Exploring nonsense verse and funny poetry.

Our study of limericks and Edward Lear led us to naturally to a place where Max wanted to learn more about “funny poems” and inventing your own words in poetry.

The best way to study poetry is to engage it completely by reading it again and again. We read the following:

  1. My Pet Germs by Kenn Nesbitt
  2. The Mule by Ogden Nash
  3. The Mule by Douglas Florian
  4. Today is Very Boring by Jack Prelutsky
  5. I Lost My Invisible Puppy by Jack Prelutsky
  6. The Jumblies by Edward Lear
  7. Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat by Lewis Carroll
  8. The Crocodile by Lewis Carroll

And then we strolled through each poem again, scoping out the scenes and sets like naturalists in a new ecosystem. Each poem has its own background, its own creatures, its own verities unique to its world.

“My Pet Germs” combines a simple rhyme scheme with a fun idea- the thought of germs as pets- to create a poem you can enjoy. Nesbitt uses words like “epidermis” to lighten the mood; using scientific jargon is a clever way to add humor to a poem, especially when it seems silly.

  • Make a list of ten scientific terms that sound funny to you and save them for later when we write funny poems. They can be a great resource.

“The Mule” poems describe interesting aspects of an animal, the mule, using few words and great rhymes. A rhyme scheme is a regular pattern of rhyme, one that is consistent throughout the poem. Poems that rhyme without any regular pattern can be called rhyming poems, but only those poems with an unvarying pattern to their rhymes can be said to have a rhyme scheme. For example, a very simple rhyme scheme is used in Nash’s mule poem- he uses AA. Both lines rhyme.

Generally, Ogden Nash liked to use the AABB rhyme scheme. Douglas Florian uses an AAAA rhyme scheme for his mule poem. You can explore rhyme schemes further or, if you understand how they are noted with letters, you can try your hand at the activity.

  • Write your own short and sweet mule poem using an AABB rhyme scheme or an AAAA rhyme scheme.

“Today Is Very Boring” pokes fun at the idea of being “bored”. Prelutsky is pointing out that it isn’t the day that is boring but rather the child who sees it as boring. I like to tell my kids- There are no boring moments, only bored people. Prelutsky starts with a statement and then uses his entire poem to show how it isn’t true.

  • Can you trace Prelutsky’s rhyme scheme in this poem?

“I Lost My Invisible Puppy” makes use of the rhyme scheme ABCB and words that mean of the opposite of what the narrator in the poem is trying to say. By the end of the poem, we realize that you can’t lose a puppy you could never really see in the first place.

  • Make a list of the adjectives and words Prelutsky uses to suggest how invisible this puppy must truly be.
  • Jack Prelutsky, king of funny poetry, explains how to write a funny poem in this handout. Write your own funny poem using his recipe.

“The Jumblies” describes a fantastic adventure of Lear’s invented characters, the Jumblies, in a drain sieve. Lear invents his own words to fit his invented characters. He also makes a lovely illustration to help us imagine the Jumblies.

  • Make a list of Lear’s invented words and try to define them.
  • Create an encyclopedia entry for “Jumblies”. Look in an encyclopedia for examples.
  • Write your own poem that invents characters which live in the gutters of you home or apartment and only come out when it rains and they are “washed” out. Invent your own words and verbs to describe their actions.

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat” is Lewis Carroll’s take on a classic poem by Jane Taylor. Carroll pens a funny poem by merely substituting a few of his own words for words like “star” and “are”. He maintains the AABB rhyme scheme.

  • Sing Carroll’s version of the classic poem to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.
  • Write you own twinkle poem that begins “Twinkle, twinkle little…..” and keep to the AABB rhyme scheme.

“The Crocodile” uses the last line of the poem as a punchline. We are surprised to learn what he does with the fish. The ABAB rhyme scheme gives the poem a fun reading rythm, while Carroll’s personification of the crocodile makes him come alive as an image.

  • Print and color this page with Carroll’s crocodile.
  • Try to write your own rhyming poem that personfies an animal and ends with a funny or surprising punch line.

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