Friday, April 07, 2006

A Wonderful Welshman

A remarkable man and gifted poet passed away last week. Leslie Norris, BYU's emeritus poet in residence (whose work is known and revered worldwide), died after suffering a stroke. I've had the privilege of attending some of Leslie's poetry readings, and chatting with him and his wife in their lovely home. Leslie was self-effacing, witty, and generous; his charming Welsh brogue made conversation all the more delightful. He will be greatly missed.

A second printing of Norris's Ark, one of Leslie's books of poems for children, was issued in 2000. In the Author's Note, he says:

"[Writing poems for children] was both harder and more enjoyable than I had expected. I had to learn to look at the world with newer eyes, and to be perfectly clear in what I said. I had to forget the words 'if' and 'but', except when they opened up worlds of the imagination . . . If I could fly . . . But a dog can talk . . . It was very good for me to think like that."

One of my favorite poems in the collection is called The Wire-Haired Fox-Terrier. An excerpt:

I am a great
Cat chaser
And garden tennisball
Nosy Parker

Noisy Barker

And middle of the lawn bone-burier

I'm a wire-haired
Fox Terrier.

At night I am

A sleeper

And nobody can sleep
Or snoozier

Or cosier

When the frost outside gets frozier

Than a tired

Fox Terrier.

And from another of my favorites, Bird And Boy:

So you want to fly. Why?
You haven't any feathers.
Do you think it's good fun
Being out in all weathers?
Said Bird to Boy.

You haven't any wings,
You can't build a nest.
Why aren't you satisfied
With the things you do best?
Said Bird to Boy.

What would it be like?
A sky full of boys,
Their arms flapping, their big feet -
And the noise!
Said Bird to Boy.

If you'd like to know more about Leslie's life, click on his picture above.


AzĂșcar said...

I loved Leslie Norris. A couple years ago someone in the Music Department wrote a bunch of music to Norris's Ark. We took some of the girls to go see a performance (I think they were taping it.) We got to hear Leslie read his work to the music specifically composed for the words. It was marvelous.

And Wire-Haired Fox-Terrier was my favorite.

Miss Five said...

I only got to go to one of his readings - but what a delight. And I often feel I'm missing the point with some poetry, his was so easily accessible.

Thanks for posting about his passing, Emmyln.