Thursday, September 25, 2008

Poetry Friday

We started a new thing today: Making Poems. I got the idea from the very charming Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write A Poem, by Jack Prelutsky. We all like Jack at our house; he writes amusingly endearing poetry AND he uses snappy rhyme schemes. He also writes about weird things (vampires, ghouls, etc) in a way that even FDPG can laugh at. And that, in the words of my friend Martha, is a Good Thing (and no, she hasn't called to take me up on my Tomato Challenge yet).

I wasn't even intending to do this with the kids. Funny how that happens. It happened like this: I was standing in the library the other day, watching the twins wrestle over who was going to get the larger portion of the bench in front of the Search computer. Dominic, who at first glance might appear to be a bit of a late bloomer when seated next to his can't-wait-for-the-next-challenge sister, FDPG, has developed a patented technique for getting around her whirlwind of intellectual precocity: brute force. He is quite a bit stronger than her. And he can shove with the best of them. This infuriates her. Well, truth be told it infuriates us all, but I think I'm the only one who feels a certain sympathy with him. I'd have mixed emotions at being FDPG's twin, too; she's very loving and caring but she's also relentless. So there I was, watching them wrestle for Ultimate Supremacy, not to mention surreptitiously watching a 3 year old girl watch them, with her great surprised round eyes (Life IS nasty, brutish and short! she was no doubt thinking), AND stealing the odd glance at her mother, a distinctly disapproving woman with a large purse. I was also pretending that the twins weren't my children, mostly because of the distinctly disapproving mother, but also because FDPG has some very salty language when thwarted and things have been known to get embarrassing. Just then my eye was caught by a cover of a book on the shelf in the New Library Acquisitions section, a book with a very silly cover. It looked like this:
A large head, with what looked to be the top of a pumpkin perched on his head, was attached to a rotund little body, waving some stick-like arms around enthusiastically. Wearing pink slippers and sprouting flowery moustaches. It was Jack. Not that I knew that off the bat, of course, but his name is in pretty bold type at the bottom, and it was hard to miss (the perks of being a Big Author, I guess).

I opened it up, and this is what I read:

"Hello! I've been writing poetry for children for more than forty years...Over those years I've learned quite a few things about writing poetry. Nobody ever told me about them, and I had to teach them to myself. It's also possible that I've invented some of them. I wish that I had known some of these techniques earlier. It would have made writing my poems a lot easier."


I opened the book to the first chapter. "When I was a little boy, a loooooooong time ago..." Ooh, I like this, I thought. I have always been a fervent fan of The Witty Hyperbolic Remark. I skimmed a few chapters and thought "This could be fun...learn some poetry-writing techniques...amuse ourselves a bit while doing so...hmmm?"

The book came home with us. The twins left off with the bench. The three year old leapt onto it as we left, pretending no doubt that she too was a fierce just-turned-seven-year-old, although the woman with the large purse didn't seem the sort to appreciate saltier language than "No!"

And so, this morning found us reading Jack's first Writing Tip #1: "Think about something you did...that made your parents mad at you." Jack wrote about putting bees in his father's tea, and pinning his father's underwear to the wall, and all sorts of other things that he considered practical jokes. To my kids these were hysterically funny. Underwear on walls! Imagine. Dominic could barely contain himself. I found myself feeling mildly uneasy, but soldiered on. Hopefully my kids know that I am not the sort of person that appreciates a glued toilet seat...

I asked them to think about something they'd done to get someone else in the family angry at them - something that we'd later laughed about. Nothing that involved Tragic Consequences or anything. I suggested that we write our own "I Wonder Why Dad Is So Thoroughly Mad" poem, but I opened up the topic to a more generic "I Wonder Why _____ Is So Thoroughly Mad." I showed them how Jack had written his poem so that it bounced along with a distinctly methodically rhythm. I underlined the rhyming words. I might even have clapped my hands a bit, for the benefit of the twins. Then Max took a piece of paper and hunched into his chair and started writing. I went and sat with the twins, and asked them for ideas and lines. And this is what we came up with. It's our Poetry Friday Offering.

I contributed next to nothing, I'll have you know.

Sometimes I'm Too Independent

Whenever I'm out with my mum and the boys, 
I like to run off out of sight. 
My mum yells and shouts and the boys roll their eyes, 
I sigh and think they're too uptight.

There you go. Insight into the World of FPDG. Little Miss Independent among the masses.

Dominic's poem has a line contributed by Max - the first line. Don't fret, Dominic loves this line, and let me tell you, it's very apt. He has to be first in the door whenever we come back from somewhere and it drives us all to distraction. (Emphasis in the last line should be on want and last for it to read smoothly)

Everyone's Mad With Me
by Dominic

Shoving and pushing's my favourite thing 
Now everyone's mad with me. 
I don't understand why they get so upset, 
I don't want to be last, you see.

And finally, here's Max's poem. It's about his rocky relationship with the strange and wondrous world of math. Math requires a precision that Max is not always willing to give (sheila coughs and splutters with heaps of sarcasm), so sometimes he has to do it again and again and again. Drat that Singapore math!

by Max

I hate my math it's the one to blame, 
I'd like to put it in a fiery flame. 
I'd give it a scorch with a big ole torch, 
Then get on with things more fun. 
But just when I think it's gone away, 
It pops up and looks as if to say:
"Ha ha! Here I am, you can't fool me!" 
"You'll have to learn way more from me!" 
Numbers and symbols, too hard and tough, 
I've had too much, I've had enough. 
I'd rather read and sit and play, 
And that's what I'm going to do today!

So there you have it. Thanks kids. Thanks Jack. Happy Poetry Friday to you all.

For more Poetry Friday offerings, head over to The Miss Rumphius Effect, who's hosting this week. There you can find more participants and more poetry.


Heather said...

Love that math poem. ;-)

Reading your post made me think of a song on an album that I enjoyed when W was little. It is called Don't Trick Your Dad! (He might get really mad). Here is a link to the lyrics (fun and rhyming) in case you are interested.
Thanks for the book title, I will have to see if our library has that one.

sheila said...

Thanks for the link, Heather! I'll check it out.

Anonymous said...

If I decide to move on from reading poems with kids, this might be a good resource. How to make poetry unscary... That's a book I want to see.

I love the independence poem. Maybe because I have a girl a bit like that.

Vivian said...

These poems are great. I think you've got talented kids in your house!

That is so funny you used this book. I picked it up from the library a couple weeks ago so I could inspire my kids with poetry. Now, you (and your children) have inspired me.

Thanks for sharing!

sheila said...

I'll be interested in seeing what you make of it, JoVE. It's very easy and unthreatening. We have liked those Oxford poetry anthologies (our libraries has about 4 million of them and no one seems to take them out ever!).

Thanks Vivian! It was such a magical moment for them all. I was surprised how little I had to do with it (other than working through what rhymed and what didn't). Funny about finding that book as well - I'm going to check the new releases more often now. If you want you can always use my kids' poems as examples.

sheila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.