver not with breeze, but beat of aphid dance…
Band of Blubbers
(A Martial Missive)
Nine Jellyfish fought in the war,
But washed up on a foreign shore,
Faced execution by their enemies,
But fled disguised as sea anemones!
So if you serve in any wars,
And strand yourself on foreign shores:
Remember those Nine Fighting Jellies,
Who fought for you and all your rellies!