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Poetry Collections

Author John Cech
Air Date 4/14/2000

Poetry Collections Transcript

When kids get to pick out the poetry that they like, as you can imagine, they’ll usually go for something funny or gross or outrageous–something that pushes the envelope and makes us squeamish adults squirm a little in our chairs. I’ll just mention three words and you’ll know exactly what I mean: “Great, Green Globs….” As you know from the rest of that piece of children’s folklore, it’s quite an effective demonstration of the power of alliteration.

There is a wonderful series of kid-selected books of verse that the poet, Bruce Lansky has been collecting for the past few years, with the help of classes of elementary school children who voted on the poems they liked best. Lansky has screened out some of the more egregious and off-color shockers that kids use all the time on the playground, so these books can make their appearance in polite company. The series began with Kids Pick the Funniest Poems, and Lansky has followed it with such sequels as A Bad Case of Giggles and Miles of Smiles--all from Meadowbrook Press.

There are poems about something that every elementary school kid dreams of–empowerment, like the kind that Bill Dodds writes about:
If I were ruler of the world
I’d make some changes fast.
I’d say, “The ruler’s always first:
His little brother’s last.”

And there are dozens of poems about everyday situations, like Lois Simmie’s description of a particularly unwelcome main course for dinner:
Just a sliver of liver they want me to eat,
It’s good for my blood, they all say;
They want me to eat just the tiniest sliver
Of yukky old slimy old slithery liver;
I’m saying no thanks, not today.

How ’bout some clever word-play, of the punny variety–as in William Cole’s adaptation of an American folk rhyme:
Where can a man buy a cap for his knee?
Or a key for the lock of his hair?
And can his eyes be called a school?
I think there are pupils there!

And then there are poems that give advice, like Linda Knaus’ “Rules to Live By” that ends:
Never take your goldfish
into bed with you at night
Never tell a polar bear
he shouldn’t wear all white
Never tease a tiger.
Never pet a skunk.
Never lose these rules, my friend,
for you’ll be really sunk.

Posted in Poetry