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Jack Prelutsky

Author John Cech
Air Date 9/9/1999
Jack Prelutsky book

Jack Prelutsky Transcript

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That’s Jack Prelutsky, whose birthday it is today, with part of his poem, “I am Diggin a Hole in the Ceiling.” While Shel Silverstein has grabbed the national spotlight for several decades, and Dr. Seuss has had it trained on him for decades before that, since the 1970s Jack Prelutsky has been adding a strong third voice to a remarkable trio of poets for children. Prelutsky is a talented musician and a gifted singer (in fact he was something of a singing prodigy in his native Brooklyn when he was a boy. He attended New York City’s famed High School of Music and Art, and was being groomed for a career as an opera singer — until he heard Pavarotti, and knew he didn’t want to be forever competing (even in his own imagination) with that voice! Instead, he experimented with a variety of jobs — exactly what you want to do to become a poet. He made and moved furniture, drove a cab, sculpted; he worked in a coffee shop in Greenwich Village, where he met and became friends with Bob Dylan, who said Prelutsky’s voice was a “cross between Woody Guthrie and Enrico Caruso.” And it’s just that combination of the folksy and the cultivated, the raspy and the refined, that give his poems their special ring. He has a finely tuned ear for the poetry that children love, poems full of nonsense and punny word play, gross-out humor and absurd situations. Most important, perhaps, Prelutsky has an infallible ear for the predicaments in which children find themselves — with a new baby in the house, an older brother who does everything better, or the need to come up with a really good excuse for a missed homework assignment:

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There are dozens of books in the Prelutsky library, and we wish him dozens more. May they keep sprouting like the musical instruments in his wonderful poem, “I Am Growing a Glorious Garden.”

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Posted in Literature, Poetry