Audience Participation Friday: Feechie Love Poetry

This blog is getting eco-friendlier and eco-friendlier. No longer content to recycle my own content, I’m now recycling other people’s content from five years ago. I hope Wendell Berry is reading this.

In 2006 Sally Apokedak (yes, that Sally Apokedak) ran a Feechie Love Poem contest on her blog. She suggested that we reprise it around here. I like that idea, except that this contest will not have prizes. Or, in any case, your prize will be the satisfaction of knowing that you have contributed to American letters, which is a heap better than a signed book any day.

If you know much about feechiefolks, you probably know that they are a poetic bunch. Always composing and reciting and singing. In The Secret of the Swamp King, Book 2 of the Wilderking trilogy, Branko sings a love song that goes like this:

My sweet feechie girl is the swamp’s finest pearl —
A treasure, and man don’t I know it.
And I really do think that she loves me too,
Though she don’t always know how to show it.

Her brown eyes are dark like a loblolly’s bark.
Her skin is as smooth as a gator.
The one time I kissed her, she knocked me cold, mister.
But nothing could cause me to trade her.

She smells just as sweet as a mud turtle’s feet.
Her hair is as soft as a possum.
Once I walked by her side, but she knocked me cross-eyed.
It took me a week to un-cross ’em.

Her voice is as pleasin’ as swamp lily season
She talks kind of froggy and crickety.
Once I give her a rose, and she busted my nose.
My sweetie can be right persnickety.

I’ll give you this warning: you mess with my darling,
I’ll whop you a right, then a left.
And if that ain’t enough, or if you’re extra tough,
I might let her whup you herself.

As you can see, a feechie love poem follows a very regular pattern of four-line stanzas: two lines praising the beloved’s appeal (in feechiefied terms). One line about how the narrator tries to show his love. A fourth line which the beloved misunderstands and beats him up. As for meter and rhyme, it’s 12-8-12-8, internal rhyme on lines 1 and 3, end rhyme on lines 2 and 4.

In the above poem, the first and last poems are bookends, their content not quite conforming to the format. But in between, the stanzas are accordion-like; the stanzas are easily replicable, and the poem can expand to fit as many stanzas as you like.

Your assignment for Audience Participation Friday is to add to the body of feechie love poetry by composing a stanza of your own. It’s a great way to honor someone you love; I think you’ll find it addictive.

A Prayer for Happy Meetings

Every morning for many years, Flannery O’Connor prayed this “Prayer to St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings”:

O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, Angel of happy meetings, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for. May all our movements be guided by your Light and transfigured with your joy.

Angel, guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whole unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze. Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of life, we feel the need of calling you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country. Remember the weak, you who are strong, you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God.

As a Protestant, I don’t go in for the invoking of saints. Nevertheless, I love this prayer with its vision of life as a journey toward our true country, “the province of joy”–a journey full of happy meetings.

Audience Participation Friday: Fun with Google Translate

You may already be familiar with Mark Twain’s dodge whereby he found a French translation of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and re-translated it back into English. It’s funny stuff, mainly insofar as it demonstrates how un-funny something can get when it is transposed into another language. In the introduction (which is the funniest part of the experiment), he writes,

[The French translator] says my jumping Frog is a funny story, but still he can’t see why it should ever really convulse any one with laughter–and straightway proceeds to translate it into French in order to prove to his nation that there is nothing so very extravagantly funny about it. Just there is where my complaint originates. He has not translated it at all; he has simply mixed it all up; it is no more like the jumping Frog when he gets through with it than I am like a meridian of longitude. But my mere assertion is not proof; wherefore I print the French version, that all may see that I do not speak falsely; furthermore, in order that even the unlettered may know my injury and give me their compassion, I have been at infinite pains and trouble to retranslate this French version back into English; and to tell the truth I have well-nigh worn myself out at it, having scarcely rested from my work during five days and nights. I cannot speak the French language, but I can translate very well, though not fast, I being self- educated.

You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so inclined.

Now, thanks to Google Translate, you can translate and re-translate stories into any number of languages without knowing a single word of any language other than your own. And that’s exactly what we shall do for Audience Participation Friday this week: pick a favorite (and preferably well-known) passage from a book, type or cut and paste it into Google Translate, translate it into another language, then back again into English, and post the re-Englished result below. Also, tell us what language(s) you translated into and back out of.

I should warn you: Google Translate does a better job than you might think. I sent the first page of Moby Dick through the translator (that was for you, Sally and Becca), and it came back word-perfect. I’m thinking they might have certain well-known passages pre-loaded or something. Even the first page of Huckleberry Finn came back surprisingly clean.

The Charlatan’s Boy, however, seems not to have been pre-loaded. The first couple of paragraphs (plus the chapter title) look a little bedraggled after a trip to China and back. The Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp becomes the Feechiefen swamp Savage, and poor Floyd becomes Freud:

Here, I jump out of the box and play the Feechiefen swamp Savage …
I do not remember a thing about the day I was born. Or lack of it has not been tried.I’ve tried to go back I can go hours, but I most remember, was the first truck ride back to Freud, looking at myself in the mirror.
I have met people who claim they know everything, their birthday, took place there, who with, what the occasion. But if you really press them on it, in fact they do not remember nothing about it than I do. They only know that someone told them.
I do not care who you are, when it comes to knowing where you come from, you have to take someone else’s word for it. This is a ticklish thing for me has always been. I only know one person who might be able to tell me where I come from, that person isa liar and a fraud.

Feechie of the Week: Michael Dasher, Juvenile Alligator Wrestler

When I was ten years old I used to wrestle a dachshund. So I can relate to the following story.

Ten-year-old Michael Dasher was fishing in a Florida canal last week when an alligator bit his hook and broke his line. According to young Michael, the alligator then charged him. The two friends who were with him–sensible young men and no doubt civilizers–ran away. Michael, however, hit the alligator with a stick, jumped on the alligator’s back, taped its mouth shut, and carried it home over his shoulder. As he told one TV news reporter, “Its tail slapped me in the face, but I just threw it over my head.” The alligator was three inches shy of six feet long.

The police gave Michael a stern talking-to about the importance of not subduing alligators and carrying them home alive. He says he’ll run away next time he sees an alligator. It has been my experience, however, that wee-feechies just tell you what they think you want to hear.

This video, which shows a game warden confiscating the alligator, gives you an idea of the size of this thing. Hint: It’s bigger than a ten-year-old.


Huge in Poland

My 2005 book The World According to Narnia is out of print in English, so I was a little surprised yesterday when the mailman brought me four copies of a book called Świat według Narnii. Chrześcijańskie znaczenie niezwykłych opowieści C. S. Lewisa. Apparently Hachette, the publisher of The World According to Narnia, had sold the Polish rights. The first I heard about it was the arrival of the books themselves.
Here’s a description of the book from a Polish website. On the second paragraph, Google Translate starts to struggle…though I love that phrase “second bottom” to describe deeper levels of meaning in a story.

“The World According to Narnia” is an excellent guide to the land created by Lewis. Jonathan Rogers, the reader discovers the inner world of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” At the same time goes beyond the story told by Lewis and shows its context – the world of the author himself.

Rogers also betrays us, circled around the issues which the writer mean when he talked about the adventures of the Pevensie children, Eustace and Juliet, Digory’ego and Poli. It helps to deeply understand the content of “The Chronicles of Narnia”, explores the symbolism, draws attention to important details, or second bottom of individual events and descriptions.It shows how and where Lewis wove references to the Gospel.He says – and his words sound convincing – that the main driving forces of creativity Lewis is an extraordinary imagination and rational faith.

Rogers maintained his story lively and highly entertaining – the reader almost hears voices Ryczypiska, Błotosmętka, Zuchona, it feels sweet and refreshing waters of the strength of the Last Sea, which reached the crew of the Dawn Treader…

Here’s the publisher’s web page for the book. Apparently the book is getting reviewed by Polish bloggers. There is also a five-minute radio piece on the website; the only words I can make out, though, are “Jonathana Rogersa,” “Lewisa,” and “Aslan.” And the price is right at 29.90 zloty.

About me:

Jonathan Rogers: in literature (his specialty is science seventeenth-century English poetry), the writer, known primarily as the author of the trilogy Wilderking. He was a lecturer at Vanderbilt University. For several years, completely devoted himself to writing. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife and six children.


Audience Participation Friday: Summer Reading

Memorial Day is upon us. Many of you, no doubt, are already working on your second or third sunburn. Hopefully we’ll all have a little more time to read at the beach or beside the pool or, if you’re like the guy on the right, on your pontoon boat.

For Audience Participation Friday, let’s help one another build our summer reading lists. What book or two (or three) would you insist that a friend read this summer? This is largely a selfish request; I haven’t thought much about my summer reading and am looking for suggestions.

There is one book that I especially want to read this summer. It is about Quanah Parker, the last and greatest Comanche chief, and his white mother, Cynthia Ann Parker. The book has the  unwieldy title of Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in History. I heard the author, S.C. Gwynne, on the radio the other day, and it’s a fascinating story. Cynthia Ann was kidnapped by the Comanches when she was a young girl. When she got older, she married a chief, the father of Quanah. The whites kidnapped her back when Quanah was about nine; she never got used to living among white people and pined away for the tribe. Empire of the Summer Sun is as much history as biography, detailing, as its subtitle suggests, the rise and fall of a warlike people. According to the author, the Comanches were the reason that whites settled the West Coast was settled before they settled the middle of America: settling California wasn’t the hard part; the hard part was getting through the Great Plains without getting killed by Comanches.

So, there’s my recommendation (for a book I haven’t read). What are yours?

Editor’s Note: I have heard from 2 or 3 of you saying that you’ve had trouble with the comments since I’ve moved over to Disqus. One thing that worries me is that if a person who is having bad trouble with the comments might not be able to leave a comment describing the trouble. Indeed, I think there has been a decline in comments since the move to Disqus (though, I realize, there are many variables that affect these things, not the least of which is Aaron R. getting a steady job). If you’ve been having trouble with the comments, would you please take a minute and write me a note using the “Contact Me” form on the right? Thanks.


Author Photo?

I had a great visit at Nashville’s Cameron Middle School last Friday. When I got to the library, I was greeted by this picture, drawn by a very talented sixth-grader named Jorge and colored by another sixth-grader named Rita.
There is some question as to whether it’s a picture of Grady from The Charlatan’s Boy or a picture of me. I would have guessed Grady, but as somebody pointed out, it has my name right there.

Below is a picture of the audience, who were extremely attentive and asked very smart questions. Many thanks to librarian Gina Wiser, literacy coach Sandy Smith-Hitt, and principal Chris Hames for their hospitality. They’re doing great things with some great kids at Cameron.

Feechie of the Week: Gary Murphy, Dog Rescuer

A West Highland terrier is no match for an alligator. Thankfully for Doogie, a West Highland terrier in Palm City, Florida, his 72-year-old owner is. Gary Murphy, a retired construction worker, was working on a boat at the dock behind his house when a six-foot alligator grabbed Doogie in its jaws and pulled the poor dog into the water. Murphy jumped into the water and onto the alligator’s back (he was wearing loafers–a nice detail). Then he went to punching the alligator on the head until it let go of Doogie, slid under the boat, and swam away. ‘I wasn’t trying to be a hero,” Murphy said. “I just wanted my dog back.”


Doogie was treated for his injuries (a collapsed lung, a damaged liver, and some nasty teeth marks), and is resting comfortably at home. Here’s video from MSNBC.

On Worthy Opponents

I have been listening to an audio version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The other day I heard the chapter in which Huck stumbles into the middle of a feud between the Grangerford and the Shepherdson families. Buck Grangerford tells Huck about an episode in which old Baldy Shepherdson shot down a young Grangerford in the middle of the road. Huck says “I reckon that old man was a coward, Buck.” But Buck won’t let anybody disparage his blood enemy:

“I reckon he warn’t a coward. Not by a blame’ sight. There ain’t a coward amongst them Shepherdsons–not a one. There ain’t no cowards amongst the Grangerfords either. Why, that old man kep’ up his end in a fight one day, for a half an hour, against three Grangerfords, and come out winner. They was all a-horseback; he lit off of his horse and got behind a little wood-pile, and kep’ his horse before him to stop the bullets; the Grangerfords staid on their horses and capered around the old man, and peppered away at him, and he peppered away at them. Him and his horse both went home pretty leaky and crippled, but the Grangerfords had to be fetched home–and one of them was dead and one of them died the next day. No, sir, if a body’s out hunting for cowards, he don’t want to fool away any time amongst them Shepherdsons, becuz they don’t breed any of that kind.”

Buck Grangerford’s praise for the Shepherdsons caused me to reflect on the idea of the worthy opponent. Let us lay aside for a moment the fact that the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons were engaged in a meaningless feud, as well as the fact that anybody with good sense would  agree with Huck Finn that Baldy Shepherdson acted in a cowardly manner when he shot down an unarmed fourteen-year-old. Buck Grangerford is confused on many counts. Mark Twain is being utterly ironic here. Still, I can’t help admiring the respect and even affection that Buck affords his mortal enemies. The Grangerfords’ honor in the feud depends on the Sheperdsons’ honor.

Again, I understand the fact that the fight in Huckleberry Finn is a meaningless fight, and the participants’ honor is a false honor. But not all fights are meaningless, and in the real ones–the meaningful ones–it is exceedingly important that we honor and even value our opponents. This principle is true in household arguments, and it’s true in public arguments. In the current climate of political, cultural, and theological discourse, the worthy opponent appears to be a threatened species. It seems to be standard practice to dismiss one’s opponents as halfwits or degenerates or worse. But we cheapen our own side of the argument when we cheapen the other side.

I thought of the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons the other day when I read a piece that Christopher Hitchens wrote about his own impending death. The most articulate and prolific of the “New Atheists,” Hitchens is a man of outlandish verbal and reasoning powers. He has brought those powers to bear in opposition to the beliefs that I hold most deeply. Still, I can’t help but be sad at the thought that his voice will soon be silent. His kind of brilliance doesn’t come along very often. I wish he had begun from different premises. I wish he had ended up as a GK Chesterton for our generation; he seems to have the wit and energy for it.

Hitchens has said not to expect any deathbed conversion. That would indeed be a most unlikely and unexpected event. Then again, every conversion is a miracle. Here’s hoping God works that particular miracle. But even if he doesn’t, let me say that Christopher Hitchens has helped move me down the path of humility toward the place where every believer ought to live: that is to say, toward the truth that God is my defender and not vice-versa. As Spurgeon* said, “Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose; it will defend itself.” Hitchens, that great hurricane of a thinker, has made me glad that it is not really my job to defend the faith.

*Corrected from the original, which attributed this quotation to Chesterton.

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google
Main Menu