April 12, 2016

Friday, August 30, 2013

Poetry Friday: Huge Sparkly Unicorns

Who better to host the first Poetry Friday of back-to-school season than Tara at A Teaching Life? If I remember correctly, the school where Tara teaches opens next week. Huge sparkly unicorns to you for hosting our poetry party on your last "free" Friday, Tara!

I have unicorns and other beasts of fantasy on my mind this week. Like any good geek, I am (have always been) an avid fantasy reader.

Did it start with my father's love of Star Trek

This guy, featured in the closing credits, used to freak me out as a kid.
He's from the classic episode, "The Corbomite Maneuver."
My father also handed me Frank Herbert's fantasy series, Dune, when I was a teen. Loved it.

I won't bore you with a list of my favorite fantasy novels and authors (Diana Wynne Jones -- several of her novels have been adapted for movies by Japan's Studio Ghibli, popular with anime fans). Let's get straight to one book that tops my best reads.

Buy a signed copy at ABE Books.
The book, about a unicorn who goes on a quest to prove she is not the last of her kind, came out in 1968. It is a classic fantasy novel with mythical beasts, a band of unlikely friends on a quest, and a monster standing between them and their goal. But it is also, as author Beagle points out, an intentional satire of the fantasy genre, filled with little anachronisms and characters who are aware their lives are part of a tale that must play out within the "rules" of any good story.

Why do I love this book so much? Like the best fantasy novels, at its heart, The Last Unicorn is about humanity. There is Schmendrick the schlubby magician, who must witness true courage before he comes into his power. And the unicorn herself, transformed for a time into a human woman, with all of humanity's foibles, needs, and mortality (unicorns are immortal).

So earlier this month I was at Otakon, a huge Japanese pop-culture convention in Baltimore with my daughter. We had just walked in with her friends, and were checking out all the cool cosplayers. (Studio Ghibli characters were popular.) Never heard of cosplay? Go here.

From Baltimore's City Paper.
There is a full gallery of amazing
costumes at the Baltimore Sun.
I turned a corner and literally walked right into ... guess who.

Squee! It's PETER S. BEAGLE!!!
Fangirl moment! (As in, over the top fangirl moment. My thirteen-year-old had to take a few steps away from me in order to avoid embarrassment.) Mr. Beagle was super nice. I bought a book, which he signed. And we chatted. He's touring the country with the animated film "The Last Unicorn," showing on big screens. I can't wait until it comes to Baltimore.

Of course, I had to reread the novel. Its sequel, a novelette titled "Two Hearts," came out in 2005 and won both the Hugo and the Nebula award.

What does this have to do with poetry? If you've read The Last Unicorn, you know that the novel is filled with snippets of poetry and pieces of song, including portions of a long, heroic ballad glorifying the bandit Captain Cully (and written by himself).

Yes. Lucky for us, Beagle is a poet. 

by Peter S. Beagle

I breathe fire,
sleep on gold.
I dine on princesses —
that’s why I’m so old.
Nothing like a princess
to chase the cold.
I breathe fire.
I am old.

I breathe fire,
scorn mankind.
Heroes come seeking me —
I’m easy to find
Young and brave and gallant,
handsome and chaste,
Praise their courage,
and their taste.

The rest of the poem, and some cool dragon art, can be found at this PDF.

I'll leave you with a clip from "The Last Unicorn," the movie. Poetry Friday is HERE, at Author Amok next week. I promise to make it all sparkly and fantastic.


Linda B said...

Looks like it's going to be a good movie, Laura! I don't know if I've ever read The Last Unicorn, but there are so many students who love fantasy, and the other books you shared that I will find a copy! One of my favorites is The Neverending Story-another 'old' one, but so filled with good things. I love your dragon poem, the 'asking for volunteers'. I remember your sharing about meeting Peter Beagle & I didn't know who he was-so glad you told more today!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Linda. The movie came out in 1982. This is a remastered version they are taking around to big screens all over the country. So funny you mentioned Neverending Story. It is on my bedside table right now!

GatheringBooks said...

Oh wow, so much to love about this post. I have so many students who are deeply into cosplay. And I have a collection of Studio Ghibli's movies - I love Howl's Moving Castle, the Diana Wynne Jones' adaptation. :) Dragonsong sounded so beautiful. My family and I have just watched The Neverending Story two weeks back (revisited the movie again) - and we're discussing the book for our book club sometime in December. Fantasy galore indeed!

Liz Steinglass said...

Going to buy the book right now. I have to read it quickly before my daughter gets home and takes it.

jama said...

So happy for you, meeting one of your favorite authors. The Last Unicorn is new to me. Enjoyed hearing more about it. :)

Author Amok said...

Hi, Myra. We love the Ghibli movies, but especially the Wynne Jones adaptations. Did you know she was a mentor of Neil Gaiman's? When I'm done with Neverending Story, I'd love to see the movie again. It was a family favorite when my brothers were little.

Author Amok said...

Liz and Jama, you will not be disappointed, especially if you're fantasy-readers. There's a reason this book has stuck around for 40+ years.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

One to cross off the bucket list, eh Laura? Meeting Peter Beagle I mean. Would be fun to see the movie on big screen... hope it makes it to our neck of the woods.

Patricia VanAmburg said...

hey, the blog might finally be letting me make a comment. I love Peater S Beagle and I have one of his other books for you.

Diane Mayr said...

I've never been a fantasy fan, but I think I might appreciate a book that has bits of poetry throughout. I'll make sure we get a new copy of The Last Unicorn for the library.

Mary Lee said...

Loved getting to hear about your fangirl moment! I'm not all that jazzed up about unicorns, per se, but I do love fantasy. I think it's about time to reread everything by Molly Hunter and Lloyd Alexander...

Ruth said...

This is one of my daughter's favorite books, and I hadn't heard about the movie yet.

Becky Shillington said...

How wonderful that you had the opportunity to meet Peter S. Beagle! I haven't read THE LAST UNICORN in years, and now I want to read it again soon. I loved the movie! Thanks for the beautiful post, and for the great sparkly unicorn pic--Unicorns have always been fascinating to me!