Category: Podcast

I’ve Started Learning Honkish – Podcast Episode

When I was in elementary school, I spent a lot of time learning to make silly faces and strange voices.

I taught myself how to wiggle my ears, raise one eyebrow at a time, and pucker my lips like a fish.

I learned how to talk like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and Dracula. I practiced purring and meowing to my cat. I even learned how to burp whenever I want.

About ten years ago, I even wrote an entire poem, called “My Excellent Education,” about all these crazy things I learned in school (even thought they weren’t what I was supposed to be studying). In fact, “My Excellent Education” is one of the few poems I’ve written that is almost entirely true.

Today’s poem, “I’ve Started Learning Honkish,” is specifically about the kinds of noises I liked to make–mooing, honking, burping, and so on—plus a bunch more that I just made up.

I even gave them names. I mean, if Spanish is what they speak in Spain, Norwegian is what they speak in Norway, and Chinese is what they speak in China, why can’t you speak Burpish, Snorwegian, and Garglese?

If you like this poem, why not see if you can invent a few new languages from the crazy sounds you can make and maybe even add a stanza or two of your own to this poem?

I’ve Started Learning Honkish

I’ve started learning Honkish.
It’s my favorite language now.
I’m also learning Mooish.
I can speak just like a cow.

I’m learning Chirpish, Burpish,
Beepish, yes, and Sneezanese,
and a dialect of Buzzish
so I sound just like the bees.

My dad taught me Snorwegian,
plus some Ancient Garglese,
and I’m fluent in a dozen other
languages like these.

I’m something of prodigy
where language is concerned,
except for ones the language teacher
says I should have learned.

She tried to teach me Spanish,
French, and German, but I’m lazy.
And, anyway, I’d rather learn
the ones that drive her crazy.

—Kenn Nesbitt

Mammals – Podcast Episode

List poems can be so much fun to write. All you need is a beginning and an end, and then you can make a list in the middle as long or as short as you like. Shel Silverstein’s poem “Sick” and Jack Prelustky’s “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” are a couple of classic examples of list poems. I have also written quite a few list poems, including “The Games in My Room,” “Advice from Dracula,” and “My Mother Said to Do My Chores.”

While most of my poems are humorous, this one, called “Mammals,” isn’t meant to be funny. I just wanted to create a list of different mammals to show how varied they are, and yet what they mostly have in common. You might even find a few mammals you haven’t heard of on this list, such as the numbat (an endangered marsupial that eats nothing but termites), the kob (a kind of antelope), or the echidna (a spiny anteater).

You might also notice that, in addition to being a list poem, this poem also includes a fair bit of alliteration; words that start with the same consonant sounds. This is intentional, as I think it makes the poem more fun to read or listen to.

If you would like to learn how to create your own list poems, I even have a poetry-writing lesson called “How to Write a List Poem” on poetry4kids, and another one to show how to create a poem from a list of your favorite things. I have also created a number of lists of rhyming words—such as rhyming foods, rhyming sports, and rhyming animals—that may come in handy for your list poems.

But, of course, you don’t have to write your own list poems to enjoy reading or listening to them. I hope you enjoy this one.

Mammals

Celebrate the wondrous mammal:
Bison, beaver, cheetah, camel,
panther, panda, pygmy shrew,
chimpanzee, and caribou,
weasel, wolf, raccoon, and rat,
badger, bandicoot, and bat,
rhino, reindeer, rabbit, ram,
llama, leopard, lion, lamb,
elk, echidna, hamster, hog,
marmot, meerkat, dolphin, dog,
lemur, lemming, bobcat, bear,
walrus, wombat, hippo, hare,
kob, koala, kangaroo,
naked mole rat, numbat, gnu,
aardvark, ape, orangutan,
mongoose, manatee, and man.
These and more are in the family,
furry, four-limbed, warm, and mammally.

—Kenn Nesbitt

What to Remember in School – Podcast Episode

I recently added a lesson to poetry4kids showing different ways write a poem using repetition. You can repeat entire stanzas, creating a chorus or refrain in the poem. You can repeat lines, as Robert Frost famously did at the end of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” or as Dylan Thomas did in “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

When you repeat the first words of each line, what you end up with is not only a repetition poem, but a list poem as well. For example, my poem “I’ll Never,” repeats those words at the beginning of nearly every line of the poem, forming a list of all the things I’ll never do.

In my first book, The Aliens Have Landed at Our School!, I included a few repetition poems, such as “Don’t Rat on a Mouse” and “How Not to Play with Your Food.” Here’s another repetition/list poem from that book about all the things it’s okay to forget in school, and the one thing it’s very important to remember.

What to Remember in School

Forget that two times four is eight.
Forget the name of every state.
Forget the answers on the test.
Forget which way is east and west.
Forget the myths of ancient Rome.
Forget to bring your books from home.
Forget the words you learned to spell.
Forget to hear the recess bell.
Forget your homeroom teacher’s name.
Forget the after-school game.
Forget which team’s supposed to win.
Forget to turn your homework in.
Forget the distance to the moon.
Forget how many days in June.
Forget the capitol of France.
But DON’T forget to wear your pants!

—Kenn Nesbitt

Bob’s Job – Podcast Episode

Some people love puns, while others hate them with a passion. People who don’t like puns often call them “groaners” because they groan when they hear them.

Personally, I love a good pun. My friend, the poet Jack Pretlutsky once told me he thinks a good pun is one that you can be equally proud of and ashamed of at the same time. His favorite of his own puns was from the last line of his pun-filled poem “We’re Fearless Flying Hot Dogs” from his book Something Big Has Been Here.

Sometimes a pun poem is full of puns from beginning to end as in my poems “What a Ham” or “My Hare Is Resting on My Head.” Others are just a setup for a single zinger of a pun at the end.

This poem, Bob’s Job, is a list poem, meaning that it has a list of items, actions, or something else in it. In this case, the poem includes a list of soda pop brands such as Coca Cola and Mountain Dew.

But honestly, I wrote this entire poem just so I could get to the pun at the end. I hope it doesn’t make you groan too hard.

Bob’s Job

My name is Bob. I have a job.
My job is crushing cans,
like Coca Cola, 7Up,
and lots of other brands.

I flatten cans from Mr. Pibb,
and Dr. Pepper too,
Sierra Mist, and RC Cola,
Sprite, and Mountain Dew.

I whack them with a hammer or
I beat them with a bat,
to pound the Pepsi, squash the Squirt,
and press the Fresca flat.

It’s good to have a job to do,
though sometimes it’s distressing.
I try to keep my chin up,
but my job is soda pressing.

—Kenn Nesbitt

I Can’t Wait for Summer – Podcast Episode

I often feel that summer is the best of all seasons, especially when you’re in school for the rest of the year. In the summertime, you don’t usually have to go to school. Instead you can swim, play in the park, or even just stay home and play games instead of doing homework.

I have written several poems about how much I like summer, including this one from my book When the Teacher Isn’t Looking.

If you like this poem, I recommend you also read my poems “Dreaming of Summer” from my book My Hippo Has the Hiccups and “Dear Summer” from My Cat Knows Karate.

I Can’t Wait for Summer

I can’t wait for summer, when school days are done,
to spend the days playing outside in the sun.
I won’t have to study. No homework, no tests.
Just afternoons spent on adventures and quests.
Instead of mathematics and writing reports,
I’ll go to the park and play summertime sports.
Instead of assignments, report cards, and grades,
I’ll get to play baseball and watch the parades.
I’ll swing on the playground. I’ll swim in the pool
instead of just practicing lessons in school.
The second the school year is finally done
I’ll spend every minute with friends having fun.
I hardly can wait for the end of the year.
I’m counting the days until summer is here.
It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard to be cool.
It’s hard to believe it’s the first day of school.

— Kenn Nesbitt

Science Homework – Podcast Episode

From my book Revenge of the Lunch Ladies, this is either a story of a science experiment gone very, very wrong, or it is an elaborate excuse for not turning in your homework. Or possibly both.

It is also a long way to go for a groaner of an ending, but I had so much fun writing it that I just couldn’t help myself.

Lastly, this is also a good example of using onomatopoeia—words that sound like the actions they describe—in a poem. Words like “burble,” “slither,” and “gobble” all evoke sounds as well as visual descriptions. I used these intentionally to heighten the sensory impact of the poem and make it more engaging. I hope you enjoy it.

Science Homework

I hope that you believe me
for I wouldn’t tell a lie.
I cannot turn my science homework in
and this is why:

I messed up the assignment
that you gave us yesterday.
It burbled from its test tube
and went slithering away.

It wriggled off the table
and it landed with a splat,
convulsed across my bedroom floor
and terrorized the cat.

It shambled down the staircase
with a horrid glorping noise.
It wobbled to the family room
and gobbled all my toys.

It tumbled to the kitchen
and digested every plate.
That slimy blob enlarged
with every item that it ate.

It writhed around the living room
digesting lamps and chairs,
then snuck up on our napping dog
and caught him unawares.

I came to school upset today.
My head’s in such a fog.
But this is my excuse:
You see, my homework at my dog.

—Kenn Nesbitt

Bradley Bentley Baxter Bloome – Podcast Episode

About 150 years ago, an English children’s writer named William Brighty Rands wrote a poem called “Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore” about a boy who refused to ever shut the door and never listened to his parents until they built a sailboat and threatened to send him off to Singapore.

In the early 1900s, another English writer named Hillaire Belloc wrote a number of “cautionary tales” about children who misbehaved and met unfortunate ends, including “Jim, Who Ran Away from His Nurse, and Was Eaten by a Lion” and “Rebecca, Who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably.”

About 50 years ago, Shel Silverstein wrote one of his most famous poems, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” about a young girl who wouldn’t take the garbage out and met an untimely fate within that trash. In fact, just as Shel Silverstein’s poem was inspired by these earlier poems, my first poem, “Scrawny Tawny Skinner,” was inspired by “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.”

I thought it would be a good idea to write another cautionary tale to pay homage to these poems of yesteryear, and this is the result. I hope you enjoy it.

Bradley Bentley Baxter Bloom

Bradley Bentley Baxter Bloome
would never, ever clean his room.
He simply dropped things on the floor
and left them there forevermore.
And even if his parents yelled,
complaining that his bedroom smelled,
and told him, “Bradley Bentley Bloome,
go get a bucket and a broom
and bring them back and clean your room,”
he just refused to pick things up.
So every cord, or coat, or cup,
or Christmas card or candy cane
that hit the floor would just remain.

It only took a little while
before he had a massive pile
of dirty clothes and greasy plates
and dust-encrusted roller skates
and tattered toys and grimy games
and broken bits of picture frames
and rumpled rags and rusted keys
and crumpled bags and cracked CDs
and stuff he’d never seen before
on every inch of bedroom floor.

And even as the clutter grew
with one more muddy, cruddy shoe,
or old and moldy pear or plum,
or sloppy glob of chewing gum,
or burst balloon, or flattened hat,
or battered book, or baseball bat,
or worn and torn up magazine,
still Bradley Bloome would never clean.

He didn’t even seem to care
as rubbish covered up his chair,
his desk, his bookcase, and his bed,
and piled up higher than his head,
until, at last, there wasn’t room
enough to breathe for Bradley Bloome.
His parents heard him scream and shout,
and tried but couldn’t get him out,
because the garbage on the floor
had filled the room and blocked the door.

And, in the end, young Bradley died,
and everyone who knew him cried.
His parents wailed and tore their hair.
His teacher wept in deep despair.
His gran and grandpa grieved and groaned.
His siblings sobbed. His classmates moaned.
His friends all whimpered, “Bradley! Bradley!
Please come back. We miss you badly!”

But, just like kids who came before,
like Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore,
the boy who never would shut the door,
and Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout,
who would not take the garbage out,
and scrawny little Tawny Skinner,
who could not, would not eat her dinner,
poor Bradley Bentley Baxter Bloome
unfortunately met his doom,
within the grease and grime and gloom
that blocked the door and sealed his tomb.

So, children, if I may assume
you do not want to meet your doom
like Bradley Bentley Baxter Bloome,
go get a bucket and a broom
and bring them back and clean your room. 

— Kenn Nesbitt

Falling Asleep in Class – Podcast Episode

Have you ever accidentally fallen asleep in class? I know I did a few times, though not until I was in high school. If you fell asleep in elementary school, that’s just proof that kids are much more advanced these days.

My book When the Teacher Isn’t Looking has about 50 poems about all the funny things that happen at school. This one is about someone who fell asleep in class and woke up startled when the bell rang.

Falling Asleep in Class

I fell asleep in class today,
as I was awfully bored.
I laid my head upon my desk
and closed my eyes and snored.

I woke to find a piece of paper
sticking to my face.
I'd slobbered on my textbooks,
and my hair was a disgrace.

My clothes were badly rumpled,
and my eyes were glazed and red.
My binder left a three-ring
indentation in my head.

I slept through class, and probably
I would have slept some more,
except my students woke me
as they headed out the door.

-- Kenn Nesbitt

I Slipped on a Banana Peel – Podcast Episode

About 20 years ago, I used to have a hot tub in the back yard. One cold, winter morning, I noticed that I had left the cover off of it the night before, and the water had probably gotten pretty cold. So I put my slippers on and headed out the back door to replace the cover.

What I didn’t notice was that the steam from the hot tub had caused a thin layer of ice to form on the back stairs. I took one step down the stairs and immediately slipped and fell. Fortunately, there were only three steps so I wasn’t injured, but it did hurt a lot.

After jumping up and down, yelling, and rubbing my behind. I suddenly had an idea! My wife asked me, “Are you okay?” I said, “Yes, but I have to write a poem!”

This poem is the result of that mishap on the stairs.

I Slipped on a Banana Peel

I slipped on a banana peel
and fell and hit my head.
I slipped upon a patch of ice
which nearly killed me dead.

I slipped upon a roller skate
and tumbled into space.
I slipped inside the bathtub
and I landed on my face.

I slipped upon the basement stairs
and on the kitchen floor.
I wish that I could stop myself
from slipping anymore.

So now I only wear my shoes
or boots or clogs or flippers,
but I don’t want to slip again
so I don’t wear my slippers!

 --Kenn Nesbitt