Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Welcome to Dee Michel, Eve Merriam's Son!

Eve Merriam Photo, Poem, and Top of Edible Book

What a treasure I have in store for you today. A few weeks ago, I opened my e-mail to find this note from writer and retired librarian Dee Michel --

Hi Amy LV,
Eve Merriam was my mother, and I've been involved in a local Edible Book event here in Northampton, MA for the past several years.  When trying to find the photos online of my creation, I stumbled across your mentioning my mother's poem and then talking about the Edible Book fest just before.  Amazing.  So here's what I did last spring: 


Here is Dee's edible book to go along with one of his mom's most well-loved poems, "How to Eat a Poem."

Dee's 2012 Edible Book 

Dee Michel and friends Laura Wenk and Mina Stern-Wenk 
(All worked on the fridge!)

Part-Eaten Poem, Part-Eaten Fridge

Cookies Baked for 4-Letter Word Magnets

Dee told more about his edible books --

I've been doing edible books for a few years and the title of this poem, "How to Eat a Poem," seemed perfect for an edible book, even though a poem is not a book. But I couldn't figure out how to embody it. Then, this year, I somehow happened on the idea of refrigerator magnets.

I think the edible book idea is so cool for so many reasons. First, folks interpret their books in a variety of unexpected ways, from 3-D actual books to scenes from stories to puns and rebuses to ... Second, the variety of folks doing it from kids to adults to kids and adults. Third, the community feeling. Fourth, the idea that it's evanescent art, like a Buddhist sand mandala, here today gone in a few hours.

The same week as the Edible Book event here in Northampton at the beginning of April 2012 was the 20th anniversary of my mother's death and by an amazing coincidence, I was on a radio show talking about her poetry.

My real fridge actually contains a bit of the Rice Krispie treat fridge that didn't get eaten. I also have the remains of a WIZARD OF OZ cake that the UMass library folks made for me at the opening of an exhibit I did for them quite a few years ago. 

Wizard of Oz Edible Book

And here is my edible version of BREAKFAST IN THE RAINFOREST.

Breakfast in the Rainforest Edible Book

I asked what it was like to be Eve Merriam's son --

My mother loved language play and kept notes on funny or insightful things my brother and I said when we were growing up. I remember her telling me that we loved the sound of the word "sycamore." When my mother pointed out sycamore trees in New York City (they are along Riverside Park and elsewhere in Manhattan), she told me that my brother and I would run around yelling, "Sycamore, sycamore, sick, sick, sycamore!"

Both she and my father loved the theater in general and musicals especially. They took me and my brother to Broadway and off Broadway shows when we were really young. I inherited this love and have quite a large collection of LP's, old-fashioned vinyl, especially of Broadway musicals. My mother told many interviewers that the lyrics of W.S. Gilbert were especially inspiring to her, and Mom and Dad also took us to Gilbert and Sullivan operettas when we were young.

Recently I was involved in the Dining Room Players, kids as young as 3 and 4, but also up to preteen, who put on Gilbert and Sullivan shows in one family's dining room. Each week in the winter they would film one scene and then a grown-up would edit it all into an hour or so video. I helped with props and sets and the program and getting a CD for all the parents. My partner and I were the only non-parental adults helping out.

Dee shared his favorite of his mother's poems --
Let's see. I think "Apple" from HALLOWEEN ABC.  (For more about this book, visit The Miss Rumphius Effect.)  In fact, back in the year 2000 in honor of National Poetry Month, Ginny Moore Kruse of the Cooperative Children's Book Center in Madison asked for people to nominate poems by NCTE award winners. Since my mother got the NCTE award in 1981 and I was at the ceremony in Boston, I had to nominate something. This is what I sent Ginnie Moore Kruse:

I remember the NCTE award dinner in Boston in 1981 quite well. I got to meet David McCord and Myra Cohn Livingston. Anyway, here is my nomination for favorite Merriam poem:

"Apple" from HALLOWEEN ABC

"You be good and I'll be night" from the book of the same name may

      be sillier and more fun to read out loud.
"Landscape" from FINDING A POEM critiques society more bitingly,
      it must be allowed.
"How to Eat a Poem" uses the same image of fruit being Eden; it is
      so often anthologized, it makes me proud.

Eve had an affinity for alphabet books and apples and puns.

For gleeful evil that hurts no one,
That elicits the squealing of kids having fun,
The surprise ending of "Apple" is just the one.
And here's the text -

by Eve Merriam

sweet apple, 
what do you hide?
Wormy and 
rotten inside.

sweet apple, 
so shiny and red, 
taste it, 
don’t waste it,
come and be fed.

one bite and 
you’re dead.

Dee told me about his favorite poems by others --

Oh gee. I always liked "The grasshopper" by David McCord, with its zigzaggy lines across the page. I memorized it in grade school, but of course the zigzagginess was lost when I said it out loud. I also like these from Ogden Nash:  "Babies,"  "Canary," "The Eel."  Once read, never forgotten.  Interesting how 3 out of 4 are animal poems. And all pretty light verse.

I asked what Dee plans to do with his edible book collection --

I'm just a saver. Don't have any plans. Would you like a piece?  I'd be happy to send it to you to admire/eat/toss ...

I said, "Yes, please!" And then yesterday, on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, this package came in the mail.

Package from October 29, 2012

I opened it up...


...and found parts of the rainforest bowl (lower left), a big chunk of poem refrigerator, and many trees and castle parts from Oz!

Goodies for Us!

Today our family is spending the day reading, preparing for Halloween, and nibbling on green trees, a chocolate bowl, and the refrigerator that goes along with one of my favorite poems.  Many thanks to a generous man, who we'd never met until just a few weeks ago!

To read more about Dee's edible books, click on the links below.

Dee's article about his first Edible Book Festival
Poem Ingredient Card
Rainforest and Oz Ingredient Cards

Eve Merriam was the author of poems for adults, poems for children, picture books, and more.  She won the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1981, and her book THE INNER CITY MOTHER GOOSE (1969), a frequently challenged book, inspired the Broadway musical, INNER CITY.  For more information about Eve Merriam, visit Poets.org.

Just One of Eve Merriam's Many Books

I am simply delighted today...to have a new friend who loves edible book festivals as much as I do, to crunch on these books, to know Eve Merriam's son, my new pen pal!  Thank you so much, Dee, for finding me, for sharing your photos and stories, and for goodies in word and food.  I cannot wait to see your next edible book.


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  1. Wonderful! I am now in love with the fabulous creativity of these edible books. I must make one! What a stroke of luck that you and Dee found each other this way. I so enjoyed reading of his memories and his favorite poems. Thank you for sharing, Dee and Amy!

    Oh, and that Dining Room Players is a brilliant idea. I just may have to do an Italian version when the boys are a bit older. :)

  2. From Eve Merriam comes another creative soul who loves poetry and edible books. This is not surprising, but just delightful. I have used so many of her poems through the years. What a treat (in several ways I guess) for you to find this person who also loves the edible books, Amy.

  3. I found myself thrilled for you! The fun and excitement of it all must have been almost too much! This was great. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Wow! What a treat this post is! Thank you!

  5. Edible books! I've yet to attend an actual EB Festival but hope to someday. I remember your mentioning the one up your way. Very cool that Dee contacted you. Thanks for sharing the poems and pictures. Delightful post :)!

  6. Edible books! I was going to say, Does Jama know about this, and then I read above:>) I love Eve Merriam's work. What a treat (hehe) to read this post and get to know her son. Lucky you for this whole encounter. Connecting online can bring wonderful things when you share what you're passionate about.

  7. Wow! Lucky you. Eve Merriam is a goddess of poetry.

  8. Delicious post! I love edible books, and some of Eve Merriam's poems are ones I return to time and again with students: "Why I Did Not Reign," "New Love," "TV," "How Can You Become a Poet." And, of course, "How to Eat a Poem." Sounds like a wonderful experience all the way around.

  9. This is one of your very best blog posts. Thank you so much. he seems like such a kind man. Imagine being raised by Eve Merriam? Wow!