Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This is a word with wrinkled knees

This is a lumbering

gray word       the ears of it

are huge and flap like loose

wings       a word with 

wrinkled knees and toes

like boxing gloves

The word, of course, is ELEPHANT. And as the poet points out to us the word does "lumber" and "flap" and is definitely "wrinkled."  The poet, Barbara Juster Esbensen, offers us a mind-stretching impression of the animal itself with its name as the creative center of each poem in this brilliant collection of poetry: Words with Wrinkled Knees.

An excerpt of another poem from this collection is presented on the back cover of the book with John Stadler's wonderful artwork.

At first
you won't recognize
this word sitting snug
in red underwear
at the bottom of the frozen map

Its feet

in little black slippers
are neatly crossed
rises from a pipe      A wrinkled
hangs on a peg      The iron
is heating

P E N G U I N        Best-dressed word

in the world atlas!

Excerpts from two more poems:


Splat!      The word lands      wet

and squat

upon the page        F  R  O  G


Thin as hairs the letters

whine apart      regroup

M O S Q U I T O      a loose

cloud that swarms

above your head...

Put up screens      close

the windows      Somebody

left the dictionary



Barbara Juster Esbensen, 1925-1996

Barbara Juster was born on April 28, 1925, in Madison, Wisconsin. 
She died October 25, 1996, and had been living in Edina, Minnesota.

A poem, Barbara Juster Esbensen once explained, is merely "a dance of breath that has learned to fly."

"I tell children that poets lie," she said. "A cat doesn't really have thunder in its chest. It purrs. But as soon as you say it has thunder in its chest, it makes perfect sense."
Mrs. Esbensen majored in art, not creative writing, at the University of Wisconsin and afterward taught art for several years. In her home in Edina she had a room of her own especially for writing--"a light, airy place that seems to be riding in the trees."

On John Stadler's webpage this image is labelled as "a recent photograph" 

John Stadler visiting a school in Vermont (perhaps a more recent photograph).

John Stadler is the author and illustrator of Hooray for Snail, Hector the Accordion-Nosed Dog, and Animal Cafe, a Reading Rainbow Feature Selection. Mr. Stadler lives in New York City.

Words with Wrinkled Knees, Animal Poems by Barbara Juster Esbensen, Pictures by John Stadler, Thomas Y. Crowell Press, New York, 1986. Now published by HarperCollins Children's Books, New York

More books by Barbara Juster Esbensen and by John Stadler

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