Did you know that Russia had its own Doctor Seuss? It sure did. This was, of course, back when its main exports were grimaces and despair instead of porn stars, mob money, and the puppeteering of intellectually hobbled US Presidents. Classics include: Hop on Comrade Pop; The Cat in the Gulag; Red Eggs and Ham; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, No Groceries Today; and To Think That I Saw [Redacted] On Mulberkov Street.
Let me tell you something about children’s poetry: people tend to create it for the right reasons. I was taught this concept in connection to medieval lyric poetry. My teacher’s point was that art made in the modern world is under scarcely any obligation to be good. It can be interesting instead, or new. Or it can “bear witness.” Being good—actually good—is even considered a little passé.
The minute you bring a six-year-old into the picture, though, everything changes. She doesn’t care whether what you’re doing “serves as a useful critique.” She wants it to be good. Consequently, if I’m in a used bookstore and I see a book called Thai Children’s Poetry or Setswana Children’s Poetry or Inuit Children’s Poetry, I pretty much buy it on contact. One wants to know: Does Botswana have a Dr. Seuss? Does Thailand? ’Cuz if they do, I need to know about it.
Russia had a Dr. Seuss. Same deal as ours, except his hot decade wasn’t the fifties; it was the twenties. There’s a lot to be said here.