Monday, April 14, 2008

Could Be Verse! Poetry for the Funny Bone

If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the way to a kid's poetical heart is through his funny bone. Here are some laughable lyricists to launch a love for poesy among elementary readers.

The title of Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook tells the tale. This is a consumately and unabashedly silly book of silly verses (or villy serses) that nevertheless goes straight to the heart of what poetry is--the joyful wedding of the sound of language with its meaning. Runny Babbit and his friends, Toe Jurtle, Ploppy Sig, Pilly Belican, and the like figure in letter flipping verses which, like optical illusions, at first seem nonsense syllables and then suddenly flip into rib-tickling sense, all in rhyme:

Runny fad a hamily,
Matter of fact he had
A sother and two bristers,
A dummy and a mad.
His mamma fed him marrot cilk
And parrot cie and such.
And all of them were happy
In their cozy hunny butch.

It's not Shakespeare's sonnets, of course, but for beginners, Runny Babbit is probably better than the Bard to draw kids to poetry. What kid could resist poems with titles like "Ploppy Sig Reans His Cloom," "Mot Ne!" or "Runny the Ficken Charmer," in which we learn that Runny doesn't know a ficken from a grole in the hound.
But he forgot to cheed the fickens,
And he didn't pean up the cloop.
So the hoosters, rens, and chittle licks
All just clew the foop.

Other vetted verse can be found in kid-pleasing collections such as Jack Prelutsky's Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem (or any other title by the prolific and poetical Prelutsky), and Bruce Lansky's Kids Pick The Funniest Poems, which features a kid's-eye-view of an infant sibling by Babs Hajdusiewisz, which goes like this:

He sucks and sucks
And wets his diaper.
Then he grunts
And needs a wiper.
So it goes with baby brother--
In one end and out the other.

Lansky's sequel to this popular book is A Bad Case Of The Giggles : Kids Pick the Funniest Poems, Book #2 includes more of his laugh-out-loud selections. Another humorist-poet, Alan Katz, celebrates the funny faux pas of life in his Oops! Here's a sample of his selections of silly slapstick:

The wind is blowing,
Quite a breeze.
The wind is blowing
On my knees.
The wind is blowing
its spring dance.
It tells me
I forgot my pants.

Drawer-dropping verse isn't for everybody, of course, but as a means to get wriggly young readers to sit down and soak up some poesy, it has a long and honorable history in English literature. If it gets those nay-sayers to go for poetry, well, let Runny Babbit wead the lay!

For an earlier review of a killer-diller set of silly verses, see my post on Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs here.



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