A second reminder: I will be reading poetry at The Daily Grind Coffee Shop in Mount Holly, New Jersey, tonight, sometime between 7 and 9 p.m., as part of the launch party for the new issue of UP AND UNDER, a poetry journal put out by the Quick and Dirty Poets. My poem, "Sirens", appears in the issue, and I'll be reading it (and likely something more) tonight. I'd love to see you, if you can make it.
*Announcer voice* "Now back to our regularly scheduled programming"
DINOTHESAURUS: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian is the topic of today's Poetry Friday post. First and foremost, a public thank you to Douglas for sending me an autographed copy of his book (complete with a pterrific pterodactyl drawing). You might think that receiving an autographed copy is the reason for this post, but I can assure you that it is not. I'd be talking about this book anyway, not just because I have a pattern of liking Douglas's work, but also because I happen to really enjoy this collection of rhyming poems about dinosaurs.
Now, there have been poetry collections about dinosaurs before, of course, and I'm sure there will be again. Why I like this particular collection of dinosaur poems and the collage-influenced paintings that accompany them has a lot to do with the combination of wit and information that is involved. It's the same magical combination of fact and whimsy that made me love Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings.
Having already mentioned a pterodactyl, I'm going to share the poem entitled "Pterosaurs". The note on pronunciation and meaning is part of the information on the page of the poem. But first, here's what the page looks like (ganked from Douglas's blog - Douglas, if you mind, let me know and I'll take it down!)
TERR-oh-sawrs (winged lizards)
The pterrifying pterosaurs
Flew ptours the ptime of dinosaurs.
With widespread wings and pteeth pto ptear,
They pterrorized the pteeming air.
They were not ptame.
They were ptenacious --
From the Ptriassic
Pto the Cretaceous.
Ptell me, is that poem not pterrifically fun pto read? Besides providing facts within the poem, there's a "Glossarysaurus" at the end of the book, in which one can find further factual information on pterosaurs (and on each of the poems in the book, which are arranged in a time-linear fashion, I believe, beginning with a poem about "The Age of Dinosaurs" and introducing specific species of dinosaurs individually, then concluding with "The End of Dinosaurs". After the glossary comes a page entitled "Dinosaur Museums and Fossil Sites" (little-known fact: I live very near Haddonfield, New Jersey, which is where, in 1858, the first nearly intact dinosaur skeleton was found. (It is not on the list, but that is because it is neither a museum nor an active fossil site. But I digress.)
Having mentioned "The End of Dinosaurs", I believe I'll share it with you. It's one of my favorite three poems in the book.
The End of Dinosaurs
What made the dinosaurs die out?
Why don't they still parade about?
Maybe volcanic ash and smoke
Filled the air and made them ch-ch-choke.
Or else a crashing meteorite
Exploded, blocking all the light.
As weather changes ran amok,
The dinosaurs ran out of luck.
The climate on the Earth grew c-c-cold,
And many plants died out, I'm told,
Which killed most of the herbivores
And consequently carnivores.
What made the dinosaurs extinct?
What do you say? What do you think?
Next time you go to a museum,
Ask some dinosaurs -- if you see 'em!
What I love about this poem (in rhymed couplets) is (1) how well it provides the varying theories as to what caused the climate change that killed off the dinosaurs, (2) how well it provides the facts as to how climate change caused plants, then herbivores, then carnivores to die out, and (3) it's conclusory address challenging the reader to form their own opinions and conclusions (and maybe also challenging them to do still more research). Brilliant, in my opinion.
Back to what's in the book: There is also a page containing a "Selected Bibliography and Further Reading". My one quibble with the excellent back matter in the book (a term which here encompasses the glossary and lists) is that the glossary entries, while in the same order as the poems within the book, do not contain references to the page numbers on which the poems are found. An extraordinarily minor point, particularly since the book contains a "Table of Contents" (with page numbers!) at the front. This book is going to make a lot of teachers and librarians very, very happy indeed for having the sense to use organizational skills and further materials. (The information nerd in me is delighted - those of you who are long-time readers know how petulant I get without tables and glossaries and page numbers, particularly when dealing with a nonfiction collection!)
Here's a look at another page inside the book, all about Tyrannosaurus Rex:
My absolute favorite poem in the collection can be found on page 30 of the book, and is entitled "Troodon". The handy-dandy pronunciation guide there on the page tells me it's pronounced "TROH-oh-don", and that its name means "wounding tooth". This rhymed poem discusses the animal's intelligence: unlike, say, "Stegosaurus" ("Its brain was smaller than a plum./Stegosaurus was quite DUMB.") The format for the rhyme scheme is, for those that like playing along on the home game: XAXAXBXBXCXC (where X = an endword that doesn't rhyme).
TROH-oh-don (wounding teeth)
Said to be brainy.
Said to be bright.
But what did it read?
And what did it write?
Said to be crafty.
Said to be smart.
But did it make music?
Or did it do art?
Said to be witty
And wise when it thinked.
If it was so smart,
How come it's extinct?
My, how very, very happy that Troodon poem makes me. It is, to my way of thinking, the poem that sings loudest to me in the whole book (rather the way that "Pluto" did - and still does - for me from Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars).
Thank you, Douglas, for a wonderful collection sure to engage hordes of young readers for years to come.