How to Write a Traditional “Mother Goose” Nursery Rhyme
Some of the best known children’s poetry in the English language are the “nursery rhymes” of Mother Goose. Though no one knows for certain if Mother Goose was a real person, her rhymes have been popular with young children since the 1600’s. Some of the most popular Mother Goose rhymes include “Humpty Dumpty,” “Hey, Diddle Diddle,” “Little Bo Peep,” “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater,” and many others. In fact, Mother Goose is credited with writing several hundred nursery rhymes.
But did you know that Mother Goose isn’t the only writer of nursery rhymes? “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was written by an English woman named Jane Taylor. Many of the short nonsense poems of Edward Lear would qualify as nursery rhymes. And some, such as “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” are “traditional,” meaning we don’t know who wrote them.
In the past few decades, a number of children’s poets have also begun writing new nursery rhymes. For example, Canadian poet Dennis Lee has authored a number of books, including Alligator Pie, Jelly Belly, and Bubblegum Delicious, that are filled with new nursery rhymes. American poet Jack Prelutsky followed suit with books such as Ride a Purple Pelican, Beneath a Blue Umbrella, and The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders.
Many authors have even started writing funny “fractured” nursery rhymes, taking well-known Mother Goose poems and updating them with humor and modern ideas.
In fact, even you can write your own new nursery rhymes, and it’s not that hard. All you need is a pencil, a piece of paper, a little time, and your imagination.
2015 TIME for Kids Poetry Contest
Calling all poets! TIME For Kids has a challenge for you: Write a funny, rhyming poem. It must be an original poem that does not copy another poet’s work. Enter it in the TIME For Kids Poetry Contest. The grand-prize winner will receive an online class visit from Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt. The grand-prize winner and three finalists will each get a signed copy of Nesbitt’s newest book of poetry, The Biggest Burp Ever: Funny Poems for Kids, and their poems will be published at timeforkids.com.
WHAT: Write a funny, rhyming poem and enter it in the TFK Poetry Contest. Poet Kenn Nesbitt will look for originality, creativity, humor and rhyme in the style of his own poetry. To read some of Nesbitt’s poems, go to poetry4kids.com.
HOW: Enter your original poem in the online entry form at timeforkids.com/2015poetrycontest. Be sure to include your first name only, your e-mail address and your parents’ e-mail address. Contest is open to students who are 8 to 13 years old.
DEADLINE: January 30, 2015
Read the official rules here and a Q&A about the contest here.
NEW BOOK! The Biggest Burp Ever: Funny Poems for Kids
Today marks the release of my newest collection of hilarious children’s poetry. The Biggest Burp Ever: Funny Poems for Kids contains 70 new kid-tested funny poems about crazy characters, funny families, peculiar pets, comical creatures, and much, much more, all with wonderful illustrations by Rafael Domingos.
I promise you are going to love this book. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what others have to say about it:
Take a deep breath. Hold on tight. Fasten your seat belt! The Biggest Burp Ever is another epic romp of rib-tickling rhyme on the endless roller coaster ride known as Kenn’s prolific pen! –Charles Ghigna – Father Goose®
Kenn Nesbitt has an amazing power: He’s a poet whose punchlines aim straight for the funny bone and rarely, if ever, miss. Here, in this brand-new collection, the Master of the Looney-verse pays another welcome visit to planet Mirth, delivering a pun-packed pummeling that is guaranteed to leave young readers everywhere reeling with joy. –Graham Denton, children’s poet and anthologist
The Biggest Burp Ever by Kenn Nesbitt dials up the silly factor to 11. With a verbal palette as bright as childhood itself, the Children’s Poet Laureate covers topics from Xboxes to pizzas to pets and delivers a chuckle on every one. Fair warning: Upon reading one of his punchlines, I had milk coming out of my nose, and I hadn’t even drunk any. –Brian P. Cleary, author of the Words are CATegorical series
The Biggest Burp Ever is now available in paperback from Amazon.com for just $9.95. In addition the the paperback, you can also read The Biggest Burp Ever as an eBook for Amazon Kindle for just $4.99.
Rhyming Places List
If you ever find yourself writing a poem that involves geographical locations — cities, states, countries, etc. — you may find it helpful to have a list of places that rhyme with one another. Here are some that you could use:
- Alaska / Nebraska
- Albania / Lithuania / Mauritania / Pennsylvania / Romania / Tasmania / Transylvania
- Algeria / Assyria / Iberia / Liberia / Nigeria / Siberia / Syria
- Anapolis / Indianapolis / Minneapolis
- Anatolia / Mongolia
- Andorra / Aurora / Sonora
- Angola / Hispaniola / Pensacola
- Arizona / Barcelona / Daytona / Pomona / Ramona / Verona
- Armenia / Sardinia / Slovenia
- Aruba / Cuba / Dinuba
- Asia / Australasia / Eurasia / Malaysia
- Astoria / Peoria / Pretoria / Victoria
- Austin / Boston
- Australia / Vidalia / Visalia
- Azerbaijan / Bhutan / Ceylon / Iran / Kazakhstan / Milan / Oman / San Juan / Taiwan
- Bahrain / Biscayne / Champlain / Fort Wayne / Maine / Spain / Ukraine
- Baku / Guangzhou / Kalamazoo / Kathmandu / Peru / Thimphu / Timbuktu
- Bali / Raleigh
- Bavaria / Bulgaria
- Bombay / L.A. / Malay / Monterey / Saint Tropez / San Jose / Santa Fe
- Brazil / Capitol Hill / Seville
- Bruges / Baton Rouge
- Brunei / Chennai / Dubai / Mumbai / Shanghai / Uruguay / Versailles
- Caledonia / Estonia / Macedonia / Patagonia
- Casablanca / Sri Lanka
- Chicago / Santiago
- China / Indochina / North Carolina / South Carolina
- County Cork / New York
- Copacabana / Fontana / Indiana / Louisiana / Montana / Santa Ana / Savannah / Susquehanna
- Crimea / Eritrea / Korea / Sofia / Tanzania
- Gambia / Zambia
- Goa / Samoa
- Greece / Nice / Tunis
- Illinois / Troy
- Indonesia / Micronesia / Polynesia / Rhodesia / Tunisia
- Isle of Capri / Tennessee / Waikiki
- Isle of Man / Cannes / Japan / Saipan / Spokane / Sudan
- Jakarta / Puerto Vallarta / Sparta
- Libya / Namibia
- Malta / Yalta
- Martinique / Mozambique
- Milwaukee / Nagasaki
- Minnesota / North Dakota / Sarasota / South Dakota
- Montreal / Nepal / Senegal
- North Pole / Seoul / South Pole
- Oklahoma / Point Loma / Sonoma / Tacoma
- Prussia / Russia
- Reno / San Bernardino / San Marino / Torino
- Rwanda / Uganda
- Serbia / Suburbia
Click here for other lists of rhyming words.
My Teacher Took My iPod – Video
Here is a video of me reciting my poem “My Teacher Took My iPod,” from the book Revenge of the Lunch Ladies.
When I was a student, iPods hadn’t been invented yet, but there were still plenty of things you weren’t allowed to have at school, and teachers would take them from you and return them at the end of the day, just like they do today with mobile phones and music players.
My Puppy Punched Me In the Eye – Video
Here is a video of me reciting my poem “My Puppy Punched Me In the Eye,” from the book My Hippo Has the Hiccups.
I’ve had a lot of different pets, including cats, dogs, rabbits, and even a ferret. One thing they had in common is that they all liked jumping on me. I’ve always thought it would be funny if pets could learn how to do human things, such as make pizza or play musical instruments. Here’s what I think might happen if they took kung fu lessons.
My Writing Process – Blog Tour
My friend Kelly Milner Halls recently participated in the Writing Process Blog Tour on her blog and asked me if I would follow her in the tour, answering a few questions about my writing. Of course, I said yes. Kelly is such a wonderful children’s author and all-around awesome human being that I thought it would be a great way to let my readers know about her and her books. She also asked Claire Rudolf Murphy to participate, and she should be posting her answers on her blog in the next couple of days.
I’ve asked Douglas Florian and Nikki Grimes to follow me in this blog tour, so next week you should be able to read about what they are working on and how and why they write what they do.
So, without further ado, here are my answers to the four questions posed on this blog tour:
What am I currently working on?
I’m currently working on a rhyming picture book. In the past, most of my books have been poetry collections, but these days I find myself writing more picture books.
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
With a few notable exceptions (e.g., Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Douglas Florian) most children’s poetry books aren’t humorous. They tend to be more informational; poems about nature, animals, etc. So I guess it’s fair to say that my books differ from most children’s poetry books in that they are funny. At least, I hope they are.
Why do I write what I write?
As a child, I loved hearing and reading funny poems and songs. So mostly I write the same sorts of things that I loved reading as a kid. I also loved reading kid detective novels, but I haven’t tried my hand at one of those yet.
What is my writing process?
Any time I get an idea, I jot it down in a note on my phone or laptop using Evernote.
I don’t have a regular writing time or location. I write whenever I can make time, and I do it wherever I happen to be. Usually that’s at home, but often I will go the the library or a coffee house to work.
When I am able to carve out a little time to write, I start by going through my ideas to find one that I would like to work on. I do all of my writing on my laptop computer using a number of programs, including Evernote, Rhymesaurus, Rhymezone.com and Thesaurus.com. I write and revise, write and revise, write and revise, until I feel like there is nothing else I can do to improve the poem. When I’m finished writing t, I file the poem in Evernote and then come back a day or two later. Often times I will see something I didn’t notice before, and I’ll make a few final revisions. At that point, the poem is usually ready for posting on my website or including in a manuscript.
5 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block
“Writer’s block” is an expression that describes how it feels when it seems like you can’t write. Maybe you’re working on a particular poem and then you just start to feel stuck, not knowing how to finish it. Or maybe you sit down to write and you just can’t think of anything at all to write about. Either way, writer’s block can feel pretty discouraging.
The good news is that there are lots of easy ways to break free from writer’s block and start writing again. Next time you feel blocked, give one of these tips a try:
1. Get Goofy
Writer’s block can make you feel very serious, so one way to break free is to get silly. Try to write the most awful, ridiculous poem in the world. Write a poem complaining about how you can’t possibly write a poem right now because of all your terrible problems. Or write your poem from the point of view of your dog, or your lunch, or the dust bunnies under your bed.
2. Make a List
Sometimes it helps to forget about writing in a poetry format for a while. Instead, just list all the things you want someone to know about what your poem will be like after you write it. Or, if you don’t like making lists, just start writing or typing the words “This poem is going to be about…” and then finish the sentence. Try to keep writing without stopping for at least five minutes. When you’re done, you’ll have lots of ideas about how to finish your poem.
3. Try Something Different
Maybe you need a totally different way to write for a while. Instead of writing a free verse poem, try your hand at rhyming couplets. Or instead of sitting at your desk to write, stand up. If you’re really stuck, stand on one foot, or write with the opposite hand for a change. Or get outside of your usual writing place to sit in a park, in the passenger seat of a car, or in a bookstore or library.
4. Go for a Walk
Physical activity is really good for busting you out of a writing rut and resetting your brain. So is a change of scene! You can go for a walk in your neighborhood, or take a bike ride, or jump on a trampoline, or even take a dance break—anything to get your body moving and distract your brain. You can come back to your writing in a few minutes, or even another day, and you’ll have fresh ideas.
5. Be a Reader Instead
Sometimes you can take the pressure off and inspire yourself at the same time. How? By picking up another writer’s work and enjoying it. It doesn’t even have to be poetry. You could read a short story, a graphic novel, or any kind of writing that reminds your brain what great writing can do. Reading can be a great warm-up for anytime you want to write a poem, or it can be a break from writing when your mind feels stuck.
No matter what you decide to try for your writer’s block, keep in mind that the best way to get un-stuck is to do something different. Start anywhere! Even a very small change can help a lot, and you’ll be writing poems again in no time.
Happy Birthday to Edward Lear!
May 12 is the birthday of English poet Edward Lear, who would be 202 years old if he were still alive. He is well known for his drawings as well as for the poems and limericks that he wrote. Lear has been called a nonsense poet because he liked to use made-up words along with real ones in his poems. He also wrote about fanciful things that wouldn’t happen in real life. You may have read or heard his most famous poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat,” which is often taught to young children. Here is a short excerpt:
10 Ways to Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day
You might have heard that every year, the month of April is National Poetry Month. But did you know that Thursday, April 24 is Poem in Your Pocket Day? This is a day when people all over the United States will be sharing their favorite poem with their families, classmates, co-workers, and neighbors.
The town of Charlottesville in Virginia has an annual tradition of celebrating this day together. Lots of people volunteer to pass out printed poems all over town, and they also have an open mic poetry event the night before Poem in Your Pocket Day to kick off the celebration. There are also special Poem in Your Pocket events every year in other large cities, such as New York.
Here are 10 easy and fun ways to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day this year:
- Write a short poem on an index card and tape or thumbtack it to a public bulletin board. Or you could use just one stanza from a longer poem. Be sure to give the title and author so that people who read it can look up the full poem on their own.
- If you don’t have a pocket, think of other places to store folded-up poems. How about tucked into the top of in your sock?
- Email your favorite poem to a pen pal or family member who lives far away.
- Ask your parent, teacher, or school librarian to help you arrange a poem swap for your class or neighborhood, in which everyone brings a printed copy of their favorite poem and swaps it for someone else’s poem.
- If you use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you can post a photo of your favorite poem and include the hashtag #pocketpoem.
- Leave a printed copy of your poem between the pages of a library book. It will be a surprise for the next reader!
- If your family often visits a senior center or nursing home, print several copies of a poem to share and give it to the people you see when you visit that day. Or ask the person at the information desk if you can leave a pile of poems for visitors to take to their loved ones.
- Encourage people to ask you about your poem. You can do this by wearing a sticker on your shirt or bookbag that says, “It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Ask me about my favorite poem.”
- If your family members take their lunch to school or work, slip a poem into their lunch bags. Better yet, put in two poems—one for them to keep and one for them to give away to a friend!
- Come up with creative ways to share your poem if you don’t want to print out or write out your poem on paper. For example, you could write a short poem on the back of your hand and read it out loud to people you meet.
No matter how you decide to celebrate, you can make Poem in Your Pocket Day special and fun for yourself—and everyone you meet. Just choose a poem to share, and the possibilities are endless!