Long ago I had a friend who would do naughty things and then apologize profusely when he was caught. He was convinced that apologizing for his naughtiness was enough to get him off the hook, even when it was obvious that he wasn't in the least bit sorry for what he did. In today's poetry book you will encounter some delicious apologies that are delightfully funny, and completely insincere.
Gail Carson Levine
Illustrated by Matthew Cordel
For ages 7 and up
HarperCollins, 2012, 978-0-06-178725-6
All too often people make apologies for their actions that they really don’t mean. In 1962 the poet William Carlos Williams wrote a poem called “This is just to say,” and in the poem the narrator apologizes for eating the plums in the fridge. Though the words “Forgive me,” are there in the poem, readers can tell that the narrator really isn’t that sorry for eating the plums. In fact, perhaps he or she is feeling rather pleased that he or she got to the plums first.
For this funny and clever collection of poems, author Gail Carson Levine has created her own “This is just to say” poems where a person says “Forgive me,” though we can tell that the apology is a sham. In fact, the narrators in these poems are quite unrepentant for the things that they have done.
We begin with a man driving a bulldozer who has flattened the thorny hedge around Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The driver knows that the princess “expected to sleep behind” the hedge “until the prince came,” but he wants to charge tourists for the privilege of visiting the princess’s castle, which is why he got rid of the hedge.
Further on in the book we meet Snow White. She ‘apologizes’ to the dwarves for “making myself ugly / and leaving / with the witch,” but explains that she is only doing so because they have appalling manners and refuse to make an effort to “be at your best.”
The author even writes a false apology from herself. She slips the introduction to the book after the table of contents and several pages of poems. Clearly she is doing her best to irritate her editor who “excruciatingly loudly / screeched” that the introduction does not belong in such a place. The author apologizes for her behavior and then mentions that she shredded the editor’s red pencil and “stirred / the splinters into” the editor’s tea. I think we can tell that the author is not in the slightest bit sorry for what she has done.
The out-of-place introduction explores William Carlos Williams’ poem and it also invites readers to try writing their own “This is just to say” poems. The form to use is very simple, there is no punctuation, and you don’t even need to come up with a title. Plus, the ninth line is always “Forgive me.” The one thing Gail Carson Levin thinks is necessary is that the writer needs to be in a “grouchy mood.” One cannot write a false apology poem if one is happy and light of heart.
This is the perfect book to read when one is feeling disgruntled and annoyed with someone. The reader is guaranteed to find that he or she will not be able to stay disgruntled for long because the poems are just too clever and too funny. A smile or a laugh will be unavoidable.