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Illustration by Rogelio Naranjo

Hey everyone! Glad to see you all made it to the bar tonight as I have a rather unorthodox prompt for you seeing that we are insectember and my children are itching for new reading material…

I recently discovered Quora, by far the best social media site out there, (if you can call it that, and outside our beloved blogosphere of course) and quickly found myself perusing with great interest the in-depth answers to a randomly-suggested question on how to proceed should a neighbor’s tree fall on one’s house. (Do I waste time on the Internet? Never!) Anyway, a user named Chris Kenton, speaking from experience, described in great detail the arduous process of repairing his home. At one point, he stated regarding his bank and all the hoops through which he had to jump for him to get the insurance money: “They make Kafka look like a children’s author.” Ding, ding, ding! I sensed a prompt in the making and one that will hopefully give me respite from countless readings of Fox in Socks, no offense to Dr. Seuss. I love you, Theo, but I’ve had so many tweetle beetle battles I think I’m becoming one!

Take a look at these quotes from the modernist Bohemian writer, Franz Kafka. Can you picture one as the basis for a nursery rhyme?

“I do not see the world at all; I invent it.” from The Diaries of Franz Kafka, 1910-1923

“The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked.” from The Zürau Aphorisms

“I am a cage, in search of a bird.” from The Blue Octavo Notebooks

“One of the first signs of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.” from The Blue Octavo Notebooks

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us.” from Letter To Oskar Pollak

“I usually solve problems by letting them devour me.” from Letters to Friends, Family, and Editors

“Beyond a certain point there is no return. This point has to be reached.” from The Trial

“But what am I supposed to do if this fear, and not my heart, is beating within my body?” from Letters To Milena

These last three quotes I was unable to find in which work(s) of Kafka’s they were written but I’d still like to propose them for use in this project.

“God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.”

“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.”

“I am free and that is why I am lost.”

Use one of these Kafka quotes either directly within or to inspire a children’s storybook/poem. Yes, many of them are existential or macabre, qualities we don’t tend to attribute to literature suitable for young ones. However, children also tend to (quite literally, in my family) throw off the rose-colored glasses when we try to get them to wear them for cute, staged pictures. If we, the authors, know life isn’t all rainbows and happy endings, why must we constantly and achingly put on a smile when to glower would be more appropriate?

Remember, many children’s books have only a sentence, or even a phrase or several words, per page. Your poem doesn’t necessarily have to be a prolonged, complex sonnet with a half dozen characters. A sweet and refined octave will do, but if you don’t use the quote embedded in your poem be sure to mention which one inspired it. Also with young readers, rhyme and rhythm go a long way, but you are not required to use either. When you’ve posted your poem to your blog, link it up to the Mr. Linky below (not just a link in the comments — not all readers will see it there) and then go grab some chocolate milk and read and comment on other entries. Bis bald!

A quote from ‘Letters to Felice’ that may not fit this prompt but a sentiment — a torment — to which I relate well.