Monday, April 01, 2013

Poetry A-Z: Z is for Zany, Zoological, and Zeno

Z is a wonderful letter. It's zippy and zig-zagged and fun! Before we begin, join me in a little song.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine heading my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

While I've never been a fan of the movie this comes from (Song of the South), I've always liked this song. In fact, I could often be heard whistling or singing it while washing dishes in our first house (you know, one of those older homes with lots of charm and no dishwasher).

Now that the mood is set, let's look at today's poetic potluck inspired by Z.

ZANY - amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic

I wouldn't normally call poetry zany, but the book ZORGAMZOO by Robert Paul Weston fits this definition nicely. Who wouldn't call a 280+ page book written entirely in rhyming couplets zany? I could also call this one zippy, as the rhythm and rhyme pull readers along at an energetic pace. Weston has created something special here. 

Katrina Katrell lives with her guardian Mrs. Krabone (whom Katrina calls Krabby). Krabby does nog appreciate Katrina's natural curiosity or propensity to explore and daydream. One day while waiting for the subway, Katrina sees a large, hairy creature walking in the underground tunnel. Convinced that Katrina is lying, Krabby decides she needs to contact her friend Doctor LeFang to complete a lobotomy. When Katrina runs away she finds Mortimer Yorgle, the creature from the subway, and the adventure truly begins.

ZORGAMAZOO is a novel in verse that begs to be read aloud. I'll admit the first time I read it I was so enthralled with the words and craft behind Weston's writing that I got a bit lost. I had to read it a second time to more thoroughly enjoy the story. Kids will love this one and so will you.

Check out this trailer. 
Intrigued? Now read the first chapter. Better yet, check out the book's web site to learn more.

ZOOLOGICAL - of or relating to animals

This is actually an impossible adjective because there are an enormous number of poetry books about animals of all kinds. I could actually write for each of the 30 days of April about animal poetry and not reach the bottom of a very large barrel. This means that zoologically oriented posts will abound in the coming days. But this begs the question, where do I start? How about this year's Claudia Lewis Poetry Award winner and Cybils poetry finalist?

THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY: 200 POEMS WITH PHOTOGRAPHS THAT SQUEAK, SOAR, AND ROAR!, compiled by J. Patrick Lewis, contains the photos we've come to love from National Geographic, accompanied by one and sometimes two poems from classic (Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson) to more modern poets (Betsy Franco and Jane Yolen). The book categorizes the poems under the headings “the big ones,” “the little ones,” “the winged ones,” “the water ones,” “the strange ones,” “the noisy ones,” and “the quiet ones.” This is THE book to put in the hands of kids curious about the natural world. It's also the one book that may spark a bit of poetry interest in reluctant readers and writers.

If you are looking for idea for the classroom, download the Teacher's Guide. In the meantime, take a look at these gorgeous photos and listen to our current Children's Poet Laureate read an excerpt.

ZENO - a poetic form invented by J. Patrick Lewis

In October of 2009 I was lucky enough to debut a poetic form invented by Pat Lewis. Here's Pat's explanation.
I've invented what I had called a “hailstone," after the mathematical "hailstone sequence." It has nothing to do with Mary O'Neill's Hailstones and Halibut Bones, but it would no doubt instantly be confused with it. Hence, "hailstone" is problematic. So I call the form a "zeno," so named for Zeno, the philosopher of paradoxes, especially the dichotomy paradox, according to which getting anywhere involves first getting half way there and then again halfway there, and so on ad infinitum. I'm dividing each line in half of the previous one. Here's my description of a zeno:

A 10-line verse form with a repeating syllable count of 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1. The rhyme scheme is abcdefdghd.
Pat was even kind enough to send along a few examples.
Sea Song
A song streaming a thousand miles
may sound like a
but it’s only
love’s bulk-
coming out of
the blue...

Why Wolves Howl
Gray wolves do not howl at the moon.
Across a vast
they oboe in
Fur-face, I am
all a-

The great horned owl sits in the tree
answering each
swivel-neck and
of night-

Poems © J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.
There's one more Z that's not in the title, and that's Zimmer. Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is a teacher, author and poet. She has written three collections of poetry, SKETCHES FROM A SPY TREE (2005), STEADY HANDS: POEMS ABOUT WORK (2009), and COUSINS OF CLOUDS: ELEPHANT POEMS (2011). She's also written two verse novels, REACHING FOR SUN (2007) and 42 MILES (2008). REACHING FOR SUN was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award in 2008. This award "honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."

I'm quite fond of COUSINS OF CLOUDS: ELEPHANT POEMS. You can see a bit of it below.

That's it for Z. See you tomorrow with some Y inspired poetry ponderings.


  1. March Wind

    March wind bumbles into April,
    bringing dark rain.
    gnaws on thunder,
    his paws around
    Spring, and

    —Kate Coombs, 2013
    all rights reserved

  2. Oh I love those zenos! They sing. He's a genius.

  3. These are wonderful titles I must look into! Thank you for showcasing National Poetry Month.

  4. Oh, I thought zeno was also a prompt. Is our workshop not running this month? Great posts, by the way!