The number of children whose political and moral foundations have been influenced by Geisel’s books such as the Lorax(the environmentalist’s mantra in Technicolor); The Sneetches on Beaches (a fantastic treatise on the relationship of prejudice and commerce found in “The Sneetches and other Stories”); The Cat in the Hat (which raises the all important ethical question ‘what would you do if your Mother asked you?’), The Cat in the Hat Came Back (a blatant node toward McCarthyism with its fear of the “pink stain” overtaking the world); and Horton Hears a Who (which is one of the most Christocentric – and dare I say kenotic – nods in children’s literature) is staggering. Two things I am always reminded by in the Dr. Seuss canon: (1) language always gives way to meaning, and (2) surrealism is the place of deep meaning and belief more than realism. On the account of language giving way to meaning, any reader of Dr. Seuss will celebrate the use of seemingly non-words that convey meaning. Geisel wrote most of his books in a poetic form called anapestic tetrameter, which is a poetic meter employed by many poets of the English literary canon. One example is this line from Yertle the Turtle: “And today the Great Yertle, that marvelous he/ is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.” Anapestic tetrameter consists of four rhythmic units, anapests, each composed of two weak beats followed by one strong beat; often, the first weak syllable is omitted, or an additional weak syllable is added at the end. This use of meter with its sing song cadence – with the employment of weak syllables pulling on strong beats – pulls the reader along and anticipates the sound of the word coming down the pike but is often realized in a word that is both strange and yet contextually meaningful. What occurs for the reader in this cadence is a willingness to accept the strange and odd as the fulfillment of the rhyme and creates for beauty as something suprizing.
Needless to say, we need more Seuss these days in the political arena – a creation of a world that is fantastic and compelling, filled with soft syllables pushed by strong beats and open the space for the new, the strange and the faithful to enter anew.