April is National Poetry Month, both here in Canada and in the US. If you asked me if I liked reading poetry, I’d probably tell you no, not really. Except for Shakespeare, whose poems read at so many levels it leaves a writer filled with awe and humbleness. And Tennyson, whose words paint pictures so vividly. And Shel Silverstein and giving trees and where the sidewalk ends. And Dennis Lee. Oh, yes, definitely Dennis Lee.
Who’s Dennis Lee? He’s an amazingly readable Canadian poet who has worked as a teacher, an editor, a poet, a writer, and so much more (read more about him here at the University of Toronto poet’s bio page). He even worked with Jim Henson on Fraggle Rock (remember that show? K and B love watching you-tube snippets of it), and on the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth movies (David Bowie and that hair!). But best of all, he published Alligator Pie.
(Click the image to order Alligator Pie directly from Amazon.ca)
His poetry for kids is absolutely contagious. As you read it aloud, the lines dance from your tongue and inspire smiles and giggles and outright laughter. You can read the title poem, Alligator Pie, here, but know that there are better poems than that awaiting you in the book. And while you’re still on the UofT website, read Dennis Lee’s writing philosophy, too. It’s well worth it, even if you aren’t a writer. He talks at length about writing from somewhere inside the soul where you aren’t consciously aware of what is happening, you’re just doing it. Like breathing, it is just there. And he talks about what happens when something stops you from being able to write like you’re breathing, and how he got through it.
We always had Alligator Pie on the bookshelf at home when I was a kid. When I think of all the books of my childhood, that one stands out. It suits the silly, boisterous humour of my childhood family to a tee — feasting on knees in Napanee, playing hockey with a waterlogged flea, and overly dramatic outbursts of everything important to childhood. No too-precious sweetness or saccharine memories here, no sir. Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie is just plain old fun dipped in imagination and wrapped in a package of words that makes your soul dance for joy.