Ennis Rees | Poets Laureate

Ennis Rees
S.C. Poet Laureate 1984 - 1985

In 1984, Ennis Rees was named the third poet laureate of South Carolina by Governor Dick Riley. At the time, Ennis had been an English professor at the University of South Carolina for over 30 years. He was also an accomplished writer known for his translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Of his own work, Ennis has said, "All of my poetry has South Carolina settings, even if they are not specifically mentioned." 
    
Some of Ennis' best-selling books of poetry were those written for children. The following tongue-twisters are from Ennis' book, Fast Freddie Frog and Other Tongue-Twister Rhymes. Try your hand, or your tongue, at reading them!

Fast Freddie Frog,
    He flips 'em in a dish.
Fast Freddie Frog
    Fries flat flying fish.
He ran on Sundays
    He ran on Mondays.
He ran from the Indies to the Andes
    In his undies.

Ten tomcats tottering
    In the tops of three tall trees
Are ten truly terrified tomcats
    Tumbling around in the breeze.

 

Ennis was also a big fan of folktales and fables. His book Brer Rabbit and His Tricks was inspired by southern folktales about the tricky rabbit too smart for his own good.
For his book Fables from Aesop, Ennis created poems out of fables that were over 2,000 years old. Fables use animals and objects to tell stories about the way humans act. The following poem is from his book:

 

The Cat and the Fox

A fox was bragging one day to a cat
About how smart he was and all that,
Especially at getting out of a fix.
He said, "Why I know a thousand tricks
For escaping the dogs, while you, poor kitty,
Know only one, and that's a pity.
A very smart fox with the dogs - that's me,
But all you can do is climb a tree."
Just then came the hounds with barking and yelping,
And the poor cat truly needed no helping
To climb a tree all the way to the top,
And none of the dogs decided to stop
As after the fox they swiftly ran.
But though he knew a thousand tricks,
None of them got him out of that fix.
They caught the smart fellow where none was his friend,
And that, I'm afraid, of him was the end.
But the cat's one simple tree-climbing plan
Worked as well as any plan can.

 

Text copyright (c) 1966 by Ennis Rees from Fables from Aesop
Text copyright (c) 1993 by Ennis Rees from Fast Freddie Frog and other Tongue-Twister Rhymes by Ennis Rees. Published by Boyds Mills Press. Used by permission of the publisher.
Photo of Ennis Rees courtesy of The State