Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Postcarded Poems

James C. G. Conniff
The Jersey Journal

The writer Richard Conniff writes of the "Postcard Poems" his father, James C. G. Conniff, wrote on postcards and posted to his grandchildren, that is, the grandfather's grandchildren (i.e., Richard Conniff's children), in "A Grandfather's Postcard Poems" (NYT, July 4, 2015):
My father was a great believer in the Postal Service, and when his grandchildren were young, his postcards to them arrived almost daily. They were plain white postcards, never the photo variety, so there was plenty of room to write on both sides, and from edge to edge. What he wrote was almost always nonsense verse, with titles like "The Mother of All French Fries," and "Reasons to Sneeze."
Nice titles, but what in particular did he write? "On a postcard from 1985, . . . [his] oldest child is . . . a 2-year-old hunting for jelly beans with his entourage":
Jamie Conniff took a ride
With six monkeys by his side,
Fourteen leopards out ahead,
Sharp of fang with eyes of red . . .
The ellipses must indicate that this poem continues . . . toward a climax in which fourteen ferocious leopards corner a number of equally ferocious jellybeans! Maybe? Some of the poems might pose interpretive puzzles for children as his "verse often veered into bizarre literary . . . territory" that includes James Joyce and shares ground with Edward Lear's Jumblies:
Boomba-Zoomba went to sea
In a waterlogged snot-green boat
(He had no choice — he'd been reading Joyce),
And he took along a goat.
Some of the poems - for example, the one just quoted - work like limericks, and would be classic limericks if their third line were divided in two.

The verse is charming and ought to be published . . . but see what Richard Conniff says about that.



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