Reviewed by Michellia Wilson
The Alphabet According to Several Strange Creatures:
And their adventures/eating habits/lives/deaths (plus other curious incidents)
by Simon Nader
Nov 2022, 86 pages, $7.99, Apple e-book
Simon Nader’s The Alphabet According to Several Strange Creatures is an A-Z animal compilation that covers much ground. Containing 26 well crafted parts, written in poetic couplets, this body of work exercised us of assonance, allegory, homonyms, rhyme, as well as other distinguished poetic techniques. These techniques charge this body of work and set it ablaze.
Antelope’ opens the book with a battle of sorts between an antelope and a cheetah. Cheetah, of course, excels in speed and cunning. Antelope’ is tagged in the book as “Mafia Queen”. The antelope is no real competition for the cheetah as she pounces with her strength and overcomes Antelope’. To the winner go the spoils, and Cheetah enjoys her cold chardonnay with a side of antelope:
Cheetah took her place later that day,
dining out on some antelope and chardonnay.
Her genius plan was to sucker them in,
(Tourist think animals are actually quite dim.)
The pseudo-dim nature of animals as drawn in this sly piece, illustrates well that animals are anything but less than intelligent. Throughout this entire series of poems, deft with wit, charm and death, the reader gets a sense of a political undertone akin to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
The poem, FLY, takes on an order of regiment almost like something from the military. The FLY has a Kamikaze moment in the 4th and 5th refrains where he mapped out where he would land on a mountain of “sugary goodness.” The human character in this poem, Brian, kills the FLY with a paper – the FLY left grossly broken.
GOLDFISH wanders aimlessly…
The tee-total villain of this book falls under the letter “H”. HUMAN. Survival of the fittest – a human trait is smartly illustrated with the examples of both keen actions as well as “boneheaded” maneuvers. In stanza four, we read “Some of the animals left out of this work, were omitted because HUMAN is a jerk!” It is a plain fact that HUMAN is abusive to God-given gifts.
We jump to “J” – Jaguar. A lush because Cheetah is faster – a bit of irony because humans are aghast with competition. It is consuming and dangerous. Jaguar raced in a human machine, The Jag. “He whooped it up in front of the cat girls – promising them a ride – a whirl.” We go back to how Cheetah cannot be beaten and Jaguar had been eaten. Two Jags, no match for Cheetah.
K. Kakapo. What in the world is a Kakapo? A flightless bird, a type of parrot. This is a poem of environmental issues. This animal is marked for extinction. Their obese bodies leave them vulnerable, only wishing that they could fly. Sleeping in the daytime, they fall prey, VICTIMS to predators. Ultimately HUMANS stole the Kakapo for money.
MANTA RAY is another environmental poem. The ray is a “Dirt Devil” of the ocean floor; cleaning himself with water (ablutions). HUMAN again brings Manta Ray to his doom. Gills filled with plastic – an environment hosting toxin, polluting the vast sea.
NARWHAL – a small arctic whale, an entrepreneur of sorts. This poem exercises the technique of assonance in parts of the piece. Not true rhyme in all places, but aptly written with resemblances of sounds.
The OX brings humor, the PLATYPUS brings us back to threats of death and doom, not being an agile creature, he found himself often ridiculed UNTIL he exercised the poison in his feet. The evens out the inequalities. QUAIL in Tokyo – a Zen creature. We get into a wild ride when REIGNDEER enters the book. There is an uprising against Santa. This long poem, also environmental by nature, takes on traits of “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Santa is not so jovial and Mrs. Claus is the support system for the cause of Christmas.
SQUIRREL uses homonyms in its opening structure, along with the use of anomaly (irregularity) further into this poem.
Jump to VIXEN (foxy bitch), a dancer, temptress, desirable. How else would satirical poetry end itself? ZONKEY, of course. With his donkey, zebra fusion – hybrid, politics definitely enters into the piece of work, with reference to America’s, Donald Trump, “once the head of the American Zoo.”
We end, our eyes opened to a new view on politics, environment, assonance, rhyme, survival of the fittest, a true compilation of society as we live it in modern day. From Antelope’ to Zonkey, this book is a literary journey through life. Seriousness, humor too, one cannot go wrong in reading this book, prolific with chance meetings (in a style that’s leading), from Antelope to Zonkey, this grouping somewhat wonky. The Alphabet According to Several Strange Creatures is available to buy from Apple Books and Kindle.
About the reviewer: Michellia Wilson is a 57 year old poet living in Northwest Tennessee. She is disabled but able to work a part time job as director of a small local library. She enjoys all the poetry she finds on a 200 acre family farm. “Everything is poetry”, as she often writes about the nature around her. Michellia has a daughter and two grandchildren, who live on the “other end of the pond.” Beside reading and writing, Michellia enjoys spending time with the ladies in her Sunday School class.