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.
you won't recognize
this word sitting snug
in red underwear
at the bottom of the frozen map
in little black slippers
are neatly crossed
rises from a pipe A wrinkled
hangs on a peg The iron
P E N G U I N Best-dressed word
in the world atlas!
Excerpts from two more poems:
Splat! The word lands wet
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