Denver - March 6, 2014
I'll bet you didn't know that dogs love poetry, both listening to it and writing it. It's true! In fact, my predecessor, Hudson, wrote a DogBlog post about it many moons ago: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/lifestyle/family/hudson-s-dogblog-doggerel
So you know I was delighted to get my paws on a copy of Classic Poetry for Dogs: Why Do I Chase Thee by Jessica Swaim. Who, um, just happens to be my friend. Yes, I am friends with a famous and brilliant author. *grin* She is fiercely funny, mistress of groan-worthy puns and endings with a sneaky twist.
The works are by such famous canine authors as William Shakespaw (who also wrote plays, including "As You Lick It," "Comedy of Terriers," "The Merry Wolves of Windsor," "Taming of the Schnoodle," "Julius Schnauzer," "Romeo and Julie's Vet," "Bite Us, Andronicus," and my favorite, "Love's Labradors Lost"), Elizabeth Basset Browning, Snarl Sandburg, Dorothy Barker, Rudyard Kibble (see attached portrait), and many others.
Jessica includes snort-out-loud funny biographies of each author. For instance, "A Yorkshire terrier, Dorothy Barker was born in a dilapidated tractor shed in Pugkeepsie, New York, the runt of the litter. Notoriously quick of tongue, Ms. Barker had multiple bones to pick about domesticated life, including pet shop politics, the overpopulation of the urban squirrel, and the lack of sophisticated clothes for the toy breeds. Today the pint-size poet is best remembered for her biting wit."
Choosing a favorite is difficult. Edgar Allen Pug's The Maven is in my top ten. It begins
Once upon a table shiny, while I trembled, meek and whiny,
Over many a fume of chloroform too pungent to ignore,
While I slobbered, half-sedated, certain something grim awaited,
Sure enough the vet I hated sauntered in and closed the door.
"Booster shot," I ruminated. "That is what this visit's for,
Just a shot and nothing more."
You'll have to buy the book to read the rest of the poem!
And then there's Dogden Dash's "Cock-A-Doodle-Don't"
When the foxes stole the rooster,
There was silence on the farm
"Til the happy hens replaced him
With a digital alarm.
Well, there's just too many to mention. Of course I had to ask Jessica, who I actually know as my Auntie Jeb, to answer a few questions for me.
JEB: First of all, I see we have the same name - what's up with that?? It's not the name on your book cover.
JS: Jeb or Jebby is my childhood nickname. My father wanted to name me Jessica after his mother. But, because my mother didn't care for Jess or Jessie as nicknames, when I was learning to talk and pronounced my name as Jebby, she eagerly adopted it. By the way, you are the only other Jeb I have ever met, not counting a few tough characters in old cowboy movies.
JEB: Tell my readers a bit about your new book.
JS: Classic Poetry for Dogs: Why Do I Chase Thee is a spoof on well-known poems from the point of view of canine masters like Elizabeth Basset Browning, William Shakespaw, Rover Frost, and others. Some poems are a wee bit naughty because, as you know, even sophisticated dogs enjoy down-to-earth humor.
JEB: (snicker) Oh, indeed we do. Who is it for? Who is your audience?
JS: The book is aimed at the discriminating dog, the well-read dog owner, and anybody with twelve bucks to spare.
JEB: Did you have a hard time digging up the canine masters?
JS: You're doggone right I did! I had to fly all the way to Japan to unearth the work of haiku master Issa Shih Tzu. The reclusive Emily Doginson refused to come out of her doggy door, and Dorothy Barker kept attacking me with her biting wit.
JEB: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
JS: It provided me with the perfect excuse to read many anthologies of the world's greatest poetry, including a collection of almost 500 poems by Ogden Nash, who had a much broader range than I'd supposed, not limited to limericks. And I got to write haiku, a villanelle, a couple of sonnets, and other poetic forms that stretched me like a wiener dog in a tug o' war contest.
JEB: Do you have a favorite poet/poem?
JS: No. I loved writing them all. And it was equally fun to come up with a bio for each of the poets.
JEB: I love Chet Phillips' illustrations! Did you ask him to illustrate the book?
JS: An earlier version of the poem "The Maven" by Edgar Allan Pug was published in The Bark magazine in 2011, and the editors found Chet to supply the illustration. As it turns out, Chet had already done a number of portraits of both literary dogs and literary cats. So, when I sold the book to Gibbs Smith, I suggested Chet and, luckily, he signed on to the project.
JEB: Do you have a favorite illustration? I especially like Snarl Sandburg because he’s a yellow Lab.
JS: It's impossible for me to pick a favorite portrait, but two that make me laugh out loud every time I look at them are Elizabeth Basset Browning and Droolin' Thomas.
JEB: What else should my readers know about you and/or your book?
JS: What I'd like you and your readers to know, Jeb, is what your PR Marianne is too modest to tell you. She played a key role in helping me develop the idea for this book. It grew from her spouting a series of dog poet names that cracked me up and made me itch to start writing. That's why her name is listed first on the dedication page. Marianne is an excellent friend and, as you know, a dedicated PR, all about offering love and support to the lucky ones in her life. Now, don't you think you should go give her a big, wet kiss?
JEB: Gee, I had no idea; I really should give her a big ol’ kiss. I’ll make sure to slurp her glasses too – she loves that. Heh.
Readers – fetch your very own copy of Classic Poetry for Dogs: Why Do I Chase Thee and prepare to be amused, amazed and charmed.
Chow for now!
For stories about CCI puppies, fetch a copy of Let the Dogs Speak! Puppies in Training tell the Story of Canine Companions for Independence today. Available in print and eBook formats from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All author royalties are donated to Canine Companions.