Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The Gobble-uns 'at gits you"

We missed the birthday of James Whticomb Riley (1849 - 1916) yesterday, so to make up for that grievous error, we will acknowledge the Hoosier laureate's birth today.

Riley, an American poet who touched on all the important poetic themes -- childhood, death, love and weird bits of folklore -- frequently wrote in Indiana dialect which, when read aloud makes the reader sound like a Scottish hillbilly.

One of the best examples of Riley's dialect writing is also his most famous poem, "Little Orphant Annie." It just so happens that the poem is seasonally appropriate, telling the story of a strange servant girl who tells the children terrifying tales of the monsters that will steal them away if they don't behave. (Yes, the character is also the inspiration for both the comic-strip heroine and the rag doll Raggedy Ann. Nice one, James.)

Get your Hoosier scares on by reading the full text here. And if you haven't already, raise a glass to James Whitcomb Riley. Scumps!

[Some students of poetry can't handle Riley's folksy style, and generally think he's a lesser poet when compared to his peers. Hogwash. Even his "bad" poems are worth a look, including the often maligned but in fact, quite funny, "The Smitten Purist."]