Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet, artist

Hannah enjoying poetry workshop

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Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
photo by Steve Kolich

Susan Rosson Spain, Robyn Hood Black, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Myra Meade at the Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Ga.
photo by Mel Hornsby

Southern Breeze Kudos Kites 09 - Donna, Robyn, Heather, Sarah, and Peggy

Robyn with Kathleen Duey, author extraordinaire

Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller

photo by Robyn Hood Black
Paul B. Janeczko

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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Eletelephony and Poetry on the Road

November 5, 2015

Tags: Poetry Friday, poets, speaking, students

Brrrrriiinggggg. Brrrrriiinggggg.

Hello? -- Oh! An elephant from my childhood is calling. Perhaps you knew him, too?

He's the hapless pachyderm who got all wrapped up in a phone call in Laura Elizabeth Richards's "Eletelephony." Raise your hand if you remember when telephones had actual cords....

This poetic companion is going to join me Saturday in Augusta, where I'll be doing a children's poetry presentation at the Georgia Literary Festival. (Fingers crossed - it's outside, and there's a 90 percent chance of rain!) I'm looking forward to driving over with my author buddy Kami Kinard and squeezing in a visit with an Augusta friend, too. We lived there for nine years while my hubby was in med school and residency; both our babies were born there.

I look forward to sharing lots of poetry with whoever shows up - especially some found poems from THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK (Georgia Heard, ed., Roaring Brook) and several from THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY series (Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, eds., Pomelo Books).

But back to "Eletelephony" - did you know that Laura Elizabeth Richards (1850-1943), in addition to writing 90 books (!) and many children's poems, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1917 for co-authoring a biography of her mother, Julia Ward Howe, writer of the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic? Her father, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, was an abolitionist and founded the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind. Laura E. Richards left a rich and varied body of literary works.

I didn't know any of that when, as a young child, I first read "Eletelephony." I just know that this poem tickled my fancy and helped open the door for a lifelong love of wordplay, as I'm sure it did for lots of folks throughout the decades. Enjoy!


by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

For more fancy-tickling poetry today, please visit the lovely Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat. for this week's Roundup. [And apologies for being a bit out of the loop lately; last week it was my privilege to share poetry and all kinds of writing with about 2,000 students in and around Cobb County as part of Cobb EMC's Literacy Week. I look forward to getting back home Saturday night and staying put for a while, at least until the holidays!]


  1. November 6, 2015 8:34 AM EST
    This poem always reminds me of the Raffi song "Bananphone." I DO remember the phone cords -- and getting myself wrapped up in a long cord during endless teenage phone conversations.
    - Laura Shovan
  2. November 6, 2015 9:12 AM EST
    Hi, Laura - Bananaphone! We listened to that CD - or was it even a tape?! - a million times when my kids were little. Thanks for the memory!
    - Robyn Black
  3. November 6, 2015 9:22 AM EST
    Oh, I LOVED that poem--thanks for sharing it and calling back (see what I did there?) wonderful childhood memories!

    And thanks for sharing all those great facts about Laura Elizabeth Richards! What a talented and busy lady she was. Reminds me of someone else I, who could that be? ;-)

    Also now I have bananaphone in my head. But there are worse things that could be in my head, so thanks? :-)
    - Cathy C. Hall
  4. November 6, 2015 9:34 AM EST
    See me raising my hand?... Thanks for the fun Julia Ward Howe poem, and especially for the biographical information about her. Whoever would have imagined that such an adamant activist would have indulged in such a seemingly frivolous poem? So glad she did! So glad, too, she helped ignite your poetry passion. Good luck with your presentation this weekend. God bless you! Enjoy!
    - cb hanek
  5. November 6, 2015 10:05 AM EST
    I love this poem (and elephants in general), and remember discovering it when I was little and reading it over and over. I didn't know anything about the poet, though, so thanks for those info bits!

    Have fun at the festival -- fingers crossed that the rain doesn't dampen your enthusiasm.
    - jama
  6. November 6, 2015 10:21 AM EST
    I just read this poem in Cybils nominated BEASTLY VERSE by Joohee Yoon! I'd never read it before. Thanks for the backstory. And go you, spreading the poetry love around the world! xo
    - Irene Latham
  7. November 6, 2015 10:40 AM EST
    The poem you gave us today is really funny. The humor from the poem brightens up the day. I enjoyed the backstory, too. Thanks.
    - Patricia Cruzan
  8. November 6, 2015 11:20 AM EST
    Wow...I had forgotten that poem and had no idea of it's author's background. Thanks for enlightening me! Love ya!
    - Linda Thompson
  9. November 6, 2015 11:31 AM EST
    Will cross my fingers, Robyn, for a cloudless day for you presenting! I do know this poem, but like you I didn't know the fabulous background of Laura Elizabeth Richards. Wow! And 90 books, more wow. Thanks for sharing. I do love The Arrow Finds Its Mark-great book, along with those Poetry Friday Anthologies, too.
    - Linda Baie
  10. November 6, 2015 2:24 PM EST
    I love this poem. It's such fun to read aloud.
    - Doraine Bennett
  11. November 6, 2015 3:11 PM EST
    I wouldn't worry too much about the weather, Robyn– sounds to me like your bringing the sunshine with you! Prepare for rainbows.
    - Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
  12. November 6, 2015 3:25 PM EST
    What a fun poem! It's new to me. But we still use our corded phones, so that poor elephant would be in trouble around here.
    Thanks for making me smile. :-)
    - Carmela Martino
  13. November 6, 2015 6:18 PM EST
    I haven;t read this silliness before, but it was definitely fun first time. :)
    - katswhiskers (KatApel)
  14. November 6, 2015 7:41 PM EST
    This poem is a wonderful reminder of the joy of just plain SOUND and FUN! Thank you, Robyn. You are also a reminder of wondrous FUN, and the folks who get to learn from you in person are lucky indeed. HUG! xx
    - Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
  15. November 6, 2015 11:36 PM EST
    Quick wave from to the Festival to you amazing Poetry Friday Superstars and Dear Friends and Neighbors, too! Thank you for all these warm and wonderful wishes.
    They moved the children's presentations indoors for tomorrow, so rain or shine, we're on! X's and O's all around.
    - Robyn Black
  16. November 7, 2015 4:35 AM EST
    I've used that poem for "Poetry in the Halls" before -- I didn't realize how old it was or anything about the poet's background! Thanks so much for that. Fascinating!
    - Tabatha
  17. November 7, 2015 9:00 AM EST
    Hi, Tabatha - so glad you enjoyed the wee bit of context! Thanks for coming by. :0)
    - Robyn Black
  18. November 7, 2015 9:13 AM EST
    I loved this one as a child, too! Thanks for the memories!
    - Ruth,
  19. November 8, 2015 6:38 AM EST
    Daughter of Julia Ward Howe?!?! Who knew??? Thanks for the fun poem, for making me feel old (we still have phones with cords in our house), and for teaching me something new!
    - Mary Lee Hahn
  20. November 8, 2015 2:41 PM EST
    I was not familiar with this poem, but I can see why it has stuck in your memory - too fun. (But I do remember corded phones). =)
    - Bridget Magee
  21. November 9, 2015 6:52 PM EST
    Hi, Ruth - you're mighty welcome!

    Mary Lee, isn't that a fun fact?! Thanks for coming by.

    Bridget, glad you enjoyed - and our kids don't know what they are missing, being tethered to have a conversation....
    - Robyn Black

Quick Clicks

bio, photos, interview links, etc.
Explore a poem or two or five....
Explore this genre of sparely crafted poetry which offers endless depth. Resources for students, teachers, and writers.
Author visits
In schools or other settings, Robyn shares her passion for writing and encourages creativity. Presentations for all age groups.
In addition to writing books, Robyn has sold her writing to major children's magazines.
A rhyming tale of a young boy's knightly adventure with an imagined dragon.
Nonfiction, interactive book on wolves featuring giant pop-up and tons of info!