Dennis Lee (b. 1939) has written more than thirty books of poetry for adults and children and been awarded many prizes for his writing. Dennis has said that when he started writing poems for children he realised there weren't any about his native city, Toronto in Canada, so he set about changing that – many of the poems he's written refer to the place names, landmarks and rhythms of his city, and to Canada more generally, such as 'Bump On Your Thumb' with its brilliant refrain of 'tickle my tum in Toronto'. Dennis has done so much to help make Toronto a poetic place that he was made its first ever Poet Laureate in 2001. As well as writing essays, translations and prose books, Dennis has worked in film and music, including writing the lyrics for the much-loved Jim Henson show Fraggle Rock and contributing to the script of the David Bowie-starring Labyrinth.
The poems Dennis has recorded for the Children's Poetry Archive demonstrate his enormous range of interest and the delightful energy, musicality and enthusiasm of his work. His poem 'Alligator Pie' has become a children's anthem across the world, a poem known by heart by millions of readers young and old, thanks in part to its instantly memorable rhythm. Dennis explains in his introduction to the poem that it came to him one day while he was out riding his bicycle, its words running to the same beat as his feet on the pedals.
One of Dennis's nicknames in Canada is 'Father Goose', because of the countless nursery rhymes he's written – a gathering of five of these are collected together under the 'Father Goose' title, all showing off his playfulness and his perfect ear for pacing and placing sounds to make them sing from the 'tip of the top of the tree'. If his nursery rhymes are musical, some of his other work practically bursts into tune, such as 'Bundle-buggy Boogie', a swinging, bustling poem which makes jazz from the place names of the far north of Canada, as well as letting us in on the secret of what happens when bundle-buggies (shopping trolleys) get together.
Dennis's poems for children cover a whole range of ideas, styles and ages. The poems which form this sampler go from those at the beginning which are aimed at very little people to those for more grown-up children, with deliciously naughty tales of 'guck' and 'yuck' at mealtime in 'Tricking' to the hilarious and hungry story of 'Lizzy's Lion' and its run-in with a hapless burglar who doesn't know its 'secret lion name'. There are also quieter pieces, about 'The Secret Place' of the imagination where 'nobody else can be', and others perfect for bedtime, such as 'The Coming of Teddy Bears' and 'The Wizard', a magical tale about learning how to 'rise and fly away' which ends softly, with a whisper.
Dennis Lee’s reading was recorded at Morph Productions in Toronto on September 28th 2017 with Ashton Price as producer.
Jelly Belly: Dennis Lee, 1985
Melvis and Elvis: Dennis Lee, 2015
The Ice Cream Store: Dennis Lee, 2012
Alligator Pie : Dennis Lee, 2012
Lizzy's Lion: Dennis Lee, 1984
Garbage Delight: Another Helping: Dennis Lee, 2002
Nicholas Knock and Other People: Dennis Lee, 1974