Thursday, November 17, 2011

Animal Family

Words Take Me

Words take me from where I am.
Someone I'll never have to know
has unlocked the door of a house that is
surrounded by trees then wilderness
and painted the colour of the sea.
The fire is lit and one I'll never
meet has left out food and drink
and a note on the window-sill that reads
Stay here for as long as you like.

Ian Harrow
(from the TLS 23 Sept 2011)

* * * * *

For me, this poem was about the experience of reading books, and belonged to the grand tradition of book-loving poems, i.e. there is no frigate like a book.

For me, this poem was even about a particular book, one first published in 1965 and still in print – The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell, illustrated in black and white by Maurice Sendak.

On mature consideration I would have to say this is my favorite of all children's books. Randall Jarrell was famous mainly for writing poetry. If I declare that his prose here is like his poetry, I don't mean at all that it is more "poetic" than ordinary prose, I mean that it is more concrete than ordinary prose, and more convincing.

Jarrell died at 51 in 1965, the same year The Animal Family was published.