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Poetry Friday : May 5, 2017.

On this Friday, to salute chatter that I love and silence that I crave, in memory of my childhood, in memory of my brothers, I share “Little Charlie Chipmunk”– the lines of which I can still recite.

Little Charlie Chipmunk

Little Charlie Chipmunk was a talker. Mercy me!

He chattered after breakfast and he chattered after tea!

He chattered to his father and he chattered to his mother!

He chattered to his sister and he chattered to his brother!

He chattered till his family was almost driven wild.

Oh, little Charlie Chipmunk was a very tiresome child.

      –Helen Cowles LeCron

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*  The back story to my poem and author selection.

In a February Slice of Life post, Deb Frazier wrote,

“I am embracing quiet time, maybe even seeking silent minutes. The silence gives me a chance to reflect on my thoughts. In my silence I find my ideas, new and old seem to find a space to settle in and breathe.”

I commented on Deb’s blog post: “After a long day of teaching, I crave a time of silence. It’s like elevating my feet after I’ve stood all day. On the other hand, I have always been capable of ‘endless chatter.'”

I copied Deb’s words and my comment into my journal along with the children’s verse “Little Charlie Chipmunk.”  I read that journal entry this week and pondered the rise and fall of silence and chatter in my daily life.

Most of my days are filled with people, listening and thinking and talking. By the end of a work day, I’m often on voice overload — especially after a day presenting professional development. At such times, I crave silence. I embrace silence. Like a glass of crushed ice when temperatures push to the triple digits. Like a warm shower after three days in an Asian jungle refugee camp.

On the other hand, my brothers have reminded me on occasion that there was a time when I was a kid that my folks thought my jaw was unhinged. There was no silence if I was in the room. In that time, my older brothers nicknamed me Charlie Chipmunk after the chattering chipmunk immortalized in the children’s verse they’d memorized at school.

{Lest you worry that such teasing suffered me harm, I pause to tell you that it did not. I thought chipmunks were the cutest, much cuter than squirrels. And talking was pure pleasure for me.  Ah, you say, we can tell that . . . because we see the chatter from your keyboard upon this page. Smiles.}

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*  About  “Little Charlie Chipmunk”

“Little Charlie Chipmunk” is one of a series of etiquette poems about naughty creatures who are examples of how not to behave. The poems, authored by Helen Cowles LeCron, were originally published in 1926.  Dover Publications reprinted the book, Animal Etiquette, in 2014.

Each animal character cleverly matches its “undesirable” behavior. The poems have been used for memory work and included in readers in schools in by-gone-years.

Let me introduce a few of the twenty-four characters with a couple lines from each one’s poem.

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*  Books by  Helen Crowles LeCron

As I prepared this post, I wondered if HCL had written any other books.

  • I turned immediately to Google. {Isn’t internet searching wonderful?}
  • I discovered she had co-authored several cookbooks. {Imagine!}
  • I dug into the Gutenberg files and found a copy of one titled A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband. {Hm, interesting title for a cookbook, right?}
  • Turns out that it is a cookbook novel. {Is there such a genre?}
  • For the past two days, I’ve been skimming the book, finding entertainment in the story and in the recipes.  {In a March post, I wrote: “I must confess that I read cookbooks for pleasure, much like some people read poetry.” }
  • Bettina’s story is a surreal cooking story of a 1920s bride. {Makes me think of the surrealism of  “Leave it to Beaver” from the late1950s.}

And for all my teacher friends, in Chapter LXXXVI, Bettina prepares a luncheon for the teachers. Here’s what she served for dessert. {Yummy! And I learned some things about a genuine sponge cake.}

Sadie Stien (in a 2012 post in the Paris Review) gives an interesting look at the book and shares copies of some illustrations.

A Gutenberg copy of A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband can be downloaded. I put one in my iBooks file. It has an Index of recipes, begins on page 890, that has active links to pages, making it easy to find and navigate to specific recipes. {Nice feature!}

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*  About Helen Crowles LeCron (1886 – 1963)

Helen was the oldest of six children, born to Gardner Cowles Sr. and Florence Call Cowles in 1886. Although I didn’t find much about her, I did find some interesting information about the Cowles family.  Read more about them– Drake University, Cowles Library.


Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup  is hosting
the Poetry Friday Roundup today.
Join us there!  Thank you, Jama!

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