September 6, 2007

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Peeping Tom’s Cabin: Comic Verse 1928-2008, by X.J. Kennedy (BOA Editions, 2007, 109 pages)
Reviewed by Dan Szczesny dszczesny@hippopress.com

What a charming and refreshing collection. From the very first title joke (Kennedy was born in 1928, and 2008 has not yet arrived) Peeping Tom’s Cabin is consistently amusing. Known primarily as a children’s book author, X.J. Kennedy serves up a huge collection of (sometimes naughty) limericks, nursery rhymes, ballad and light verse for adults.

An uncompromising formalist, Kennedy is best when being silly, and he is pretty much silly the whole way through here. From “Song: Hello Dali,” a poem about the famous painter set to the famous musical number, to a tawdry poem about Moby Dick, Kennedy manages to be irreverent about just about everything you learned in English 101. My favorite nerdy little couplet can be found in the poem “Celebrities”: “Dante Alighieri / Found free verse scary / So he cast his grand schema / In terza rima.” That same poem makes reference to Lois Lane, Peter Lorre and Johnny Appleseed.

Peeping Tom’s Cabin may be the best bathroom book to come around in a long time, and I say that as a compliment. Witty and eye-rollingly silly at times, but always smart and self-consciously referential, this collection will make you love reading. A — Dan Szczesny