Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Writers Smackdown!!!
As some of you know, I started a new job last month. While it's a really great gig, it's also kind of the worst thing to happen to my blogging in years. LOL! And that's why, after several hours of trying (and failing) to put together a tournament bracket based on a vague idea I had at the end of last year's successful smackdown, I decided to let this year's Giveaway Month go by without one.
Well, that was before my blog turned into a virtual ghost town! Now, the most rational reason for this is that those who are eligible to enter the giveaway just can't think of anything to say about the latest two books that have entered the Giveaway pool; but I prefer to go with the superstitious reason. Not having a smackdown has clearly cursed me. And now I must now reverse the curse with the new idea that came to me during Corpus Christi Mass. (Yes, truly.)
I like to say of every smackdown I do that I'm only really ready to start it after I've finished it--but it has never been truer than for this one. And I almost gave up twice before coming up with compromises that I could live with. For instance, since I hadn't actually "met" several of the contenders until today, there is no way that I can properly introduce them to others. But (or so it took me an hour to reason) if I give everyone the same "handicap," at least things will still be fair. (Right???) Anyway, that first handicap is . . . ANIMALS.
The Silly Sixteen
Lewis Carroll vs. Edward Lear
At least I can begin with two writers I'm decently familiar with! Lewis Carroll is most famous for his novels Alice in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass, and it is from the latter that I lift his strange, dark poem about a walrus and a carpenter taking advantage of some innocent oysters. Edward Lear, on the other hand, published several books full of nothing but "nonsense verse"--the most enduring of which have been assorted limericks and the following longer piece about the elopement of an owl and cat.
A.A. Milne vs. Dr. Seuss
Another thing I'm winging is the pairings. I'm not 100% sure of which writers to pair off, so I'm mostly going on gut feel. But when one writer is most famous for a talking stuffed bear and another for a magical cat that comes out of nowhere, they seem like they'd make decent partners. But which characters would you rather see move on to the next bracket: A.A. Milne's sentimental animals, like Pooh in Teddy Bear, or Dr. Seuss's crazily fantastic creatures, like that Morality Play devil in The Cat in the Hat?
Rudyard Kipling vs. Ogden Nash
As for these two writers, they are together because I was lucky enough to find comparable poems from each of them. Having already featured Carnival of the Animals -- Part 2 in an earlier smackdown (Can you remember which one without clicking the link?), I'm happy to give its playful predecessor by Nash some love as well. And what better answer to a carnival than a parade? The beasts of burden in Kipling's Parade-song of the Camp Animals may not be as carefree as their cousins in the former poem but the martial air of the whole is just as fun its own way.
Guy Wetmore Carryl vs. Roald Dahl
Now we get to one of the writers whom I couldn't have picked out from a line up until last night. Guy Wetmore Carryl's Wikipedia page says that his rhyming parodies of faerie tales and fables (one of which I'm featuring today) are "still popular today;" but I'm going to guess that a fan among fans wrote that. =P On the other hand, Roald Dahl is still a familiar name and may remain so for many years yet. If I had to pick a genre for his verses, it would be Horror or Cautionary Tale (which are almost the same thing, aye?). But which one do you think gives the better moral: the exquisitely drawn out Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven or the remorselessly blunt Pig?
Maurice Sendak vs. Shel Silverstein
These two writers are together now because they are both also illustrators! And because many of their poems have been set to music! Yet it's hard to make them face off properly with animal poems, because their intentions are so different. Take Maurice Sendak's Alligators All Around another old friend to this blog: it's a simple, but very charming alphabet poem that I myself have used to teach language. Shel Silverstein's People Zoo, on the other hand, wants to teach a very different kind of lesson. I'm not totally on board with Silverstein's ethics, but neither am I easy about zoos.
Hilaire Belloc vs. Oliver Herford
According to the posh marketing experts whom I hired to investigate my readership, the typical Shredded Cheddar reader is already well acquainted with Hilaire Belloc, good friend to one of my favourite writers of all time. On the other hand, you may all need, as I did, a brief introduction to Oliver Herford, another humourist and illustrator who was once called "the American Oscar Wilde." But Herford does Wilde one better here, for the latter's poetry simply isn't funny enough to make this smackdown, either as a serious contender or as an intermission act. If you've been feeling taxed by some of the long poems you've had to read so far, I'm sure you'll be pleased with the short and sweet Frog by Belloc and Platypus by Herford.
Eugene Field vs. Laura E. Richards
Just when I thought it was going to be all Dead White Men (Not That There's Anything Wrong with That), I ran into a woman writer who actually deserved a chance in the bracket! So how about some made-up animals now? In The Dinky Bird, the sentimental and fanciful Eugene Field gives us a phantasia avis right out of a pseudo-Victorian dreamland; while in After a Visit to the History Museum, Laura E. Richards whips up three extinct species right out of a pseudo-Victorian exhibit. And I can tell you that Field's other stuff is more of the same, but Richards will be as much of a mystery box to me as to you. Vote wisely--which in a smackdown also means whimsically!
G.K. Chesterton vs. Spike Milligan
It's not too indulgent that G.K. Chesterton made it the smackdown, is it? No pressure to vote him into the next round! Spike Milligan is also worth getting to know, as you can see from his poem below. =) Now, Chesterton's Race Memory (By a Dazed Darwinian) isn't as much about animals as it is about poking fun at the idea that man is merely an animal--and to tell you the truth, it wasn't my first choice of "animal poem" by him. But it so perfectly complements Milligan's Look at All Those Monkeys that it brings out an edge that the latter, on its own, doesn't appear to have. To continue telling you the truth, I had worried about including poems about monkeys because of a possible racist subtext. But then I started wondering how in the world we can square a belief in evolution with the idea that individuals with significant physiological differences are all equal; and thought the safest place from which to ask would be between two poems. No need to answer . . . as long as you vote! ;-)
Since it is Giveaway Month, every vote you cast in the smackdown will let you earn points on the Rafflecopter! And yes, it didn't escape me that the month I usually reserve exclusively for Philippine literature will now have to be shared with a bunch of English writers. =P
a Rafflecopter giveaway
If this post still doesn't get comments, I'm going to give up and turn Shredded Cheddar into a Eurovision blog. That's not a threat. It's a reflection of how crazy I get when deprived of food, water, sunlight, and comments.
As in previous years, tweeted votes are welcome. =) Make sure you address them to @Enbrethiliel!
A final note: this is the first time I've used scrolling text boxes in a post and I'm worried that the post won't show up properly on other people's browsers or mobile devices. If you're having trouble with my formatting, PLEASE let me know! I will be almost as grateful as I would be for a comment that is an actual ballot! =)
Image Sources: a) Lewis Carroll, b) Edward Lear, c) A.A. Milne, d) Dr. Seuss, e) Rudyard Kipling, f) Ogden Nash, g) Guy Wetmore Carryl, h) Roald Dahl, i) Maurice Sendak, j) Shel Silverstein, k) Hilaire Belloc, l) Oliver Herford, m) Eugene Field, n) Laura E. Richards, o) G.K. Chesterton, p) Spike Milligan