Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Poetry for Humane Day

Today is Humane Day commemorating the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in 1866. The ASPCA urges us to wear orange today in support of our pets and their humane treatment. Jane Yolen often writes poetry about animals in compilations such as Alphabestiary: Animal Poems from A to Z (Boyds Mills Press 1994), The Originals: Animals That Time Forgot (Philomel Books 1998), Sea Watch (Putnam 1996), Least Things: Poems about Small Natures (Boyds Mills Press 2003), and Raining Cats and Dogs (Harcourt 1993). She has three collections of poetry about birds, in particular: Bird Watch (Philomel 1990), Wild Wings (Boyds Mills Press 2002), and Fine Feathered Friends (Boyds Mills 2004).

Animals populate the poetry of many of my favorite poets including:
*Marilyn Singer’s It’s Hard To Read A Map With A Beagle On Your Lap (Holt 1993), Turtle in July (Macmillan, 1989) and Fireflies at Midnight (Atheneum 2003)
*Joyce Sidman’s The World According to Dog: Poems and Teen Voices (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)
*Kristine O’Connell George’s Little Dog Poems (Clarion 1999) and it’s sequel, Little Dog and Duncan (Clarion 2002) and Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems (Harcourt 2004)
*Douglas Florian’s Bow Wow Meow Meow; It’s Rhyming Cats and Dogs (Harcourt 2003) and his MANY other animal collections
*and many, many others

In fact, once you start looking, you’ll find that the topic of animals is nearly ubiquitous in children’s poetry and is the focus of many poems and collections. There are even whole anthologies of animal poetry such as Jack Prelutsky’s The Beauty of the Beast (Knopf, 1997).

Here’s just ONE poem in honor of the day that turns the tables and juxtaposes human and animal attributes.

Do Zebras Dream of Polka Dots?
By Dennis Carson

Do fish get thirsty?
Do porcupines dance?
Do frogs get warts
when they’re touched by human hands?

Do possums get insomnia?
Do alligators burp?
If a bird knew all the words
would he do more than chirp?

Does a crow ever rooster?
Is a chicken ever wild?
Is a piglet ever told
you’re as messy as a child?

Does a lion ever whisper?
Are hyenas ever sad?
Does a duck ever back quack
when he’s talking to his dad?

Do porpoises get seasick?
Do turtles ever run?
Do monkeys ever play on children bars
when they want to have some fun?

Do zebras dream of polka dots?
Do owls sometimes not know>
Do roadrunners ever walk
or maybe jog real slow?

Do lightning bugs thunder?
Do june bugs come in May?
Do centipedes get sore legs?
Can anybody say?

Are beavers ever lazy?
Are birds out on a limb?
Do snakes get the willies
when people stare at them?

Do giraffes get soar throats?
Do bats get scared in caves?
Do pack rats ever throw out
all that stuff that they have saved?

I wonder what to do.
I just ran out of questions.
I wonder will you help me?
Have you got some good suggestions?

From: Koss, Amy Goldman. 1987. Where Fish Go in Winter and Answers to Other Great Mysteries. Los Angeles, CA: Price Stern Sloan.

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