Nursery rhymes are often our first introductions to poetry. You’d be hard-pressed to find a youngster who was unaware of Jack’s broken crown, the shoe-dwelling woman with more children than the Duggars, or everyone’s favorite fall-on-your-bum game, “ring around the rosie.”
But despite the sing-song rhythms and lyrical use of end rhyme, many of Mother Goose’s hymns mask dark underpinnings. For instance, historians believe that Jack and Jill are folk-references to King Louis XVI (who lost his crown by beheading) and Marie Antoinette (who came tumbling down shortly thereafter). And those rings around the rosies? A reference to bubonic boils that eventually laid waste to Europe in the 14th century.
Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down.
The oral passing of many nursery rhymes from generation to generation has stripped the poem of context and meaning. And without that interpretive context, today’s children believe the poems to be little more than quaint songs about Pixar film characters (see, e.g., “Puss in Boots”).
Some nursery rhymes, however, retain their gloomy nature by virtue of their lyrical content. Consider my childhood favorite, sung to me by my mother during thunder storms.
It’s raining, it’s pouring;
the old man is snoring.
Bumped his head,
and he went to bed.
Couldn’t get up in the morning.
Though little is known of this ditty’s origins, it is suggestive of an elderly man who sustains a head injury, resulting in an epidural hematoma, paralysis, and his eventual death. Hardly the stuff of a children’s poem, eh? And as one with a career based in examination of issues of legal liability, this poem is perhaps even more frightening to me as an adult. (Could one write a sequel wherein the old man’s family instituted an action for wrongful death? A nickel for anyone who tries.)
Here at Tweetspeak, we’ve playing with rain and water themes during the month of August and writing book spine poems relating to the theme. And while I’ve been writing these Monday morning prompts, the dying old man’s tune has been playing repeatedly in my mind. Perhaps that’s why I’ve delved into melancholy, the morose, and–in today’s post–the morbid aspects of the rain theme.
I’m ready to sing “rain rain go away, ” and get to a sun-shinier topic. But before I do, I’ve composed one final book spine poem–a nursery rhyme aimed toward accentuating the positive aspects of the August Rain theme.
Now it’s your turn. Can you compose a final book (or CD) spine poem summing up this month’s theme? We’ll give extra credit for nursery rhymes, but a grand book spine poem touching on the theme is more than acceptable. Come play in the rain with us. It’s your last chance!
Tweetspeak’s August Rain Project.
1. This month, we will take our cues from book spines (see Glynn’s piece for more information). Look through your personal collection, the aisles at your local bookstore, or your neighbor’s bookcase and grab a few titles.
2. Arrange a poem completely from words on book spines, or use pieces of the titles to create your own found poem. Make sure your poems touch on themes of rain OR water.
3. Tweet your poems (and pictures of the book spines) to us. Add a #tsrain hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.
4. If you aren’t a twitter user, leave your found poem here in the comment box (we’ll use our mind’s eye to imagine your book spines).
5. Each week we’ll share a few of the poems. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and ask the winner to record his or her poem to be featured in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.
Last week we had some dandy book spine, cd spine, and song title hybrid poems. Maureen Doallas wrote:
Speaking of faith,
Who’ll stop the rain?
Einstein’s God: Rain King
teaching a stone to talk.
Donna did a number, too. Evoking themes of comfort in loss, she writes:
if the rain must fall
i’ll be singing in the rain
I’ll be dancing to the
rhythm of the rain
let the four winds blow
i’ll fly like an eagle
with the riders on the storm
dust on the wind
Thanks to everyone who submitted last week. Each piece was its own work of artistic expression! Now, grab a pen and paper, and let’s get writing! Once you’ve written your piece, come back here and rain it on us!