Trying to Be a Poet: Does Dr. Seuss Count?
Dr. Seuss made a great impression on me as a child, and I suppose that this is true for many children and their parents, as much today as then. He was the world's greatest poet. You are smiling as you remember your own early experiences with Seuss' surreal and sublimely creative books and illustrations. You think, “yes, as a child he surely was the world's greatest poet.” But you misunderstand me. I mean he IS the world's greatest poet...period.
Now I know that all you poetry aficionados are pooh-poohing in your cappuccinos and latte's right now while reading your volumes of Dickinson, Whitman, Yeats, Plath, and Pound, and I'm sure you have a point, but they did not influence a child...ever. They never stopped a person from crying though I'm sure they've caused a few to start.
But this is not to argue who is the greatest poet or even a biography of Theodor Seuss Geisel, but rather a look at the depth of his influence on me of which I was unaware. I believe this is true of many people, for can we ever really pinpoint who and when and where persons, places, or things changed the patterns in our lives? Or changed the way we thought? Or changed the way we dream?
My awareness of Seuss' influence on my writing came about because of fellow HubPages writer Lita Sorensen's Random Poetry Challenge. I wanted to participate, but never considered myself much of a poet. In fact, I am not what you or I would call a fan of poetry. But this was a misconception I had about myself, for I loved Shakespeare—even the sonnets—and have myself written many songs, and who is Shakespeare but a poet, and what are songs but poems set to music?
I did not write a poem that first day of the challenge, or the next. Or the next. I read the poems other writers were putting out there, and that made me not write a poem too, for many of these were very good. The challenge passed, and it was only then that I finally forced myself to at least try.
It was a struggle in the beginning. A voice inside myself gave me quite enough criticism as I struggled along, and that is when the remarkable thing happened: I began to write down the criticisms too, and then responded to them, and back and forth, and realized that the poem had taken on a life of it's own. It took a structure I had never intended. And many parts were...Seussian. It was as though Dr. Seuss had been asked to write a serious poem. Of course, it may not be that good—I don't know—but it cannot be denied that it has been influenced by Dr. Seuss, as we shall see.
My intention was to write a poem that was 100 percent serious. I had been fighting the impulse to write in a glib style, but it wasn't until I fell in step with this new thing that it began to flow and come to life. It was as though Dr. Seuss' spirit had interceded on the poems behalf. All of this made me ponder other things that might have been influenced by the good doctor. And it was everywhere. In every song I have written. In every sentence I have constructed. In every joke I have told. In the way I perceive humor. In the way I walk and talk. Even if it isn't funny, even if it's so obscure you couldn't see it with a microscope, it is there. For who can know the degree and magnitude of a particular influence?
I present the poem to you now. You will see the influence, of course, you can't help it. Whether it is good or not, meh, but Dr. Seuss would like it I think, and that makes two. Not counting me.
My Sweet Castilion
This screen of mine, vacant, blinking,
taunting me, inviting, winking
me forward, to write with heart
or just, at least, to bloody start
to spill my guts upon the green,
sanguine as soldier's vented spleen.
Out, damn words, this ain't Macbeth,
does not determine my life or death,
but like the dam, cement a cracking,
when it spilleth forth it won't be lacking
for sheer volume shall pour out
to flood your heart or make me pout.
But what to say about an angel, my sweet Castilion,
who favors me, this old reptilian
leather brained, scaly heart,
who puts the horse behind the cart
who dives right in, head first it's true,
and swims with joy right in the goo of love.
(Whoa. What was that: That word you said,
You have rocks there in your head.
Yeah, you. That word. The one you wrote,
You're such silly, stupid goat
That one so fine, as fair as she,
Oh..She'll light your fire... in effigy!)
(So cut the crap, write it down,
Don't play the buffoon, cynic clown.)
Say what I feel and be sincere?
(It's what you want so put it here
and do not fear if you should gaff.)
The least I'll do is make her laugh.
Ok. So here goes...
That stupid voice I'm hearing knows
that I mean every word.
Sweeter than sugar...(that's a laugh,
could have been written by a Giraffe,
dig deep, I'll help you start,
say rather "Sweeter than a Lover's Heart.")
That's good. I like. It sounds so chivalrous,
If a bit, perhaps...carnivorous.
Sweeter than a Lover's Heart
Lighter than an Angel's wings
(Is that lighter than birds and bugs and things?
Lord, do you have to make everything rhyme,
You take too long and I don't have time.)
All right! Shut up! Sticks and stones!
Go gnaw on thistle and gristle and bones.
Sweeter than a Lover's Heart
Lifted by your Mystery, your Laugh, your Charm,
Swept up in Angel's Air, in Spirit Arms,
Your lovely fingers run through my hair and caress my soul.
Hold me tight, suspended within the bosom of your caring love
Above the world in imagined clouds, overwhelmed in undeserving peace.
(Not bad, not bad, for a silly bloke,
of course "lovely fingers" made me choke,
but that's to be expected.
And "caress my soul" is 101,
but it's clear you've tried and had some fun.)
Well...thanks, I stand corrected.
(Do you think you'll write a poem again?
Leaves of Grass or Gunga Din?)
More like cats and hats and eggs and ham
and existentialists named Sam.
Normally I write these articles,
not so many parts but lots of particles.
(Hmmm. You're having trouble ending, yes?
Can't wrap it up, that's what I guess.)
No, I can, I was just thinking,
it came to me in a moment's blinking,
the writer ceases on page to write,
but the poem goes on into broad, black night.
Five Interesting Facts about Dr. Seuss
In 1942, Seuss was placed in charge of the Animation Division of the Armed Forces Motion Picture unit by Colonel Frank Capra. Capra had created a concept and a character named Snafu (an unofficial acronym for "Situation Normal, All [Fouled] Up"). While in this position, Seuss oversaw the production of 24 Snafu cartoon shorts with the character designed by Art Heineman and Chuck Jones.. The voice of Pvt. Snafu was performed by the immortal Mel Blanc.
While in the Armed Forces, Seuss wrote Design for Death, a film that later won the 1947 Academy Award for Documentary Film.
Seuss had no children and was a recluse, spending much of his time alone in his studio.
Seuss (his mother's maiden name) is pronounced to rhyme with "voice." Not with "loose" as it is commonly pronounced.
He supposedly wrote "Green Eggs and Ham" on a bet with his publisher, Bennett Cerf, to write a book using only 50 words.