because most people stop with the Z… but not me

I walk with Dr. Seuss

Sometimes it’s possible to trace the source of a lifelong affection to a single defining moment. For me, it’s typography and On Beyond Zebra!

The places I took him!
I tried hard to tell
Young Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell
A few brand-new wonderful words he might spell.
I led him around and I tried hard to show
There are things beyond Z that most people don’t know.
I took him past Zebra. As far as I could.
And I think, perhaps, maybe I did him some good…

Dr. Seuss was a grand influence on my life. I discovered I knew how to read — hooking up words with the shapes of letters — entertaining my younger brother by reciting the memorized verses while showing him the pages of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and The Cat in The Hat.

Since that moment, my enjoyment of reading and the configurations of letters has been intrinsically linked. The achievement of On Beyond Zebra! is the suggestion that I could make up my own letters, and therefore express something that was uniquely me. Something necessary, and before that, impossible. And to do so… beautifully. With letters!

a personal favorite, wum

So, on beyond Zebra!
Like Columbus!
Discover new letters!
Like wum is for Wumbus,
My high-spouting whale who lives high on a hill
Who never comes down ‘til it’s time to refill.
So, on beyond Z! It’s time you were shown
That you really don’t know all there is to be known.

It was this exhortation, to explore and discover, combined with the reminder that I did not, in fact, know all there is to be known, that keeps me curious and eager to learn new stuff. And to draw alphabets, and study all the ways they have ever been drawn. Different shapes have different meanings, and in typography they are subtle and profound. Words are power. Dr. Seuss knew children can understand this.

7 thoughts on “because most people stop with the Z… but not me

  1. Craig Saunders says:

    Tomorrow (March 2) is Theodore Geisel’s birthday. He, along with A.A. Milne are my favourite poets. I’m not sure if that is an admirable childlike quality of mine or just basic immaturity.

    Incidentally, that day is also the anniversary of the creation of a certain, haiku-based organization in a stick figure game of ill-repute led by a disreputable hippopotamus.

  2. jackson says:

    And JOGG is my letter for spelling Jogg-oons
    Who doodle around in the far desert dunes
    Just doodle around, crooning very sad tunes
    About peppermint, peanuts and pebbles and prunes
    And paint pots, and polka dots, pin heads and pigs
    And their grandmothers’ grandfathers’ step-sisters’ wigs.

    So you see,
    There’s no end
    To the things you might know,
    Depending how far beyond Zebra you go!

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