Can one even have thoughts on “Jabberwocky” (Weekly Poem #1)? Indeed, no line-by-line analysis would ever do:
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
One immediately wonders, in this sort of analysis, what exactly brillig means. And what is a tove? What does it mean for a tove to be slithy? Am I slithy? Was I slithy this morning until I took a shower? Is my brother one of slithiest people on earth? And if he is, is that a good thing?
Well, one declares, let us take the whole grand sweeping poem, then. First and foremost, then, what is the Jabberwock?
Is it the dark desires of the heart?
Is it my subconscious?
Is it what happens when one allows dirty socks to moulder and fester in a pile between the dresser and the wall?
Or is this mythical beast, this Jabberwocky, this thing of legend, Evil? Or a guise of Evil?
Indeed, perhaps Jabberwocky is one of the great manifestations of Evil, while the Jubjub bird is another, and the Bandersnatch yet another! And which guise of Evil?
Is the Jabberwocky Modern Progress?
Is it environmental devastation?
Is it war? Pain? Overeating? Disease? Romance novels?
Hm . . . literary critics. “The jaws that bite,” — their invective at bad writing and bad symbols and triteness and cliche. And also “the claws that catch!” — their cunning yet misleading examinations of texts that suck the life of them, draining the blood from poetry like a 15-year-old Winnipegite with a Slurpee, sucking out its marrow like Crusaders at Nicaea (was it Nicaea they ate the marrow of their horses?), catching us with their clever arguments and wordgames, drawing us in with their claws of intertextual analyses of the soteriological signification of Paradise Lost.
If one were to think that, one would be undoubtedly wrong in a very real sense of the word wrong. Nevertheless, one would not be too far off the mark. The whole point of “Jabberwocky” is to mock “serious” literary critics and “serious” poets. It is supposed to be fun and winsome, a galumphing through the tulgey wood of words where one may chortle at the end of it all, “Callooh! Callay!”
Thus, while Lewis Carroll did come up with definitions and pronunciations for the imaginary words in “Jabberwocky” as well as resurrecting disused old words, the main purpose of the exercise is:
POETRY CAN BE FUN.
Indeed, poetry can be cool. Poetry can grab you, pull you in, suck you in, dance through your brain, tickle your imagination, thrum your heartstrings, set awhirl the cogs and wheels of your intellect, causing you to occasionally yet poetic nonsense such as, “Glee is like a perhaps kilt!”
And perhaps glee is.
Finally, since “Jabberwocky” was written as pure joy and fun, written for pure joy and fun, written to mock and cajole and prod literary criticism and serious, deep poetry, I am most grateful to Mrs. Parker who, in Grade 12 English, refused to let me write an essay on “Jabberwocky.” This odd little poem has therefore never had an opportunity to lose its charm for me. I hope it has helped whet your appetite for words, adventure, nonsense, and poetry as it has mine.