Along with the recent publication of Kindergarde: Avant-Garde Poems, Plays, Stories, and Songs for Children (reviewed in Jacket2 by Eileen R. Tabios and Carolyn Hembree), Black Radish Books has released a sampling of recorded readings from the anthology. While the recordings could illustrate how to approach these poems with children — such as alternating line by line between adult and child, as Kit Robinson does with his granddaughter Flora Beatrice Breitbard in reading “The Happy Onions” — the recordings also, in a broader sense, encourage the rule-breaking inherent in play.
The Happy Onions [MP3]
These recordings showcase the contagious dosages of play that may conjure otherwise faded childhood reveries, whether it’s a poem about a pickle that does all the things adults want it to — “stands up straight, glistens for company, shakes hands in a way you’ll remember, respects others” in “The Aptitude of the Pickle” — or about childhood friendship as detailed in “Valentine,” in which the speaker asserts, “I am your bestest friend forever and ever.” We hear statements of confidence like “The wind does blow but we are never frightened” or “Let’s build a music box to crank power for the city” (in “Song from a Beached Music Box"). Such recordings verbalize a self-assuredness that may allow the listener, at least in the abstract, to “ride a bike with wheels that spin like suns.”
The Aptitude of the Pickle [MP3]
Song from a Beached Music Box [MP3]
Christian Bök’s sound poem on the death of Batman, “The Doomsday Song,” employs a series of cascading crescendos with various sounds rhyming with "doom" — an emotional gibberish that expresses the occurrence without the traditional use of words. The questioning of language and how to use it also appears in “The Name of Things,” in which the speaker wants to know “how things sound before you grow.” There’s also a sense of burgeoning female assertion in “He was the Goat, I was the Girl” as a little girl confronts a goat “sharp little horns and glittery eyes” on her way home from school, and in “Jacaranda,” in which the speaker asks, “what’s the feminine of feet”?
The Doomsday Song [MP3]
The Name of Things [MP3]
He was the Goat, I was the Girl [MP3]
“Children often have the ability to cut to the chase and say something without dissembling,” Eileen Tabios writes in her review of the book for Jacket2. As anthology editor Dana Teen Lomax explains, “They don’t always do as they are told or follow the instructions about how to act on paper or in society.”
Twelve-year-old Serafina perhaps describes the poems best in her short review of Kindergarde. They are “about different things, different people, different times and places … it’s a book for dreamers, schemers, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, dancers, prancers, hopers, mopers, creatures, features, preachers, and everyone else.” — Gina DeCagna