In time for National Poetry Day, here come some new ways of exploring Lewis Carroll’s iconic Alice books.
In a variety of ways, modern poets provide their own take on Carroll’s poems, many of which were parodies of verse from his own times. As editor and contributor Michaela Morgan says in her introduction: ‘here are Lewis Carroll’s playful responses to the poems that Victorian children read, and here are modern poets’ responses to Lewis Carroll’s poems.’ Robert Stevens has a modern young lad chide Carroll in a similar way to that in which an earlier young man mocked old Father William (a poem which in turn was modelled on one by Robert Southey). Stevens also ends the poem with a sly reference to a significant Carroll character. There are two responses to the famous nonsense poem ‘Jabberwocky’. Joseph Coelho employs made up words to create a poem that feels full of action and to which the reader can supply their own meaning, while Michaela Morgan uses the same pattern and rhyme scheme as Carroll to express the horrors of hay fever.
Parody is just one aspect of the creativity inspired by Alice. Sue Hardy-Dawson has written a shape poem based on the Cheshire cat’s smile. In a poem from Jan Dean we get the viewpoint of a Dormouse who has tested many kinds of bed, only to remain convinced that teapots are the best place to rest. Kenn Nesbitt responds to ‘Humpty Dumpty’s Song’ with some suggestions for how he might have cracked things if only he’d known better. Rachel Rooney responds to Alice’s question about the use of books ‘without pictures or conversation’ with some witty and practical ideas! In ‘Read me’ Joshua Seigal plays with the instructions Alice received to ‘Eat me’ and Drink me’ to show how poetry can make you grow and expand your mind.
The final poems are about the ‘Alice effect’, recognising the wider cultural influence of the books in poems such as Grace Nichols’ ‘Alice’s Movie.’ There is lots to explore and take readers off in different directions. The Alice phenomenon is far from exhausted yet.