When it comes to writing poems, I NEVER discard an idea, no matter how strange it seems. I always believe that if I can just catch the right brain wave, I can turn it into a rock star poem.
I recently dug through my scrap files as I transferred all of my poetry work into Scrivener (which I highly recommend, by the way). Upon doing so, I rediscovered many promising ideas that I had long forgotten, some of which I’ve since turned into structural sketches or actual drafts. BUT … I also came across a sizable number of objectively terrible ideas for kids’ poetry. In some cases, I cannot believe that these ideas were ever actually bouncing around in my brain, or that I thought them compelling enough to write down at the time. But, as I think the saying goes: “One man’s snot is another man’s soup” (I don’t much care for treasure analogies), so I now present to you:
Ed’s Top 10 Worst Poem Ideas for Kids
These are the ten worst kids’ poem ideas that I’ve ever seriously considered developing, in descending order of terribleness. For each, I am including my working title (I always give my ideas a recognizable title for indexing purposes), all raw/unedited notes, and in some cases a few regrettable lines of draft verse. Fair warning: these notes may (read: do) contain references to adult language, potentially disturbing imagery, and other perceived improprieties. Read at your own risk.
10. “Hair Devils”
Notes: Dig into garbage of hair cuttery to steal the bags of hair and do something funny/gross with them
Notes: It’s a very quiet secret sport that only children know how to play. Get points by counting how many people turn and glare when you scream. The silent “good kid” up front is just the scorekeeper. Little kids yelling … get points for length, strength, pitch, # people annoyed and giving dirty looks, # people in the general area, etc.
The kids in this poem have to be young children under 3 years old (otherwise it’s a bad lesson to teach)
8. “The Filling”
Notes: About going to the dentist and requiring them to fill a cavity. This could be really scary to kids, so do I give them the detail and make it sound even scarier (to convince them to brush their freaking teeth and floss and such) or do I give them the detail and make it funny (so that they’re not so scared when they have to go to the dentist)?
Embarrassment of having put yourself in the position of needing a filling … Topical numbing to make it easier for the injection numbing … immediate sensation of the beginning of the numbing process … you’re now sitting alone wondering just how numb you’re going to get … how much numbing is enough? How much is too much? Should I be able to feel the tip of my tongue? … Dentist explaining what he’s about to do; “you will feel scraping but no pain” (oh, that’s nice) … Hearing the drill … Feeling the hot drill spin and splash bits of tooth around your mouth as you try to breathe through your nose but you can feel yourself breathing in your own tooth dust– it’s like being alive and dead at the same time … You can smell the hot metallic smell; it smells like when one of your friends lights something on fire that he shouldn’t … It’s over – faster than you thought – but that’s only half of it … You can’t see what it looks like, but you know there’s a big hole in your tooth right now; exposed nerve, waiting for the dump truck to back in with the filling. … Then the dentist needs to go back in with the filling … Stupidly, you peak at the instruments that he is using (overexaggerate here) … The filling requires four separate drillings to make sure it is in there compactly; it is my job to bite and grind on command to make sure it is in there properly. … Success! … But, the numbness now will not wear off. Hours go by, still numb, so dumb, can’t eat or drink until it wears off, either.
7. “Good Job”
Notes: How much did you pay for that job??? I used to think that dad had to pay to have such a good job. Because why would anyone want to work in a crappier job? That’s why dad had to pay more to get the good executive job with free coffee and a secretary and an office downtown. What else was I thinking about this at the time? I didn’t understand the process of work and earning money … I thought you had money by nature (because I DID have money without doing anything) and then you used that money to obtain a cooler job that didn’t require you to work too hard all day.
Notes: About a kid who exercises his anger by throwing everything he owns out the window. Why is he angry? Maybe his brother did something to him? Maybe something happened to him at school and he doesn’t know how to deal with it. Beware violence/tantrum overtones.
That’s how you defenestrate. Da DA da DA Defenestrate (last word) (scheme/meter = -/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/)
5. “Grammar Family”
Notes: Kids are named Syntax and Gerund
4. “Ant Romp, People Stomp”
Notes: When all of the kids went onto Grandpa’s back porch and stomped and killed hundreds of ants every weekend. Man, I can’t believe we actually did that. Were we wearing shoes? I just remember doing it, but not any details. Probably a good thing. Hmmm, somehow I think that’s not a good story for children.
3. “Luke Warm”
Notes: A character named Luke Warm, struggling to figure out what temperature he really is …
12/29/08: This makes me laugh every time I read it, even though I have no idea how to turn it into a poem (b/c I haven’t really thought about it).
6/11/11: actually this is just a really bad pun.
Notes: About eating turkey/duck/chicken. If you can manage to write a clean poem rhyming the words pluckin’ and turducken, you will undoubtedly be considered one of the best children’s poets of all time (by at least one person, possibly an illiterate one)
1. “The Medicine Ball”
Notes: All sorts of different medicines interact as if they are dating, and in the end the reader finds out that everyone is at the medicine ball. I don’t believe in ever completely scrapping an idea, but if so, this would be the first to go (b/c kids have no idea what a medicine ball even is – this would be meaningless to them, and not very funny for adults anyways). This is a truly awful idea.
Anyone who writes a coherent poem on any of the above topics and puts it into the comments gets a gold star, and anyone who publishes a poem called “The Medicine Ball” that matches the synopsis above gets free health care for life (courtesy of Prescott Pharmaceuticals).
I actually still hold out some hope for the first five if I can come up with a different angle, but the rest are dead to me.
Okay … mostly dead.
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Thank you to Jim Hill for hosting POETRY FRIDAY this week.