“It’s really a matter of following, not my nose, but my ear, hearing what the poem wants to be. I may be as surprised by the end of it as the reader is.”
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About Dennis Lee
When Dennis writes a poem he often begins with a sound. It could be the sound of a place name. Or it could be a rhythm that he hears or feels. If you listen to ‘Alligator Pie’ you’ll find out what rhythm started it all off. It has become a well loved poem, and is even used as a skipping rhyme. In fact, you can hear how Dennis makes it sound a bit like a skipping chant in the last line of each stanza. See if you can join in!
Like traditional nursery rhymes, Dennis’s poems have strong rhythms and a musical sound that makes them easy to remember. And lots of them are very funny.
Dennis also writes poems that tell a story – like ‘Lizzy’s Lion’ about a burglar who meets a lion. And there are quieter poems that make you think – like ‘Secret Place’. Dennis admits that some of his rhymes are a little bit horrible or a little bit rude. But that’s OK, he says. Life is like that. He tries to get some of each kind of poem into each of his poetry books.
Dennis Lee’s poems have a very regular rhythm and rhyme, and many use the same kind of rhythm as traditional nursery rhymes.
Dennis has lived all his life in Toronto in Canada, and you will hear his Canadian accent in his reading. When he was a child he loved listening to the chanted place names in the weather forecast on the radio. It gave him a lifelong love of the sounds that words make. He also puts names of places he knows into his poems.
Dennis has done all sorts of work, including teaching, book publishing, and writing song lyrics for children’s TV. He has also written a huge number of books and poems.
He started writing children’s poetry for his own children, because he thought there should be some nursery rhymes with place names they would know. Like traditional nursery rhymes, Dennis’s poems have strong rhythms and a musical sound that makes them easy to remember. And lots of them are very funny.
Dennis Lee’s reading was recorded at Morph Productions in Toronto on September 28th 2017 with Ashton Price as producer.
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Alligator Pie, Harper Collins, 2012
Bubblegum Delicious, Harper Collins, 2013
2009 Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Toronto
2004 Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading Award
2002 Doctor of Sacred Letters, Victoria
2001-2004 Poet Laureate, Toronto
2001 Canadian nominee for the 2002 Hans Christian Andersen Award
2001 Honorary Doctor of Letters, Ryerson University
1995 Toronto Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement
1995 Honorary Doctor of Letters, Trent University
1994 Officer, Order of Canada
1991 Mr. Christie’s Award (for The Ice Cream Store)
1986 Vicky Metcalf Award (for a body of work for children)
1984 Phillips Literary Prize
1977 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award
1977 Ruth Schwartz Award
1977 Canadian Booksellers Award
1974 CLA Book of the Year Award
1974 IODE Award
1974 Hans Christian Andersen Honour List
1972 Governor General’s Award