The hotel is humongous
as high as clouds
the clouds are not small
nor yellow with a picture of blueberries.
They are pink but they still
are not weird like blue
string wrapped around it with
people on top.
Nobody is jumping on them. There is only
a window next door in
the hotel and light pink with
yellow light on
this rainy day.

  —Julia Mayhew


  1. I wasn’t terribly impressed, but I suppose I should be!

  2. Oh, those parents and their wishful thinking!

  3. Sorry, that was rather rude of me. What I meant was: when I read it first, I thought – it’s got some style, but I don’t like it. Only afterwards did I realize the writer was only 9. Now, of course, I feel morally obliged not to be nasty to little girls. You can’t win, I suppose.

  4. I like it a lot, but tastes notoriously differ.

  5. As a matter of fact, I like it better than 90% of the poems I read in the New Yorker. “The hotel is humongous/ as high as clouds” — that sinks instantly into the brain, one of my tests for poetry.

  6. The first two lines have something, although I am not too sure about using ‘humongous’. The stuff about colours doesn’t go anywhere meaningful. The ‘blue string wrapped around it’ – what is the ‘it’? – does it mean anything? It reminds me a bit of the 1960s Liverpool ‘pop’ poetry, with this ‘humongous’, the blueberries, the blue string – just playing around without any depth. Looking at the following poem, the writer does seem to have good ideas for beginnings but wander all over the place afterwards.

  7. Something tells me you’re not a John Ashbery fan.

  8. Ajax Bucky says

    Some time in the next four or five years J[-], if she is in fact a 9 year old poet, will realize that her fame is based on her age almost exclusively; like the illustrious and proverbial talking dog – it isn’t what he says so much as that he says anything at all. Being the Shirley Temple of American poetry will only last a little while longer, and then the cruelty of what’s been done, and the almost certain exclusion from real poetry – and the exigent creation of another, non-childish identity – will place her in a terribly dangerous form of highly public isolation. It was exactly that transformation, from beloved and adored child-hero-star to …what?…anything?… when there was nothing there to be, that caused Michael Jackson to mutilate his face and do his best to become what people wanted or seemed to want, to leave behind the wreckage of what they didn’t want – a young black male.
    J[-], if she does exist as a real human 9 year old, is likely to be so buried in adult protection that her identity won’t be separable from the plans and projections of her father. She’ll realize that or she won’t. Either way it’s going to be very difficult to overcome, in order to become someone real and independent.
    No one who reads her poems can separate them from the cuteness of a child making verse. Most anyone who reads them without that context passes them right by.
    I’ve spent as much time on this comment as I have because I think it’s disgusting what her father’s done, or what whoever it is there behind those poems and their maker has done.
    There are other children whose exceptional identities would make them celebrities – I’m thinking of some twins in the mid-West, whose parents have given them a protected and private place in which to grow into their personal identities, away from the fickle clutch and ravenous swarm of audience ownership. Exactly the opposite of exhibiting them on the web as a marvel.
    There’s a price to be paid for that kind of self-interested indulgence. If J[-] is lucky, if she does exist at all, it’s her father who’ll pay most of it, and not her.

  9. But I am a John Ashbery fan, or at least, I only have one book by him and I don’t know very much.
    Was he a child prodigy too?

  10. Well Ajax Bucky, you may be right. I was going to get a pair of those new “Nike Air Mayhews” but now I wouldn’t want it on my conscience.

  11. Thanks for sharing this exceptionally vivid poem, Hat.
    No one who reads her poems can separate them from the cuteness of a child making verse. Speak for yourself. I have very little tolerance for cuteness and sentimentality. Mayhew’s poems are excellent as examples of their genre – children’s poetry – which, for all its awkwardness, often contains flashes of insight and direct, concrete imagery that more mature poets can only dream about. I think what attention Mayhew receives now will confirm her in a life-long dedication to the craft of poetry, and if there’s a bit of a come-down as she gets older and experiences less attention and more competition, well, that’s not entirely a bad thing. I think some working poets could stand to lose a bit of ego. At any rate, I too started writing poetry very young, and got plenty of attention from adults as a result, but it did not cause me to engage in plastic surgery or otherwise try to cling to my childhood forever. My parents were and remain the number one supporters of my writing. Mr. Bucky’s attack on Mayhew’s father’s motives strikes me as extremely misguided, to say the least.

  12. I agree, and I’m thinking of deleting this comment thread and just leaving the poem for those who like it. Funny, when I started reposting Julia’s poems a couple of years ago I got nothing but positive comments; now, for whatever reason (cultural malaise?), people want to lob grenades. I don’t really get it.

  13. Hat, I’d encourage you not to hesitate to remove individual bummer comments at your discretion, along with any followups that thereby become obscure.
    I’ve benefited from this comment thread, btw. At first reading I was reminded of John Lennon’s poetry — and now I have learned, from MM, that there was an entire group of poets that can be called “Liverpool pop”! And I share both your and Dave’s sense of the obviousness of the genre here, and the straightforward enjoyableness of the work.

  14. when I started reposting Julia’s poems a couple of years ago I got nothing but positive comments
    Or, altenatively, could be that Mr. Bucky speaks for the silent majority? You know, the rule of polite people, “if you can’t compliment, don’t say anything”?
    I recall last time you posted one of the Julia’s poems there was a remark like Margaret’s, and like MM, as soon as person recognised the age of the author (s)he apologised for not being “nice” to young girls…

  15. Well, if we’re voting, put me down for – I’m charmed.
    Though I’m puzzled by what the blue string is wrapped around as well. Possibly something got lost in typing?

  16. The Liverpool poets I’m referring to are slightly earlier than John Lennon, or rather, they were writing when the Beatles were beginning. Here’s one:
    Feel free to delete my comment.

  17. @Tatyana: I did realize her age before my first comment, I just felt afterwards: why did I bother to write that comment, and hence the second, probably equally offensive, comment.

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