Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Rhyming Verse is the First-Person Shooter of Children's Lit

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I'm not what you might called "a gamer." You could count the number of video games I've played in my lifetime on two hands. I'm talking about single games—like single plays. Maybe twelve at most. So I'm no expert. But I was doing some research about gaming recently and I came across several articles (like this one) making the case that video games are addictive. There's even talk—idle talk, thankfully—of making "video game addiction" a mental illness.

This post, however, isn't about video games. I'm writing because while I was doing this video game research, I received an email about my novel, Zorgamazoo. The email was from a parent, who wrote about how difficult it is "to get my kid to focus on anything," but that said kid is "veritably addicted" to Zorgamazoo.

What could be better than hearing your book converted a hitherto bibliophobic child? That's what I love about Zorgamazoo: It doesn't preach to the converted, and by that I mean to book-lovers who read for pleasure. I like to think it's the sort of book that can charm even the most ardent web-junkie, nanosecond-attention-span, electro-gamer.

That's the thing with rhyme. There's something irresistible and yes, addictive, about it. That's because it takes two of the best parts of any story—suspense and narrative structure—and condenses them down to the sentence level. As soon as your start reading, your brain begins to expect the rhyme. You try to second-guess it, which gives you a little stab of expectation to pull you forward. Basically, every single line has the set-up and pay-off of a good plot, only shrunk down to just a handful words.

On the flip-side, it's possible this is why rhyme is something of a pejorative term in publishing, and certainly in poetry: because it's so addictive. It's the back alley crack of children's books. Dr. Seuss knew it. Edward Lear knew it. W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan knew it—perhaps better than anyone (and if you want to read examples of achingly perfect anapaestic tetrameter, look no further than the wordsmith behind The Mikado).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that not all addictions are created equal. Maybe there's at least one—a child's addiction to rhyme—which is just what the doctor ordered.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Robert Paul Weston

Robert Paul Weston's fiction has appeared in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic and been nominated for The Journey Prize in Canada and The Fountain Award for Speculative Literature in the United States. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and lives in Toronto.

His website is www.robertpaulweston.com

Go to Robert Paul Weston’s Author Page