Brief Candles : 101 Clerihews by Henry Taylor
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Not since W. H. Auden's Academic Graffiti has a poet of serious substance indulged so thoroughly in clerihews, those miniature (and often outrageously fictional) biographies invented just over 100 years ago by E. C. Bentley (1875-1956). In Brief Candles, Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Taylor takes on with hilarious irreverence people usually taken most seriously -- members of the Supreme Court, poets laureate, literary theorists, Whitewater celebrities, and New Testament figures -- demonstrating through 101 clerihews that one of the primary purposes of poetry is to have fun, even while craftsmanship remains paramount. Taylor's shimmering wit and resourceful use of rhyme combine with whimsical illustrations by Heather Alexander to make these tiny, playful pieces a rare treat for all readers. We learn the rules quickly enough (the form demands a beginning with a proper name and then a rhymed surprise or payoff), and read with delight such quick riffs as: Antonin Scalia likes to sing "The Rose of Tralee" -- a treat for all students of his jurisprudence. Friedrich Nietzsche strove vainly to reach a steadfast decision between Apollonian and Dionysian. In times of tribulation, we can read the Book of Lamentations, or the Psalms, or just as likely, Henry Taylor's clerihews. They are, as he calls them, Brief Candles, but they do give a satisfying light.


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