To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme
I’ve been having the most fun sort of agony over my latest assignment to write a children’s poem for the SpeakEasy event at the posh Mount Baker Theatre on April 12. I’ve learned a lot, such as when trying to write a kids’ poem it’s helpful to:
A) Be an actual poet
B) Have some kids
C) Have been a kid at one time
Number C is my only real possibility, and that’s a stretch. My memories of being much shorter and trading the healthy lunches my mom packed for Twinkies have been overwritten by decades of adult concerns that aren’t so easy to shed with a short lead time. Needless to say, I’ve had way too much fun trying, including e-mailing my wonderful and patient friends, both poets and parents, for advice on such things as:
A) Is bathroom humor in or out?
B) You know that one part of Roald Dahl’s “Cinderella” poem where the prince beheads both of the evil stepsisters—is that too gory for five-year-olds or what?
Yep, I sometimes write stories with child narrators, but they’re generally stories where the protagonist gets kicked in the gut by the looming adult world and someone else gets punched in the face or arrested or drunk, or drunk and arrested. And everyone swears. There are boobs. The place burns down. I can say with great confidence that every story I’ve published is NOT age-appropriate.
As luck would have it, a few days ago I encountered a salamander on my patio. Salamanders and I have a history. The last one who visited took up residence in my downstairs bathroom, and we met while I was doing what you generally do in the bathroom and he was peeking out from underneath the towel shelf. My front patio is sunken amidst the multi-levels of my ramshackle dwelling, so every time it rains really hard, a salamander can happen to float in and then get stuck when the water drains away. This last visitor was dangerously dehydrated. Clearly, I need to build a salamander escape ramp, and I will get on that just as soon as I finish this other assignment of writing a poem for SpeakEasy16.
And my poem is almost done! Because of the salamander. Who reminded me that sometimes you just have to sit on your patio and talk to a salamander from that actual kid part that’s still there inside of you. After you give the salamander a nonalcoholic beverage, of course, and help him back up to level ground. I can’t guarantee that my poem-ish piece will be great, but luckily there are going to be actual poets there to carry the show. I am thankful for this little glimpse into some of the magic that kids’ book authors and illustrators must experience nearly daily in their hunt for topics.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my gritty worlds and take great glee in pitching the occasional character through a third-story window. But it’s fun to step out of your writing comfort zone now and then and try something else. We all know that but maybe don’t always remember to do it.
And there will be kid poets at this event! If you are an actual kid or know one, poets ages 5 to 16 can still submit their poems until March 31 to come and read at SpeakEasy16. Here’s the skinny:
- Please submit poems, with the name and age of the poet (along with the name of an adult who would accompany the reader to the event) to event organizer Luther Allen (email@example.com) or to SpeakEasy 16, PO Box 1042, Bellingham WA 98227. All submitted poems will be displayed at the reading. There is a headcount cap, so get your poem in now to be on the list. The deadline for submittals is March 31, 2015.
- Also, young poets are encouraged to submit the same poems to the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest, which gleefully accepts poems from both students and people who have only the vaguest memory of being a student many years ago. Speaking of the Boynton bunch, they are hosting two very enticing workshops this weekend facilitated by Ellie Rogers and Rachel Mehl. Go here for information on the contest and workshops.
The fine print: Although it is a beautiful book with a beautiful and timely theme that has received great reviews, I want to say that me mentioning it here has absolutely nothing to do with yesterday’s post.
Okay, maybe a little. Mike, pleeeeeaaaaaassssseee!