Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two Nasty Poetry Collections

These two aren't particularly new, but they are vastly entertaining, each in their own way.

First up, Revolting Rhymes, from Roald Dahl, author of such classics as James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

As you might expect from Dahl, his take on well-known fairy tales is a bit, well, twisted. In Revolting Rhymes, Dahl presents us with fractured and semi-frightening versions of six favorite fairy tales, told in rhyming verse. He begins the "real" story of Cinderella (in which the Prince proves to be a homicidal maniac), Jack and the Beanstalk (the moral of the story? "take a bath"), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (actually, seven ex-jockeys with a betting habit), Goldilocks and the Three Bears (about Goldie's breaking and entering), Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf (in which Red goes a-hunting), and the Three Little Pigs (in which Red goes a-hunting again). Some of the words used dabble in the four-letter variety of the naughty type (not of the "George Carlin dirty words" type, but still, "hell" and "slut" and others make an appearance); as a result, some folks have asked for it to be banned and/or relegated to the adult section. But if you liked Dahl's stories when you were a kid, his poems are just the thing for you.

My second selection today was designed for an older crowd, and includes some truly revolting rhyme from folks who generally write fantasy, science fiction and horror:

If you like slightly naughty, decidedly macabre poems (and who doesn't?), check out Now We Are Sick: An Anthology of Nasty Verse, edited by Neil Gaiman and Stephen Jones, with illustrations by Andrew Smith and Clive Barker. The poems are from thirty of the world's best-known sci-fi, fantasy and horror writers. Most of them are somewhat funny (in a very black-humor sort of way). I am particularly fond of Galad Elflandsson's pirate poem The Good Ship "Revenger", Something Came Out of the Toilet by Harriet Adam Knight,the delightful Things that Go Bump in the Night by Ian Pemble and Diann Wynn Jones's A Slice of Life, which evokes a Sweeney Todd-like school lunch program.

Here's a sample from "Something Came Out of the Toilet" by Harry Adam Knight:

Something came out of the toilet,
Slimy and shiny and thick.
It looked like a gelatinous drainpipe
And smelled quite distinctly of sick.

It had some sort of hole at its top end
Like a mouth or a hollowed-out eye
Or a nostril that maybe it ate with
Or an ear through which it might spy.

Now We Are Sick is separated into the following sections: "Nasty Habits", "In Loving Memory", "Less Welcome Tenants", "Night Fears", and "Adults Only", and it is bookended by an "Introduction" and and "Epilogue". Many of the poems contain humorous content (of a sort); all of them include material that some (okay, many) people will find objectionable or disturbing, which is part of what makes this collection so much, well, fun.

For the Lewis Carroll fans out there, I particularly recommend "You Are Dead, Father William" by Colin Greenland (who specifically says his poem is "After Lewis Carroll" - Carroll's poem, "You Are Old, Father William" was actually a parody of Robert Southey's poem, "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them"). Here's how Greenland's parody starts:

"You're deceased, Father William," the young man said,
"And your skin has become very green.
But you stroll down the boulevard toting your head:
Don't you think this is a trifle a obscene?"

"In my youth," grinned the spectre, "I read many books
By Campbell and Barker and King
Which convinced me that lipless, cadaverous looks
were demonstrably every year's thing."


Anonymous said...

Too funny! I must check these out - particularly the Dahl book!

Kelly Fineman said...

The Dahl book is quite entertaining, I must say. Of the two, I give the nod to the anthology, despite it being rather aptly titled.

Liviania said...

I remember reading Dahl's Revolting Rhymes as a kid.

Laina said...

About two years ago I went through a phase of reading just about every Roald Dahl book I could get my hands on, which about 20 in total, I believe. I got revolting rhymes but I couldn't get now we are sick.

Side note, did you know his... daughter or granddaughter, daughter I think, Sophie Dalh, has a book out called Playing with the Grown-ups?

Kelly Fineman said...

Laina: I didn't know about Sophie Dahl's book. Interesting. Now We Are Sick can often be found with the other Gaiman books in a store, rather than with the poetry collections.

Livinia: Revolting Rhymes was a favorite of several people I know when they were kids. I never saw it as a kid, but I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed it!