Friday, January 21, 2011

Images to Avoid in Your Seasonal Poetry

Neruda above my desk.
Best Beloved, I do not profess to be a poet. True, there is a side of me that occasionally longs to break out in metered lines and poignant metaphors--a side called EMO!--and I have been known to quote The Cure at length on Myspace, and my desk is littered with fragments of Neruda. But I am not a poet. I have, however, read enough seasonal children's poetry to call myself An Expert.

Seasonal poetry is extremely popular in children's literature, probably because children are very stupid and only understand basic concepts like SUNSHINE and MOMMY and COOKIE. And even these simple words won't be processed by their slow, childish brains unless you yell them in a baby voice. "SEE THE COOKIE? MOMMY LIKES COOKIE! SUNSHINE BURNS MOMMY, SO MOMMY MUST WEAR MASK!"

If you, like most of the creepers in the world, aspire to be a famous children's author, you'll have to suck it up and crank out at least four seasonal poems a year. And then you'll have to anthologize them. And then you'll have to hire an annoying publicist who emails innocent young assistant editors like myself with NY TIMES BESTSELLER: "AUTUMN COMETH" BY AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR DEALS WITH COMING OF AUTUMN IN INNOVATIVE WAY. And if you want your annoying publicist to truly mean it when they say your seasonal poetry is "innovative," here are a few images you must, at all costs, avoid.

  • Snow is not frosting, icing, sugar, or marshmallow cream.

  • Don't compare iconic autumnal images to other iconic autumnal images. Red fall leaves are not "the burnished red of apples." Orange fall leaves aren't "cheerful pumpkin-orange." Seasonal overload.

  • The hot-cold dichotomy of summer (ice cream vs. hot sidewalk, cool pool vs. hot sidewalk, chilly air conditioning vs. hot sidewalk) is great...for putting people to sleep.

  • Spring flowers are not made of fabric--organza, tulle, crinoline, silk, whatever. If they are made of fabric, you're probably in a funeral home.

  • Sure, you can claim that the world is "waking up" in the springtime and "going to bed" in the fall. But do you really want to be responsible for feeding misinformation directly into the minds of our nation's youth?

  • Everyone knows that the seemingly dead calm of winter is actually a tricksy special little joke, because SURPRISE! SPRINGTIME COMES NEXT AND ALL THE WORLD BURSTS INTO LIFE AND COLOR! TWEET! TWEET! There's really no need to write about this magical seasonal conspiracy.

  • When apple trees blossom, they are NOT blushing brides dressing for their wedding morn.

  • Icy little streams should not "tinkle." That's what people say about little kids who pee.

  • Starlight is not "frosty" in winter, nor do stars transmogrify into fireflies in summer. Stars is stars. Fireflies are not stars. They are insects with gross insect legs.

  • The sun does not wear sunglasses in summer. (Tell that to my young self. Every picture I drew from the age of 5 until, uh, last year, featured the sun wearing major shades. What can I say? I like a hip sun.)

  • The white powder that's sprinkled across Daddy's broad shoulders isn't a pile of precious shimmering snowflakes. That's dandruff. Or cocaine.

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