I have a pet named Nicholas
He is a living pickleous
He's sour and he's fickleous
But his pickle warts just tickle us
The cutest pet you've ever seen
A lovely, lumpy, pickle green
With glistening, shiny, pickle sheen
My salty, slimy, snuggle machine
But pickle pets can be a problem
If pickle lovers know you have them
I worry one may munch my pet
And that thought makes me sweat
This poem was a challenge from a kindergarten class. I visited the classrooms of two of my daughters this week to share my poems. It was my first live sharing of my work and I was a bit nervous. I ended up presenting to the older kids for a full hour and the little students were able to last about 30 minutes, which I understand is pretty good for their attention spans. I visited the 12 year-olds on Monday and 6 year-olds on Friday. Both classes were a great audience with enthusiastic participation. What a blast. They especially liked my caveman poem, read in a caveman voice of course, and the Bubble Popper, which I posted last week. At the end of the poetry session, I asked the little ones to come up with a poem challenge for me. Some of the topics suggested by these wonderful kindergartners were a living pickle, a living house, dogs, the journey of a cat, and onions. Not wanting to dissapoint, I wrote this poem and another one about a dog that turned into a pile of blubber from eating too many jelly rolls. My daughters collaborated with me on this pickle poem and then they drew their own pet pickle pictures the next day. There was a singing pickle with sunglasses and a vampire pickle to accompany Nicholas Picklous. I loved sharing with a new audience, but it’s even more fun when my kids get in on the poeming at home.
The seventh graders picked some harder topics – a car that turns into a submarine, a headless chicken, helping the homeless, Fortnight (the video game) to name a few. I went with the headless chicken topic for them. If you really want to grow your poetry skills, ask people to give you topics and different styles as a challenge. It’s not only great for pushing your poetry to a new level, but I find that these challenges can take your stories into surprising directions. When working with someone else’s idea as a start your brain has to work extra hard to get the ball rolling, but once it starts rolling I find that my own feelings and ideas work their way in eventually and I get to hear my own voice from a new angle. Ask your family and friends for off-the-wall ideas and give yourself a time limit to complete the poem. Some of my favorite poems have come out of doing this exercise.