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Yesterday, I linked to one of Neil Gaiman's blog posts, entitled "Underneath the Bats and the Stars", which is a gorgeous, poetic piece of writing. And having Mr. Gaiman on my mind, I got to thinking about his marvelous poem, "Instructions", found in Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders.

It is a set of instructions of what to do if you find yourself inside a fairy tale, and it begins like this:

Instructions
by Neil Gaiman

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never

saw before.

Say "please" before you open the latch,

go through,

walk down the path.

A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted

front door,

as a knocker,

do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.

Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat

nothing.

However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,

feed it.

If it tells you that it is dirty,

clean it.

If it cries to you that it hurts,

if you can,

ease its pain.


Here's video of Gaiman reading the full poem. He is, as I am fond of pointing out, an excellent reader as well as a terrific writer - and that is not always the case, as those of us who have attended a number of author readings all know, whether we usually say so or not:





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Comments

( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
julielarios.blogspot.com
Aug. 14th, 2009 08:49 am (UTC)
Instructions
Thanks, Kelly - I'm still looking forward to seeing this man read in public -- everyone says he is terrific in person; meanwhile, videos are the next best thing. Much appreciated!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Instructions
I saw him in person, reading chapter 2 of The Graveyard Book - he's phenomenal. He seems very comfortable in his own skin - an interesting mix of accepting and appreciating the limelight while beinng bemused by it, but not resenting it. Just . . . comfortable.
rumphius
Aug. 14th, 2009 10:47 am (UTC)
I was on a Gaiman and fairy tale poem kick a few months ago. I can never read or hear this poem often enough. Thanks for sharing it. I so needed this one today!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure you posted this a while back, didn't you? Someone did, anyhow. But it keeps coming back to my mind now and again anyhow, and I keep thinking "Man, I wish I'd written that."
rumphius
Aug. 14th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, it was me, but you can NEVER have too much Gaiman.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 14th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
LOVED this poem and video!! This makes me want to read/hear more of Neil Gaiman.

Janet@AcrossthePage
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC)
You ought to check out the audiobook of The Graveyard Book, which he reads. He does voices (by which I mean accents and particular articulations for various characters), and it's marvelous.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 14th, 2009 12:13 pm (UTC)
Tanita Says :)
sigh
Pretty much anything he says he makes sound lovely, and I do like this poem very much.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Tanita Says :)
You're not kidding. I could happily listen to him read the phone book.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 14th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
from Laura @ Author Amok
What a great poem, Kelly! I'm reading Holly Black's "Tithe" this week. Love how these fairy tale rules work.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Re: from Laura @ Author Amok
"Trust the wolves, but don't tell them where you're going."
ex_kmessner
Aug. 14th, 2009 12:31 pm (UTC)
Good instructions indeed. Thanks for such a lovely start to the day, Kelly!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! Are you getting excited for your book launch?
ex_kmessner
Aug. 14th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
VERY excited! (And will be more excited once I get revisions for Book 2 off my plate.) Thanks!
(Anonymous)
Aug. 14th, 2009 12:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
What a beautiful start to the day! I found myself a bit mournful it had to end. I can never get enough of Neil Gaiman's reading. Thanks for posting this.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks!
It really is a lovely poem - I love how he walks in, then back out of the poem.
hipwritermama
Aug. 14th, 2009 01:22 pm (UTC)
Man, Neil Gaiman is simply incredible. Great poem. Love his recordings. Did you hear his recording of The Graveyard Book?

Thanks for sharing this.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
I've been listening to The Graveyard Book this past week. SO terrific - love how he does voices and accents!
lkmadigan
Aug. 14th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
I join you happily in fangrlling.

Have you read NEVERWHERE?

I listened to it on audiobook - it's gorgeous.

kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
Haven't read NEVERWHERE yet. But I will get to it. The Graveyard Book audio is marvelous. I still count myself lucky to have a signed first edition, first printing - I got to see him read chapter two live on book tour!
(Anonymous)
Aug. 14th, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
Why have I never read that before? Wonderful. Thank you.

Jules
7-Imp
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you loved it, Jules!
p_sunshine
Aug. 14th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
This is my favorite piece of his. I've read all of his books and most of his short stories, but this one always makes me happy and hits me harder. I don't consider myself religious, but those last 3 sentences of the part you posted remind me of my favorite bits from when I was - it's like the prayer of St. Francis. It also reminds me of this picture in the hallway when I was growing up. My dad had "Footprints" written on a little board with ocean waves in the background, and some day I'd like to have "Instructions" on a little board with a print of a gate and a few fairies and maybe a castle in the background. =)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
"this one always makes me happy and hits me harder" Exactly. This. Everytime I read it, it makes me happy (and wistful) and it touches something deep within. So wonderful.

I want one of those little boards for "Instructions", too. In fact, it sounds like a wonderful arts & crafts project. A little time, a little decoupage . . .
jamarattigan
Aug. 14th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
LOVE this poem, and man, he's got to be the best reader of his own work, period. Thanks!!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
He reads really, really well. That said, I was fortunate enough to see JK Rowling, Stephen King and John Irving at Radio City Music Hall a few years back, and they all read their own work spectacularly well, too. (Irving read from A Prayer for Owen Meany, and the voice he used for Owen was . . . well, funny, but it also blew me away.)
(Anonymous)
Aug. 14th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)
You and your crazy Neil love... *shakes head*

Girl Reporter
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
*grins*
jessica_shea
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is wonderful. Thanks for sharing it. *swoons now*
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked it, too!
(Deleted comment)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 14th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
I know, right?
liz_scanlon
Aug. 14th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
OK, first of all, swoon worthy.
Second: However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,feed it.
Oh do I love this deeply....
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC)
Remember your name.

Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.

Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped

to help you in their turn.

Trust dreams.

Trust your heart, and trust your story.


Better still when read aloud by its author.
mlyearofreading
Aug. 15th, 2009 12:27 am (UTC)
Wonderful. Too bad about the baby crying towards the end, but huzzah for him never breaking his stride. What a fabulous story teller he is, both out loud and in print!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
I find him pretty amazing. Glad you liked it!
rumphius
Aug. 15th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Huzzah! Did you see Gaiman's latest post -- about Instructions?!
http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/08/your-instructions-should-you-choose-to.html
rumphius
Aug. 15th, 2009 12:55 am (UTC)
P.S. - The book is due out in March of 2010!
You can see some of the artwork at:
http://greenmanpress.com/news/archives/447

I think this is post-worthy news!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2009 01:18 am (UTC)
I just fell into Charles Vess's page full of art. HOW EXCELLENT! I'm going to post an update here!
liz_scanlon
Aug. 15th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
Oh lord.
Listen. I'm giving a talk at our SCBWI chapter in November on "Going with your Gut". Do you think I should email Mr. Gaiman and ask him if it's okay if I read this there????
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
I think it would be brilliant - you can reach his "people" through his website. I rather expect he'd give permission, not that I believe you to need it if you are disclosing the source, etc.
liz_scanlon
Aug. 15th, 2009 04:27 am (UTC)
Right. I'll bet you're right but I'll ask anyway. Maybe I could embed that video in my powerpoint. Would that be awesomeness or what?
susanwrites
Aug. 15th, 2009 06:49 am (UTC)
Oh I love this and had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder. Just what I needed to end my evening.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
:)
(Anonymous)
Aug. 15th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
Karen Edmisten said:
I love that poem -- I love how much time and attention he gives to the subject, if you know what I mean.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Karen Edmisten said:
I know exactly what you mean. He doesn't just barge in and out of the fairy tale land - he sort of wanders (purposefully). It's a good reminder when writing poems not to always go for the shortest possible version.
( 46 comments — Leave a comment )

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