Friday, March 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: Missing Bologna

Yesterday was the end of the Children's Book Fair in Bologna. Many have waxed lyrical about the beauties of the place, the bounty of the food, the flowing of the wine, the vaulting of the porticos. So I won't spend too much time on those. What I miss: the hardware store with its smaller-scaled Italian household goods; the candy/jam/grappa shop where I would have bought Easter chocolate; the mermaids; the waiters; the vacuum-packed parmigiano from Tamburini.

But to be honest, what I miss even more is the community. Many is the international dinner where you are seated next to someone whose language you do not share. It's hard to communicate, even if you're doing business in common. So what do you do? If you're very lucky, you're at a dinner where the guests sing or declaim or recite in their own language. Does it matter if you don't understand the words? It does not. What matters is the tone, the sound, the feeling, the surprise.

I hosted a dinner once where, after antipasta and pasta and carne and insalata and dolci and caffe and vino bianco e rosso and of course aqua minerale (gazata o non-gazata), I asked the participants if they would grace us with a little rhyme from their own country. It doesn't take much for Europeans to come up with poetry. We went around the table and we each recited a nursery rhyme. Some of the rhyming patterns were shared, country to country. Mostly we didn't understand the Swedes and Finns, but we all understood that we'd reached deep into ourselves to find first the cadence and then the words of an old rhyme. This was mine:

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes.

When we're next in Bologna, what will be yours?


Rick Daley said...

I'll need the environment to provide the proper inspiration. But for now, your selection immediately made me think of the song "Scarlet Begonias" by the Grateful Dead.

As I was walkin' 'round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air,
From the other direction, she was calling my eye,
It could be an illusion, but I might as well try, might as well try.

She had rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes.
And I knew without askin' she was into the blues.
She wore scarlet begonias tucked into her curls,
I knew right away she was not like other girls

Kyra K. said...

With all the talk of rich and bountiful food, too bad one can't find Banbury Cakes in Bologna. The sugared pastries filled with spicy raisins and currents are a real treat that might have added a nice parenthetical phrase understood by all!

If you've never tasted them, try them next time you're in Oxfordshire.

On another note, Between James, James Morrison, Morrison, Eloise and now Banbury Cross, your posts really take me back.

Varsha Bajaj said...

I am a teapot fat and stout
Thia is my handle and this is my spout.....
It brings back memories of my first "performance" in kindergarten. And can I say the casting was superb.

susiej said...

Brenda, its obvious you love poetry. I'm curious about you view on rhyming picture books. I follow the blog of an agent with a very respected children's only lit agency. She had a post once on how rhyming picture books were old fashioned and how the trend was toward "edgier."

That saddened me. While it is necessary for children to understand tough real, life issues, I know my own childhood and my kids' were enriched by curling up with a beautiful written ode to nature and imagination.

Brenda Bowen said...

SusieJ -- I believe in rhyming picture books, so long as the rhymes add up to poetry. That second phrase is the hard part, and why many editors just take a shortcut and say "No rhyming picture books."

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Brenda, or anyone else, seeking your opinion!
Is this rhyming poetry or doggerel?

That rat pounded
and pounded he did

He pounded
on that lid!

Slowly, slowly
open it slid.

Now those green people
covered with warts,

were really shaking,
scared in their shorts!

Rhyming Pic book poetry or ???? Venture an opinion, I've a thick skin and laugh easily...

Haste yee back ;-)