Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems, written by Gail Carson Levine and brilliantly illustrated by the very busy Matthew Cordell, is, as you may surmise, inspired by William Carlos William's poem "This Is Just to Say." What Levine brings to this collection is her considerable knowledge of fairy tales and a gleefully wicked sense of humor. Every poem in the book it titled, "This Is Just To Say," (and the last stanza of each poem begins with the same line, "Forgive me") and the table of contents is a very funny jumble of the title over and over in different sized fonts. Six poems into the book we find the Introduction, which turns out to be a "This Is Just to Say" poem with a great illustration of a pointy-toothed, very demented looking Levine. The poem reads:
This Is Just to Say
Instead of at the beginning
my editor excruciatingly loudly
it does not belong
I also shredded
her red pencil and stirred
the splinters into her tea
All pictures on line seem to indicate that Levine is a pixie-haired, elfin type, making the poem and illustration even more hilarious. The next page finds William Carlos Williams given the Cordell treatment, scribbling madly on a pad of paper, his "This Is Just to Say," on the opposite page and a bit of biographical information as a way of introduction. The next page is a true introduction in which Levine encourages readers to write their own false apology poem saying, "don't even consider writing this kind of poem unless you can get yourself into a grouchy mood. You will be waisting your time. If you do decide to write, your poems should be mean, or what's the point? Mine are, and William Carlos Williams's is too, in its subtle way. He's glad he got to those plums first!" And, she goes on, you "don't need a title because William Carlos Williams has already given you one, which can be repeated endlessly until your reader is completely sick of it. You also don't need a new ninth line, because that's always the same too: Forgive me." I love it! Not only is Levine explaining her self and her seemingly cranky attitude, she is encouraging and instructing readers on how to adopt and employ it as well!
The poem above finds an narrator who has gone unpaid for her/his lawn mowing job lacing the grass with poison ivy. Another, below, finds a child apologizing for running away with Muffie. The last stanza reads, "Forgive me/ we just/ landed in -/ never mind"
Another poem finds a boy and a girl, brother and sister perhaps, and a missing baseball cap. Then, there is the narrator apologizing for casting a magic spell on Louie the bully and turning him into a fly, asking forgiveness for having a fly swatter ready...
Perhaps it is because of the funny, slightly subversive nature of the poems or maybe the expressive pen and ink line drawings of Matthew Cordell, but Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems does call to mind the great Shel Silverstein, in the best ways possible. And there is always more room on the shelf for a book of slightly subversive, wonderfully illustrated poetry!