Ponderings who was a real Man and who were the beasts | Review of “Words for Elephant Man” by Kenneth Sherman. (2012) The Porcupine’s Quill

The life of Joseph Merrick – the so called Elephant Man – has been documented in many means and forms. But what Kenneth Sherman has done in his book Words for Elephant Man is given a voice to that tragic soul from long ago.

A Psalm of the Elephant Man – Page 11

What protrudes from my upper jaw

what makes of my mouth a shattered clam

a tortured vent.

My speech is indistinct,

my vowels rise

like wild birds,

my consonants grind

and splutter

like an engine’s damaged

gears,

my peculiar limp

beats time.

This is the son of Thy suffering servant.

This is the articulation of the New Age.

This is God’s hobbling little poem.

I drone on in His image.

Sherman has a brilliant voice. The words not only have to be read, but carefully considered. They are filled with delicate emotions and thoughts.

One Mother (excerpt) – Page 36

Mother died when I was eleven

and my world fell through.

Six months later

father married a thin-lipped widow with three

normal brats

their favourite pastime

aping me.

So often at dinnertime

I would find myself hungry,

huddled

in the doorway of a closed and darkened shop,

my rough cheeks stained with tears.

If a reader carefully reflects on the emotions that Sherman conveys, does the reader carefully ponder what foolishness our actions are in this modern age?

Freaks – Page 20

Across the road

in Whitechapel

they exhibit the women

Jack the Ripper did in.

In wax, of course. A drained

white, the stab wounds

running like scarlet buttons

and laces from each neck

down to the pubic hair.

The Alligator Boy

in the stall beside me

jokes, calls it

Jacque’s Place. A showman

bags pennies, unwinds

the terrors

the crowd:

black silk hats

white scarves

women’s parasols.

women.

At night

they are murdered.

In the light of day

they are sold.

Words for Elephant Man is a thought-provoking read. It reflects not only back to the life of Joseph Merrick but gives pause to who and what we idolize upon today.

Snapshot of Page 25 of "Words for Elephant Man" Illustration by George Raab
Snapshot of Page 25 of “Words for Elephant Man” Illustration by George Raab

 

Link to The Porcupine’s Quill page for “Words for Elephant Man”

4 thoughts on “Ponderings who was a real Man and who were the beasts | Review of “Words for Elephant Man” by Kenneth Sherman. (2012) The Porcupine’s Quill

  1. I’ve got this on my TBR, but I think I put it there for the illustrations as much as for the text, if I’m thinking of the right book? I’ve yet to track it down, but I like what you’ve quoted here.

    Like

  2. Oh, nice:thanks for adding the illustration; I thought it was the same book, and now I know. I’ll definitely have a closer look!

    Like

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