Are you familiar with e.e. cummings? The Poetry Foundation slaps his poetry with descriptions like "spare," "precise," "key words eccentrically placed on the page," and "revised grammatical and linguistic rules" (source). Sound like terms that could be applied to another poet? Does one Dr. Seuss seems to fit the bill?
Like dear old cummings, Seuss uses spare and precise language centered around key words and phrases to build the momentum of his poems. He also places his words across the page in what can seem a helter-skelter style. But there is a rhyme to his reason.
We feel the need to provide two quick notes here. First, we did not title this section with a "jr." in any way to suggest that Seuss was inferior to cummings. It's simply an audience thing. Definitely think twice before reading some of cummings's stuff to the kiddos in your family. Second, cummings placed his text on a blank page, creating a type of sculpture with his words. Seuss, on the other hand, has illustrations to go with them words.
Want to stack the two authors side by side and see what we mean? Check out cummings's poem "in Just-." And if you like that, don't forget to check out "if everything happens that can't be done" afterward. See, we wouldn't leave you hanging.
…how do we read this thing aloud? Well, for that we're going to need to get a little poetical and discuss meter. You remember poetic meter, right? That thing you tried so hard to forget? No? Don't worry—we've got your back.
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! employs some pretty short lines for poetry, so the meter is going to need to be nice, short, and precise as well. Seuss uses two common poetic meters for Mooney's poem: iambic dimeter and trochaic trimeter. Since Seuss starts with the iamb, let's do the same.
The first few lines of the poem are written in iambic dimeter. Say, what the what? Yeah, the words look confusing on the page, but once you breakdown the imposing words, it's a simple idea. Dimeter just means there are two feet in the line. The iamb signifies the type of foot of which there are two. Poetry teachers write the iamb like this "v /" but all that really means is that an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed one. Here's what it looks like in Marvin K. Mooney:
The time has come.
The time is now. (4-5)(Stressed syllables bolded for your convenience)
And that's that. Usually when you see a line consisting of four syllables in Marvin K. Mooney, you're dealing with iambic dimeter.
But what's this trochaic trimeter thingy we mentioned earlier? That we saved for the five syllable lines. A trimeter—as you've probably guessed—consists of three feet per line. A trochee is an iamb that's been flipped, meaning the stressed syllable starts and the unstressed follows. If you're curious, your English teacher writes it like "/ v." Feel free to impress him with your new knowledge.
Here's an example to help you out:
You can go by fish. (42)
"But," we hear you ask, "there seems to be a missing syllable there." That's okay. Seuss just knocked off an extra syllable so the line would end in what we call a strong (or masculine) rhyme. It's enough in common practice and doesn't change the identity of the meter in the least. In fact, William Blake did the same thing in "The Tyger", so you know it's legit.
Seuss isn't one for following the rules, even his own. He sticks with the iamb and trochee feet, but he mixes and remixes them as he needs to keep the poem's rhythm and flow. For example:
You can go / in a Crunk-Car / if you wish. (43-45)
Seuss still uses the trochee foot here, but it's done in pentameter (five feet per line). He also breaks the metrical line to look like three separate lines on the page, so it would better fit around the illustration. (We talk more about this in the "Illustrations" section.)
We're not going to lie to you. At this level, poetic meter can get a tad tricky. But the more you work with it and tinker about, the easier it'll get. And what better to tinker around with than a Dr. Seuss book.