Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Poetry of Dogs

Dakota, our resident hound, is a frequent distraction during my day. He alerts me to the mail carrier and UPS driver long before they reach our house. He enjoys going in and out approximately 756 times a day. He warns of deer, cranes, raccoons, and more. And of course he likes to walk every day, rain or shine, snow or sleet, mosquitoes or not. BUT, he is also a source of inspiration.

Many of my favorite poets have written about dogs. Early in my writing-poetry-for-kids journey, I read Joyce Sidman’s The World According to Dog. Allergies and insomnia keep me from sharing bed space with the hound, but that does not stop my admiration of “Dog in Bed.”

Dog in Bed
BY JOYCE SIDMAN
Nose tucked under tail,
you are a warm, furred planet
centered in my bed.
All night I orbit, tangle-limbed,
in the slim space
allotted to me.

If I accidentally
bump you from sleep,
you shift, groan,
drape your chin on my hip.

O, that languid, movie-star drape!
I can never resist it.
Digging my fingers into your fur,
kneading,
     I wonder:
How do you dream?
What do you adore?
Why should your black silk ears
feel like happiness?

Read the rest of the poem here. That final question–why should your black silk ears feel like happiness?–was clearly written about my hound.

When we got Dakota as a rescue dog three years ago, he had boundless energy. We had no idea how old he was or how long he had spent on the mean streets of northern Michigan where he was picked up as a stray, but he has slowed and calmed a bit since then. He’s now content to snooze on a hot summer afternoon, like the dog in Valerie Worth’s small poems:

dog

Under a maple tree
the dog lies down,
Lolls his limp
Tongue, yawns,
Rests his long chin
Carefully between
Front paws;
Looks up, alert;
Chops, with heavy
Jaws, at a slow fly,
Blinks, rolls
On his side,
Sighs, closes
His eyes: sleeps
All afternoon
In his loose skin.
-Valerie Worth

Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs is another canine poetry treasure. The collection captures the joy of watching dogs, of imagined conversations, of unconditional love. Several of the poems are featured on brain pickings. Here’s one of my favorites:

The Storm

Now through the white orchard my little dog
romps, breaking the new snow
with wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins
until the white snow is written upon
in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing
the pleasures of the body in this world.
Oh, I could not have said it better
Mary Oliver

I’ll end with a poem that I wrote soon after Dakota became a part of our family, in response to Irene Latham’s invitation to write about wild things to celebrate her blogiversary. “Dog Days” was published a couple of months ago in Spider. One day of the hound’s life became a whole pack of dog- park dogs in the clever illustration.

Sylvia has the Poetry Friday roundup at Poetry for Children, along with an introduction to GREAT MORNING, her latest anthology with Janet Wong. The book has a unique audience: it’s a collection of poems written for school principals to read aloud during morning announcements. I’m honored to have written a poem for the book called “Cat Coder” about writing a computer program. (I know a whole lot more about dogs than computer programming, but fortunately could consult with my computer-savvy offspring.)