We recently posted about Daniel Hales and the Frost Heaves, and their new Contrariwise album, which includes a musical setting of the poem “Jabberwocky.” We have just received a link to another musical setting of the famous poem, this time for piano and voice:
“Listen to JABBERWOCKY, a musical setting by New Mexico composer Joanne Forman, with bass-baritone Christopher Wyndham and pianist Martha Grossman.
Today, we received this note and clever riff on Lewis Carroll’s famous poem Jabberwocky, from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Thank you, Austin Dixon, for sharing this with everyone! Readers: if you enjoy it, please post a comment here to let Austin know you appreciate his efforts. Thanks! Now, we just need someone to write a version as a Monty Python script.
I would like to submit this Jabberwocky parody for your consideration. It’s what Jabberwocky would look like if it were a Python Script. I wrote this myself, and I give you the right to use it on your site if you wish. Just include my name if you do. Thanks.
The Omaha World-Herald has reported some great news from Iowa where the national Poetry Out Loud competition at the Iowa School for the Deaf was won with a performance of Jabberwocky. First-time contestant Gabby Humlicek wowed the judges with her choice. ”It was a really challenging poem to turn into American Sign Language,” Humlicek said. In rendering Carroll’s nonsense words Humlicek said it helped that “I’m a gregarious signer, and I practiced.” The newspaper reports that Gabby will go on to the state competition in De Moines this March – success there could lead to Washington D.C. and a bid for the national title. We wish her luck!
I couldn’t find an online video of Gabby’s performance, but for the curious I did manage to find another anonymous performance on YouTube. It’s fascinating to try and follow along with the poem. I am not sure what is happening 40 seconds in but I think it might be the frumious bandersnatch and, if so, it is pretty scary. It would be great if any readers of this blog who know ASL could offer us a commentary.
Has your Monday been too mimsy? Not mimsy enough? Never fear, here is a recording of Jabberwocky read by Sir Christopher Lee, famous for playing Count Dracula, Saruman, Scaramanga and countless other tall and sinister men. According to the host site Metacafe, the recording was made at the British Library sometime last year and uploaded by a user called “poetictouch”. Enjoy.
Art by John Turner of Creative Goods Design & Supply, for Wonderland, in a New York Times special feature "Adventures in Communicating a New Alice"
The reviews have been coming in all weekend for Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland: A New Broadway Musical (the musical formerly known as Wonderland: A New Musical and Wonderland: A New Musical Adventure.) Wonderland‘s website quotes the New York Times: “INSPIRATIONAL, FANCIFUL & GROOVY.” The Times’ review by Charles Isherwood was actually a bit more nuanced, but I suppose “…the desire to create a traditional narrative arc from the unruly dreamscape of Carroll’s original results in a convoluted story line pitting the good guys against the bad…” doesn’t fit on a marquee. Neither would “‘Wonderland’ transforms Alice’s surreal wanderings into a contemporary parable about reconnecting with your inner child and other watery truisms of the self-help industrial complex.” Kudos to Isherwood for pointing out that Alice’s “increasing exasperation to find her way home” is more Oz’s Dorothy than Alice: “a preoccupation that didn’t seem particularly urgent to the polite, spirited youngster in Carroll’s original.”
However, Adam Feldman’s proper panning for TimeOut New York was a spectacular parody of the Jabberwocky. It’s so good, I can’t resist posting it here in full:
’Tis Wildhorn, and the hapless cast
Does direly gambol on the stage.
All flimsy is the plot half-assed,
Not right for any age.
Beware of Wonderland, I warn!
The jokes that cloy, the scenes that flop!
Beware the humdrum words and scorn
The spurious, bland rock-pop!
The book’s a torpid bore in which
A newly single mom (Dacal)
Gets tested, see, by a journey she
Begins with quite a fall.
This modern Alice lands (ker-splat!)
In Wonderland, and banters some
With rabbit, caterpillar, cat
(In order: twee, dull, dumb).
She also meets a huffish Queen
Of Hearts (well-costumed Mason), and
A lady Hatter (Shindle, keen)
Who wishes to command.
These cartoon Carroll singers screech
The busy Wildhorn-Murphy score,
Which oft suggests a loud, high reach
At songs you’ve heard before.
A White Knight (Ritchie) does enact
A boy-band number that’s a lark—
But then comes the worst second act
Since poor Turn Off the Dark.
Act Two: Boo! Boo! And through and through
This Wonderland’s both slick and slack.
Dacal et al. can only do
So much to save the wrack.
And why has Wonderland been made?
Answer me that, director Boyd!
From captious gays to children dazed:
By all it’s unenjoyed.
’Tis Wildhorn, and the hapless cast
Does direly gambol on the stage.
All flimsy is the plot half-assed,
Not right for any age.
Thank you, Mr Feldman. If the LCSNA gave out an annual award for Jabberwocky parody (and we should, dash it all!) this would be a heavy favorite.
I’d also like to take this moment to mention that the actor playing the R&B-singing Caterpillar has an amazing name: E. Clayton Cornelious.
While not impossible (Dodgson didn’t die till after the advent of sound recording), I was skeptical when this blog 22 Words claimed to have a recording of “Lewis Carroll reading ‘Jabberwocky.’” But I see they updated it with the comment “Oops! Sorry…This isn’t Lewis Carroll reading. Not sure how I made that mistake…” I can guess how they made the mistake: they had embedded the sound only from this strange YouTube animation. Its creator, Jim Clark, explains himself thusly: “Here is a virtual movie of Lewis Carroll reading his much loved poem Jabberwocky. The poem is read superbly by Justin Brett.”
There’s no known voice recordings of Carroll are there?
Thanks to the blog Moving Poems: The Best Video Poetry on the Web for rediscovering this Vimeo video of Hye Yeon Nam‘s installation Dinner Party. I assume the video was taken at the Eyebeam exhibition in New York, 2008, and according to her website, Dinner Partywas last sponsored in July 2010 by the not-at-all-Kafka-esque-sounding Ministry of Knowledge Economy and Korean Institute of Design Promotion. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Dinner party provides a space where people meet and interact with Lewis Carroll’s poem, Jabberwocky, inspired creatures hiding in the shadows.
At first glance, the single chair and place set for one, seemingly provides a solitary dinner; rather the interaction offers a communication between oneself and the imaginary creatures. Initially gathered under the shadow cast by the plate, disturbed creatures will nervously scatter attempting to go around any other shadow cast on the table. A period of quiet status will encourage the creatures to reveal themselves.
Collaborate with Zach Lieberman and Jeremy Rotsztain
Developed with support from Eyebeam interactivos 08′
If you are an LCSNA member, then you will see this review in the Winter issue of our wonderful members-only magazine, The Knight Letter. But in case you’re a lover of literature who isn’t a member yet, I wanted to share my review of a dark and fascinating new poetry book. The opinions I express herein are mine, and not necessarily those of the LCSNA as an organization.
I don’t usually offer long posts like this, but in addition to alerting you to this compelling little book, it also gives you a taste of just one aspect of our terrific twice-yearly magazine. Like the rest of the LCSNA’s features, The Knight Letter is a labor of love and entirely volunteer-created. Even if you can’t make it to our meetings in person, many members join the LCSNA simply to delve into the delights of The Knight Letter, which features meeting recaps, Carrollian articles, reviews, amusing pop culture references, collectibles information, and of course, pictures and conversations. Many years ago it started out as a humble newsletter, only two or three pages long. Over the years it has blossomed into a full-fledged literary magazine of about 50 pages per issue. I read every issue cover to cover–it’s that good. And it’s free with membership in the LCSNA. To learn more about joining the LCSNA, click me.
by Jessica Young
Turning Point Books, 2013
Paperback, 82 pages
Reviewed by Andrew Sellon
On any given day, you can find articles from anywhere in the world pointing out aspects of our society—particularly our laws and politics—that seem to mirror the topsy-turvy, nonsensical worlds created by Lewis Carroll in his two Alice books. In Alice’s Sister, a quietly powerful book of poems by Jessica Young, the comparison comes closer to home, specifically to a family of four: a little girl named Alice, her older sister Mary, and their mother and father. All four are given their chance to speak out individually, and they do so in a fascinating mélange of styles and meters. The next-door neighbor who gives the girls piano lessons also contributes a voice, as do an omniscient narrator and a surprise character or two. The resulting narrative mosaic, divided into what might well be called four dreamlike fits, charts the course of an unspeakable event within the family that tears it asunder irreparably. But while the tale is told through many voices, this is not Rashomon; there is no disagreement here about what happened, only how to live with it.
The cycle of poems is further enriched by Young’s occasional inclusion of a few phrases from Carroll’s Alice books. The elegant and remorseful ironies she earns by weaving a few of Carroll’s playful words amongst her own somber ones will resonate deeply with any lover of the original works. Young also offers her own evolving versions of “Jabberwocky” at key points in her disturbing tale, continually recalculating the cost of trust violated. There, as in the other poems, the characters find not gleeful nonsense, but a numbness or non-sense that alters every familiar detail of the physical world and makes it suddenly alien, and possibly hostile, with scant hope of the sought-after escape or release:
My fingers move, my mind does too,
I hit a C and picture tea.
Mad hatted friend, what did you brew?
There’s so much it’s a sea.
The sea begins to rise, quite fast.
The houses gone, the whole world wet.
The landscape is now deep and vast,
and everywhere—a threat.
Yet, by the end, there are a few faint glimmers of hope and healing, bringing the cycle to a believable and satisfying close. Young is careful to note at the end of the book that this is not an autobiographical story, but that she hopes to do justice to the reality of the characters she has created. She has done so, admirably. My one minor critique is about a printing choice: For reasons that become clear, Young wants to set apart the poems narrated by the father. But rendering his poems in a very faint, gray print makes them a bit more difficult to read on the page than I think advisable.
The best compliment I can pay any book is to say that it rewards repeated readings. This one does. It is not for children, and it is not “feel-good” poetry. But it is likely to make you feel many other emotions as the compelling story slowly and inexorably unfolds before you.
Attention, shoppers! Are you looking for some new Holiday “Carrolls” for yourself or someone else? Is there a Carrollian on your list who claims to have “everything” in the world of Alice music? Well, we’ve just received this note from Daniel Hales, of the indie alt/rock/folk band Daniel Hales, and the Frost Heaves:
“Our 3rd album: Contrariwise: Songs from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass is now available for purchase on CD Baby (either the entire, physical album, a download of the digital album, or selected tracks). For this album we adapted (almost) all of the poems in the two “Alice” books for music–and also wrote a few Alice-themed originals. These adaptations were originally composed and performed for a stage production of “Alice In Wonderland,” but can now provide the soundtrack for your own adventures in magical realms: http://cdbaby.com/cd/danielhalesandthefrosthe”
Daniel sent me a preview copy of the album, and while everyone’s tastes are of course different, I think the musical settings are quite fun. You can sample any or all of the tracks before buying, so check it out, and if you like what you hear, shop away!
To give you the flavor of their music, Daniel also shared this clever video they made for Jabberwocky, animating Tenniel’s original illustrations (if the video doesn’t load, try refreshing this page in your browser, or click me to view it on Vimeo):
We have just received this nice note from poet/author Jessica Young:
My name is Jessica Young, and I am a poet and teacher (at the University of Michigan). I have a poetry book coming out that seeks to re-envision “Alice in Wonderland” to try to figure out why Alice was having all of those strange dreams. The book is narrative poetry, so it tells a story–it has a plot, characters, etc. It’s extensively researched to be historically accurate (e.g., the plants mentioned are all plants indigenous to the area!), though of course the plot is a little wild. And of course there are lots of Carrollian influences, like patterns and Jabberwocky poems.
I would so love if you passed on information about the book, and would absolutely welcome any comments or questions. I’m out in Michigan in the US, but anyone is most welcome to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (209-POE-TICS).
And if any members happen to be in NY at the moment, they are most welcome to attend my release party. It’ll be August 31st at Poets House (in NYC), from 5:30-7:30. There’s a reading followed by a reception, and both are free.