The “p” in April is for ?

The P in April is for ?

We played a game in our family that involved verses.

When I was six, seven, eight, my Aunt Florence if she was visiting,

but more often my mother, would point to me.

Then began the count, out loud: “ 1, 2, 3….

By 10, I had to start saying a nursery rhyme or poem.

I never saw a purple cow

I never hope to see one…

Then it would be my turn to point to one of them and count,

“1,2, 3…”

O captain, my captain…”

Woodman spare that tree…”

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea…” 

That Edward Lear ditty would be recited by Aunt Florence, who would give her other kidney in transplant to a cat if it would have prolonged the pampered life she provided her felines.

It would seem silly to the sisters, Florence, Marian and Lilly, to create only one month for poetry, when limericks, light verse & poetry, including patriotic ballads, filled a walloping large part of their world.

Today it might take a college poetry class to inveigle a young person to memorize a poem. But the gals finished their high school learning that poetry is meant to be heard. They carried their memorized recitations, declamations & elocutions with them, & shared them as portable nourishment all their days.

With the memories of those performances as part of my literary legacy, I was thrilled this month to visit a public school & find that a first grade teacher I’ve always suspected of being wildly creative, intends to lead her class in learning by heart one poem ( Shel Silverstein’s -“Sick.”) Not only will her wiggly ones be challenged to recite it, but they will also be asked to create their own list poem about sick days they have experienced & to create other responses.  If there is a National Poetry Foundation or Library of Congress poetry honor for school teachers, I want to nominate her.

Also in this poetry month I was surprised to hear writer Laura Lascarso asking me for a poem as we chatted together at our downtown spring festival.

I expected to send her one on a Florida topic that is to be published later this year in a small journal. But instead I found that the hard-worked farm across the road from me in my child years before Florida, sprang to mind. I wrote a new poem thinking of that farm; the result, not light verse, is “April is Open.” I invite you to read it and please leave a word or two about it on Laura’s site.

I started poetry month with the gift of a how-to book intended for younger writers, WRITE A POEM, by JoAnn Early Macken.

I wish Aunt Florence were around to appreciate like I do, the  lines:

Scratchy cat

looking for a rat

leaps to the window

Acrobat!

I thank JoAnn Early Macken for this guide, which brings with it a plan, tools and model poems that are sure to lure words out of little ones and into the lines of poems . She shares with us that her verse above originally was this:

Scratchy cat

in the window sat

wearing a hat

looking for rats

and then she is patient in illuminating the substance of how & why the revised lines sound better. When I am done devouring her guide (I’ve read it once & I like to read books three times through if they are the kind to inhale,) I think WRITE A POEM is headed over to a certain first grade poetry palace.

Question answer: Although the P in April is for poetry, it is also for performance.

bookish cheese, with cat & mouse

What was by my side from the Thanksgiving holidays right on through, well, it’s still by my side, is cheese. I’m not talking about the cream cheese with chives of my youth or the brie of my 30s, but the robust hard cheeses of my middle age. And If I look to share blame for this overindulgence, I will charge & convict, but spare a sentence in the Tower of London a particular volume, for being an accomplice in an abundance of cheese love.

The culprit is a deftly illustrated book for ages 9-12  (& for those of us adults who read a lot of children’s books) that is also a beautifully told story of love among unlikely friends: The Cheshire Cheese Cat.

Barry Moser, of his own Pennyroyal Press and many superior  projects, is the artist. And that signals a lot right there. Co-authors are Carmen Agra Deedy,  one of this nation’s most beloved storytellers & a rip-roaring picture book author (The Library Dragon, The Secret Old Zeb  & many more.) I was ever more her fan after I met her last year at the UCF Morgridge International Book Festival. Her co-author here in this is new to me;  Randall Wright  is now a writer I want to become familiar with for titles such as The Silver Penny. 

In this collaboration, an uncommon blue alleycat, Skilley & a London chesse pub’s mouse, Pip,  team up with a perfectly named girl, Nell, & a big bird. It’s fun, it beautifully carries off what the most welcome picture books do-  bringing something clever to the story for adults. It also calls to mind the affection among unlikely characters in the Garth Williams-illustrated classic, The Cricket in Times Square.  Surprises & secrets & yes, some sadness (watch out for that cleaver!) are salted through The Cheshire Cheese Cat, with a fond nod to Dickens & many atmospheric aspects of  Olde London.

“The innkeeper bent forward, hands on knees, and inspected Skilley with a critical eye. London’s alleyways, docks and sewers appeared to have dealt harshly with the young cat. The artful dodging of hansom cabs, chamber pots, and inevitable fishwives’ brooms had left him with a ragged ear, numerous scrapes, and a tracery of scars.”

About Animals

Cell Phones for Canines & Cats     

 Jon Mooallem writes in The New York Times Sunday Magazine (1.13.2008) about many things cell phone, including info on how animal groups can benefit from our olde cells.

Groups that receive a donation from a business called Collective Good for these used cell phones include the Humane Society of the United States. The site with turn-in info & directions for selecting an animal group & printing the prepaid envelope is www.collectivegood.com

I found animal groups in Texas, Florida, Colorado, New Jersey, California & other places listed at the site.  When Collective Good receives the phones, it retools them for resale, or extracts metal from them if they can’t be repaired for reuse. A part of that value is what is collected for various causes, including animal rights.  

The NYT magazine’s Mooallem (hope the author likes bovines, eh?) wrote that Collective Good owner Seth Heine receives 20,000 old cell phones a month.   So penny by penny, it can add up.  The name fits, Collective Good.

You may want to follow Mooallem’s byline. He’s written entertainingly & informatively for The Times Magazine about dog breeding (2.4.2007).

Oscar, nursing home comfort cat

“A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat” by Dr. David M. Dosa of the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island is a must-read article in the New England Journal of Medicine ( July 2007). 

I reached it via www.boston.com/news/globe/heatlh_science.gallery

Oscar is a valued member of the 3rd-floor staff of the Steere House in Providence.  Oscar chooses only to visit at any length patients who are about to pass away.  At the time of the article’s publication, this unique creature had kept vigil for at least 25 individuals in their final hours. Steere House, a highly regarded,  sunny, crisp, and antiques-accented facility for terminally ill individuals, placed a Hospice orgnization plaque honoring Oscar on one of its walls. This uncanny feline selects whom to keep company & without fail, apparently, he has always known who was in their final hours. He arrived at the House as a kitten, brought in by a worker there.

A salute to Dr. Dosa for an article beyond comparison & to Steere House for flexibility in allowing a unique animal on site 24/7. 

A National Public Radio report on Oscar is via

www.npr.org/templates/story/story/php?storyld=12249387