I wanted to teach my chimp to rhyme; 
it may sound easy,
 but preparations took some time

First he seemed disinterested. Maybe, I thought, he doesn't quite grasp the concept of verse. But I have this idea stuck in my mind, that primates can be inspired versifiers, if given an opportunity. Anyway, I knew we could do it.

Teasing him with ice-cream 
appeared to be a good scheme, 

yet my chimp put on some weight before he could make the simplest verse. We used software I designed specially for him. Yambo could hit on-screen drawings with his fingers and hear the word pronounced. In the first stages, the drawings were arranged in such a way that when a word was hit, the little icons of other rhyming words flashed, and the pair of words were sounded in sequence. When he touched two rhyming words in a row, I hugged him dearly. I used to feed him peanuts, but he was getting so good, just imagine the expense. And besides, poetry should stem from sheer inspiration. How good can be a poem written while just thinking on material rewards?

We made some progress 
I almost cried the morning he hit "bananas"
 next to "pajamas", 

and looked at me seeking his hug. Good, I thought, in rapture, next step is rhythm.

It seemed logical to me that rhythm was of primal importance, so I started singing songs to him. Lots of them. I took the utmost care in choosing simple songs with clear and obvious rhymes, first. They were not my type, but one has to compromise sometimes, in science. Yambo seemed more inclined to listen to me for pleasure, and not with the task in mind. Sometimes he clapped vigorously at my song or demanded an encore. Cute Yambo, I love him.

At some point through the song, I would stop singing, and wait for him to complete the sentence with a rhyme. The software was adapted so that Yambo could choose the appropriate word from a short list of options, only one of them being the correct one. I bursted into tears when he masterfully ended my line:

"you're the top/you're Mahatma Gandhi
you're the top/you're Napoleon..." "BRANDY!", 

the screen voiced after Yambo touched the drawn bottle with his almost human finger. We joined in a mutually respectful embrace, and kept on dancing to the rest of the song, this time sang by Ella Fitzgerald. One needs to relax from time to time. And celebrate, too.

You're the top was our turning point, for some reason. The thing is, after that success, everything rolled smoothly. And I found even more reasons to love Yambo. I tend to like those who love Cole Porter.

I will save you the details, but when I look back to those hard days of training, I feel a natural satisfaction. Of course, Yambo's unbeatable series of books and awards made my career (and his) skyrocket. My fellow  scientists around the world invited me to talk about my findings as a primate researcher, and the international magazines paid us handsomely to place our picture on their covers. As for him, he's teaching seminars on comparative literature in several leading African universities. Not bad at all, uh?

But I should say I don't seek that celebrity. All I want these days is to sit near my loving chimp and enjoy the quiet for a while. He reads a lot, and so do I. I have been trying to help, suggesting appropriate readings at each step, but now he seems a more  independent judge and loves picking up volumes from our library by himself. The advantage: he doesn't need the stool to reach the higher shelves. 

He just read all the symbolists in French, while listening to Debussy. He loved them, right now he's going bananas about Rimbaud.


  1. penita de mi pierdo todos los matices... aisiis!.Buen gusto el mono oyendo a Debussy... y multilíngüe! jejeje

  2. Ingles o inglés? Tanto hablar de las patadas al idioma y mira....ahahahahahah

    Besos Sandeman!



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