Friday, May 25, 2012

The Book of Wonders

So I was passed a heavy old encyclopedia titled The Book of Wonders (Toronto: Bureau of Industrial Education, 1916) at the used book sale that was a part of the Symposium on Manitoba Writing two weeks ago.

Its title page read as follows:
From "The Story in a Photograph"

"The Book of Wonders gives plain and simple answers to the thousands of everyday questions that are asked and which all should be able to, but cannot answer. Fully illustrated with hundreds of educational pictures which stimulate the mind and give a bird's eye view of the Wonders of Nature and the Wonders Produced by Man."

It also had an owl with golden eyes on its wine-coloured cover. All of which shrieked "Buy me! BUY ME!"

I finally cracked it open last night. And in addition to photo essays like "The Story in a Lump of Coal," "The Story in a Coil of Rope," and "The Story in a Can of Paint," it is largely written in question and answer format.

I stayed up late reading through The Book of Wonders. And, while reading, felt a tickle that told me I might be on to something.

As many of you know, I've been writing how-to poems for the past five or six years - and published a clutch of them in my JackPine chapbook How to Prepare for Flooding - which are basically presented in the form of answers.

"How to Sew a Button," for instance, is a list of instructions-in-poetry on how one might go about sewing a button.

I'd be interested in inverting the relationship. And have the titles of my poems be questions instead of answers.

Anyways, here are some of my favourite questions from The Book of Wonders:
What makes me tired?
Of what use is my hair?
Does thunder sour milk?
Why do we wake up in the morning?
Why does the moon travel with us when we walk or ride?
What causes shadows?
What keeps a balloon up?
Why does a dog turn round and round before he lies down?
Where do shoes come from?
Where is the wind when it is not blowing?
Why can’t we burn stones?
Where does the day begin?
Where do all the little round stones come from?
Where do the tears go?

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