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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No Such Animal

No such animal, 193-?. Charles Green Shaw papers,
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
As an item-level cataloger who toes the line between archivist and librarian I sometimes feel like a rare beast, so I can identify with the hybrid animals in Charles Green Shaw's unpublished children's book No Such Animal (sub-titled "Twenty-one Little Verses Dealing Mainly With Dumb Beasts And Proving Absolutely Nothing, for Fairly Sophisticated Children of Practically Any Age"). It was Shaw's career as an abstract painter that landed his papers in the collections of the Archives of American Art, but he was also an accomplished writer and poet, publishing over 1500 poems in poetry magazines and winning the Michael Strange Poetry Award in 1954. He wrote clever books for children, including the still-in-print It Looked Like Spilt Milk. Combining his wit and his talent with rhyme are the poems that make up No Such Animal. To round out National Poetry Month, here are a few of my favorites. Be sure to flip through the whole manuscript here.

Most matronly

Of animals --

Kind, gracious, tender, ah!

So very sympathetic too,

Ever prepared to die or do,

The pride of any well-run zoo,

To wit:

the Puma-ma

Far, far removed from sylvan dell

From ivied kirk or cloister --

We give you --

Fried or on a grill,

Baked, roasted, steamed,

Or what you will, --

A bivalve rich in phosphates, still

A poor fish:

The Play-boyster

 Another type

Of the absurd

Is -- if you please --

Half beast, half bird,

Yet one we cannot help

But hope

You'll like -- the Pelicantelope

Bettina Smith, Digital Projects Librarian
Archives of American Art

1 comment:

  1. Love this! Esp. the Flamingo-getter and the Bison-of -a -gun