Dog Poetry Sunday – E.B. White

There cannot be a single person from my generation who did not read Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan over and over again. The writings of E.B. White were a large part of the landscape of my childhood and I know I was not alone. Somehow, despite this early foundation, I forgot all about the American literary icon when I grew into an adult. I still adore the children’s stories yet I had no idea Mr. White and I had more in common than an affection for intelligent spiders. I have learned that not only did he co-author one of the most important works for would-be writers, The Elements of Style, he also was a large admirer of canines. Luckily, granddaughter Martha White has rectified this for me.

As I’ve stated, poetry is not my thing. I am literal in my reading selections. Poetry requires deeper analysis, something I am not always up for. Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs changed my mind about verse. I highly recommend picking up a copy if you haven’t already. Her phrasings are deceptively complex but if you read her poems at face value, they are just as enjoyable. Not least because they are about dogs.

However, if I had happened upon E.B. White on Dogs first, I am sure my illumination would have been quite similar. Ms. White did a beautiful job of compiling her grandfather’s essays, poems, and letters about his multiple canine friends. There are several classics in this collection but they are worth a re-read. I love getting to learn more about the literary giant’s personal life. While some selections made me tear up – such as the lovely letter to his wife, in the voice of her Scottish Terrier, Daisy – many just made me smile. White is not necessarily known for his poetry but I think this compilation reveals the deep and multi-faceted man he was.

It also shares some really cute pictures.

eb white on dogsvia

The below poem is one that, to me, showed how well White understood the canine mind. It certainly describes the leaping mind of the dog beside me, anyway. I hope you get something out of it too.

Dog Around the Block ~ E.B. White

Dog around the block, sniff,
Hydrant sniffing, corner, grating,
Sniffing, always, starting forward,
Backward, dragging, sniffing backward,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Leash in people’s feet entangle—
Sniffing dog, apprised of smellings,
Love of life, and fronts of dwellings,
Meeting enemies,
Loving old acquaintance, sniff,
Sniffing hydrant for reminders,
Leg against the wall, raise,
Leaving grating, corner greeting,
Chance for meeting, sniff, meeting,
Meeting, telling, news of smelling,
Nose to tail, tail to nose,
Rigid, careful, pose,
Liking, partly liking, hating,
Then another hydrant, grating,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Tangle, sniff, untangle,
Dog around the block, sniff.