It is no secret that the beloved characters in Bill Watterson’s comic strip Calvin & Hobbes shed an amusing (and often poignant) light on the creative imagination of a child. But Watterson also generously included poetry in the narrative, from Calvin’s poetic means of dealing with his fear to using haiku to irritate his furry friend. We’ve gathered up 10 great Calvin & Hobbes poems and poetic moments.
Calvin tries to stir a slumbering Hobbes with a fire alarm from Blake.
“Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright,
In the forests of the night.”
Blake wrote that. Apparently the tiger was on fire. Maybe his tail got struck by lightning or something.
Flammable felines — what a subject for poetry
Clearly he didn’t know that cat poems were all the rage. Still, he seems to find his voice in feline verse.
Still and quite feline form,
In the sun, asleep and warm.
His tail is limp, his
Man, what could make
This cat so pooped?
And yet another:
My tiger, it seems, is running ’round nude.
This fur coat must have made him perspire.
It lies on the floor — should this be construed
As a permanent change of attire?
Perhaps he considers its colors passé,
Or maybe it fit him too snug.
Will he want it back? Should I put it away?
Or use it right here as a rug?
Unsuccessful in waking his friend, Calvin turns to alliteration.
Twitching tufted tail,
A toasted, tawny tummy:
A tired tiger.
…An alliterative haiku by Calvin. Thank you, thank you.
Oh lovely snowball,
Packed with care
Smack a head that’s
Then with freezing
Ice to spare,
Melt and soak through
Fly straight and true,
Hit hard and square!
This, oh snowball,
Is my prayer.
Juxtaposition is one of the Calvin’s greatest arts, no more poignantly illustrated than when he waxes poetic about the beauty of a spider web and how such a beautiful web is used.
Like delicate lace,
So the threads intertwine,
Oh, gossamer web,
Of wond’rous design!
Such beauty and grace
Wild nature produces …
Ughh, look at the spider
Suck out that bug’s juices!
When he’s not writing poems to wake the tiger, Calvin writes stanzas about his parents, who he believes are aliens disguised as dull humans:
They landed on earth in spaceships humongus.
Posing as grownups, they now walk among us.
My parents deny this, but I know the truth.
They’re here to enslave me and spoil my youth.
Young Calvin may have had some ties to Edgar Allan Poe, as is evident in these stanzas from one of his poems about the monster in his closet, A Nauseous Nocturne:
Another night deprived of slumber,
Hours passing without number,
My eyes trace ’round the room. I lay
Dripping sweat and now quite certain
That tonight the final curtain
Drops upon my short life’s precious play.
From the darkness by the closet
Comes a noise, much like a faucet
Makes: a maddening drip-drip-dripping sound.
It seems some ill-proportioned beast,
Anticipating me deceased,
Is drooling poison puddles on the ground.
And even Hobbes had a little bit of a poetic streak, writing his own version of cat poetry (which also served as password to their clubhouse):
Tigers are perfect,
Of good looks and grace
And quiet dignity.
You might wonder how Calvin was able to write such compelling verse. He had a little bit to say about creativity:
Calvin: You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.
Photo by Tim Pierce, Creative Commons license via Flickr.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish