Celebrating with The Reading Connection

The Owl and the Pussycat
This painting was sold to benefit The Reading Connection in 2012.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

by Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea green boat
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

The Anthology of Children’s Literature, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1935, includes several stanzas of this poem plus a short biography of Lear. He was born in 1812, one of twenty-one children. He began his career as an illustrator of nature studies and was known for his colored drawings of birds. While living in the home of the Earl of Derby, he entertained the children with silly rhymes and drawings. Those high spirited activities lead to the publication of his first  Book of Nonsense. 

As a landscape painter, Lear divided his time between Britain and the Mediterranean. The article in the anthology says that he taught drawing to Queen Victoria, but using a quick internet search, I’ve been unable to confirm the fact. Please let me know, if you find a source that gives an account of teaching the queen!

Lear is famous for his limericks, and you can find more information about his life and writing at the web site for the Poetry Foundation. One of my favorite poems is this verse about the Quangle Wangle. In March my first grade students will learn about animals and their homes. I hope to have them draw their own version of the tree with the Quangle Wangle and his houseguests!

The Quangle Wangle’s Hat

by Edward Lear

On the top of the Crumpetty Tree
      The Quangle Wangle sat,
But his face you could not see,
      On account of his Beaver Hat.
For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide,
With ribbons and bibbons on every side
And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace,
So that nobody every could see the face
            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.
The Quangle Wangle said
      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, —
“Jam; and jelly; and bread;
      “Are the best of food for me!
“But the longer I live on this Crumpetty Tree
“The plainer than ever it seems to me
“That very few people come this way
“And that life on the whole is far from gay!”
            Said the Quangle Wangle Quee.
But there came to the Crumpetty Tree,
      Mr. and Mrs. Canary;
And they said, — “Did every you see
      “Any spot so charmingly airy?
“May we build a nest on your lovely Hat?
“Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that!
“O please let us come and build a nest
“Of whatever material suits you best,
            “Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!”
And besides, to the Crumpetty Tree
      Came the Stork, the Duck, and the Owl;
The Snail, and the Bumble-Bee,
      The Frog, and the Fimble Fowl;
(The Fimble Fowl, with a corkscrew leg;)
And all of them said, — “We humbly beg,
“We may build out homes on your lovely Hat, —
“Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that!
            “Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!”
And the Golden Grouse came there,
      And the Pobble who has no toes, —
And the small Olympian bear, —
      And the Dong with a luminous nose.
And the Blue Baboon, who played the Flute, —
And the Orient Calf from the Land of Tute, —
And the Attery Squash, and the Bisky Bat, —
All came and built on the lovely Hat
            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.
And the Quangle Wangle said
      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, —
“When all these creatures move
      “What a wonderful noise there’ll be!”
And at night by the light of the Mulberry moon
They danced to the Flute of the Blue Baboon,
On the broad green leaves of the Crumpetty Tree,
And all were as happy as happy could be,
            With the Quangle Wangle Quee.
Note added February 27, 2012: I amended the biographical info to say that I was unable to confirm that Lear taught drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. Also, I have seen his first book called both Nonsense Book and Book of Nonsense.
Note added February 26, 2012:
The Anthology of Children’s Literature, which, since my childhood, has been  one of my favorite books of stories and poems, was edited by Edna Johnson, Carrie E. Scott and Evelyn R. Sickels and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. It was published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. The copyright for the first edition was 1935, and my edition was copyright 1948.
watercolor painting copyright Liz Macklin 2012

Healing with Writing

Autumn Forest
Autumn Forest | watercolor | copyright Liz Macklin 2004

I have a new routine for feeling good: eat lots of vegetables, exercise and write! What’s writing got to do with it? I might say “taking time for reflection” and perhaps “finding a way to speak up and recognize one’s own voice.”  What do you think?

Last Tuesday I met with five women to explore expressive writing. Together we read a poem. Then our pens took the lead, and we wrote whatever came to mind.

After fifteen minutes Nancy Morgan, our guide and the Director of the Arts and Humanities Program at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, asked if we’d like to share our feelings about our writing. Reading aloud was purely voluntary. The content of the conversation was, as always, confidential. Let me say simply that people talked, laughed, sighed and commiserated — not in any particular order!

Each Tuesday a different group gathers, but Nancy is there every week with a new idea. Sometimes she brings a poem, sometimes a painting. The themes include nature, family, identity and life with all its bumps and lucky breaks. Sessions are free of competition and critique. Nancy greets everyone with encouragement and assurance that writing can help people find relief from stress and the emotional effects of illness.

Writing is recognized as beneficial to care in the cancer center, not in a small part as a result of a recent study conducted by Nancy and her colleagues Kristi Graves, Elizabeth Poggi and Bruce Cheson. Their findings indicated that “cancer patients are receptive to expressive writing” and that “a single brief exercise is related to patient’s reports of improved quality of life” (The Oncologist, 2008, 13; 192-196.) In addition to her other administrative duties at the Arts and Humanities Program, Nancy leads workshops, plans readings and edits Lombardi Voices, an anthology of writing by people with cancer and caregivers. This summer she’s also taken time to train writer/researcher Michelle Berberet and me in therapeutic writing techniques. As prompts for writing, Michelle explored the evocative power of scent and gave writers a beautiful card and a sprig of lavender. I began with a silly image and asked fellow writers “What tickles your funny bone?”

Since my sessions with Nancy, I’ve tried to write — well, let me say more often — because I’d be lying if I said every day. I also attended a weekend workshop with editor Deborah Brodie. She recommends exploratory writing with a focus on ways to make creative connections and develop story ideas.

If you’d like to try expressive writing, find a pen and paper and begin with any thought that comes to you. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or perfect punctuation. Start, write and see how it feels! Need help with an idea? It can come from anywhere. I’ve included an image, “Autumn Forest,” in this post. After these scorching sunny days, what are you thinking about?

(author’s note: I made an update in paragraphs 1 and 5 on August 1, 2010.)