Dennis Lee and his rollicking rhymes
Canadian poet Dennis Lee spellbound a Trent audience on Thursday, January 9.
Alternating between bellylaughs and complete silence, the mood in the room was shaped by the type of poem being read by Mr. Lee. Some of his delightful rhymes for children, as well as some fun pre-teen poetry, inspired laughter, while serious pieces from the pre-teen work produced a retrospective hush.
Gathered in the senior common room at Champlain College, the audience primarily comprised English and cultural studies students from the classes of Professor Stephen Brown and Professor Sean Kane. Mr. Lee also read to some of Professor Michael Peterman’s students on the evening of January 8.
The reading incorporated many of the elements of a good seminar, and students were encouraged to ask questions and engage in discussion. Several students raised interesting questions, and Mr. Lee was willing to talk about many aspects of his poetry and his life.
He commented that rhythm is everything in his work, much like a dance. He also said that he feels very comfortable working in both the adult and children’s genres of poetry, and that the two are not disconnected. "As the person inside the stuff, I see links between my children’s and adult poetry. We all have different strains, and moods, within us and it feels perfectly natural," Mr. Lee said.
He cited Mother Goose rhymes as an influence in his children’s writing: "It’s so primordial. Poetry like that works with the body - connects like a magic spell - or it doesn’t." Mr. Lee added that children are brutally honest in their assessment of poetry, and immediately respond to a poem in an enthusiastic or indifferent way. That, he says, makes writing children’s poetry very challenging.
Mr. Lee is working on a new volume of pre-teen poetry, from which he read several pieces on January 9. He anticipates the volume will be published in approximately one year.
Mr. Lee is a Trent honorary degree recipient.
Posted January 10, 2003