"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Not Just For Kids

Playing with Poetry

Poetry comes in many different styles. No matter what your taste is, there is a poem for you. Poetry can be serious and thoughtful, or humorous and fun. Poems can be in the form of ballads, sonnets, light verse or free verse. Poems often rhyme, but they don't have to. Poetry can be interesting to read, and enjoyable to write. In celebration of National Poetry Month, I am devoting this page to reading and writing poetry. Read the short poems on this page, then try writing some similar ones of your own.

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night-
And I love the rain.

-Langston Hughes


Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant-
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone-
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee-
(I fear I'd better drop the song
of elephop and telephong!)

-Laura E. Richards


The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

-Carl Sandburg


I think mice
Are rather nice.
Their tails are long,
Their faces small,
They haven't any
Chins at all.
Their ears are pink,
Their teeth are white,
They run about
The house at night.
They nibble things
They shouldn't touch
And no one seems
To like them much,
But I think mice
Are nice.

-Rose Fyleman

What is Pink?

What is pink? A rose is pink
By the fountain's brink.
What is red? A poppy's red
In its barley bed.
What is blue? The sky is blue
Where the clouds float through.
What is white? A swan is white
Sailing in the light.
What is yellow? Pears are yellow,
Rich and ripe and mellow.
What is green? The grass is green,
With small flowers between.
What is violet? Clouds are violet
In the summer twilight.
What is orange? Why, an orange,
Just an orange!

-Christina Rossetti


Poetry is an art form, just like painting or singing. There are poems in all of us just waiting to be coaxed onto paper. Are you a poet and don't know it? Try these activities and find out:


Haiku is a short Japanese verse that contains three lines. Lines 1 and 3 contain five syllables; line 2 contains seven syllables. Haikus are usually descriptive word pictures about nature or seasons.

1. Spotted ladybug (5)
2. Busy beetle in my yard (7)
3. Feeding on aphids. (5)


Turn a haiku into a tanka poem simply by adding two more lines of seven syllables each.

1. Spotted ladybug (5)
2. Busy beetle in my yard (7)
3. Feeding on aphids (5)
4. And helping protect my plants- (7)
5. A cute little predator. (7)


Acrostic poems are also called title poems. First, decide on a title for your poem. Write it across your paper, then write it downward on your paper. Use each letter in the word as the first letter of a line. You can write down your name and use adjectives that describe you, or write one using a friend's name, or use any subject and write a poem using the letters of that word.




Poems can be riddles. Try writing a poem in which the reader has to figure out what you are describing.

His bill an auger is,
His head, a cap and frill.
He laboreth at every tree-
A worm his utmost goal.

-Emily Dickinson

(What is it? A woodpecker!)


A limerick is a five-line nonsense poem with a specific meter. The rhyme scheme is usually a-a-b-b-a. The first, second, and fifth lines have three stresses; the third and fourth lines have two stresses. Limericks often contain internal rhyme and alliteration.

1. A tutor who tooted the flute (a)
2. Tried to tutor two tooters to toot; (a)
3. Said the two to the tutor, (b)
4. "Is it easier to toot, Sir, (b)
5. Or to tutor two tooters to toot?" (a)


Diamantes are seven-line poems that make a diamond-shaped pattern and shift in meaning from top to bottom.

Follow these directions:
1. First, write down a noun as a subject. (At this point you may wish to skip to line seven and write down the opposite of this noun.)
2. On the second line, write two adjectives describing the subject.
3. On the third line write three participles (verbs ending in -ing) that describe the subject.
4. On the fourth line, write down four nouns related to the subject. (The second two nouns should be contrasting or suggest a change from that of the first two.)
5. On the fifth line write three participles indicating and continuing the change made in line four.
6. On the sixth line write two adjectives carrying on the idea of change or development.
7. On the seventh line, write a noun that is the opposite of the subject from line one.

1. Cocoon
2. Brown, ugly
3. Growing, stretching, tearing
4. Blob, bristles - velvet, wings
5. Opening, spreading, fluttering
6. Golden, beautiful
7. Butterfly


A cinquain is a five-line poem.

1. On the first line, write down a noun-a person, place, or thing, idea, or quality.
2. On the line below that, write two adjectives-words that describe the noun. Separate the two adjectives with a comma.
3. On the third line, write three verbs that tell what the noun on the first line does. Separate with commas.
4. On the fourth line, write a thought about your noun. A short phrase or figure of speech will do nicely.
5. On the fifth line, repeat the word you wrote on the first line, or write down a synonym or some other related word.

1. Trees
2. Shady, green
3. Branching, blooming, growing
4. Waving in the breeze.
5. Trees


Alliteration - repetition of a consonant sound in a line of poetry ("sing a song of sixpence").

Figurative language - use of words in which the writer says one thing and means another.

Free Verse - a poem that does not follow any regular rhyme or rhythm pattern.

Imagery - descriptive word pictures that are appealing to the senses.

Metaphor - an implied comparison without using the words "like" or "as" (rosy cheeks).

Meter - a poem's recurring pattern of rhythm.

Onomatopoeia - words that imitate a natural sound (bang, boom, tinkle, pitter patter).

Personification - giving human qualities to non-human things (referring to a ship as "she").

Rhyme - repetition of similar sounds, often at the ends of lines but may also be internal within a line of verse.

Simile - a stated comparison of two things using the words "like" or "as" (cheeks like roses).

Symbolism - use of an image or object to represent an idea or something else larger than itself.

Tone - the characteristic emotion or attitude in a poem.


Every household should own at least one anthology of famous poems. If you like to write poetry, a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus are very useful. I also recommend the following poetry books and websites:


A Child's Anthology of Poetry, edited by Elizabeth Hauge Sword. (A timeless collection of poems, both modern and classic, for the whole family to enjoy.)

A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. (A classic collection of poetry based on the wonders of children's imaginations-poems about playing, daydreaming, singing, seasons, gardens, toys, pirates, fairies, and faraway lands.)

How To Write Poetry Scholastic Guides, by Paul B. Janeczko. (Covers rhyming poems and free verse; with writing exercises, tips, and sample verses by well-known poets as well as student writers.)

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman. (A Newbery Medal book; read these poems aloud with a partner, and make the different insects come to life.)

Perfect Poems for Teaching Phonics (Grades K-2), by Deborah Ellermeyer and Judi Hechtman. (Delightful poems, lively lessons, reproducible activities, and word games for use at home or school. Don't let the word phonics in the title fool you-these poetry activities are fun!)

Poem-Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry, by Myra Cohn Livingston. (This detailed handbook covers everything from mechanics to terminology, with a wide range of examples.)

Poetry for Young People Series, edited by Frances Shoonmaker Bolin, et al. (A series of beautifully illustrated books, each featuring the works of a different famous poet: Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and more; with commentary and annotations.)

Poetry From A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers, by Paul B. Janeczko. (An excellent beginner's guide to creating and understanding poetry, with examples.)

Quick Poetry Activities (You Can Really Do!) (Grades 2-5), by Jacqueline Sweeney. (A unique selection of poem models and instructions-name poems, weather poems, crazy titles, headline poems, "if" poems, word textures, and more-with lots of samples written by children.)

Read-Aloud Poems for Young People, edited by Glorya Hale. (An introduction to the magic and excitement of poetry, featuring a wide variety of classic and contemporary poems organized by subject, some of which are annotated. This book is meant for adults to read aloud to children, and parents will most likely find their own cherished childhood poems included in this volume.)


www.rhymezone.com - Look up rhyming words, synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and more.

www.loc.gov/poetry/180/ - Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High School Students, from the Library of Congress and U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

www.bartleby.com - With thousands of poems by hundreds of authors, Bartleby.com offers one of the largest free collections of verse on the web.

www.poets.org - Visit their Online Poetry Classroom "For Educators" which offers free access to poetry curriculum units and other resources, or start with Poetry 101: Resources for Beginners. See also: Reading Poetry with Children and Poetry Resources for Teens. From The Academy of American Poets, originators of National Poetry Month.

www.okcom.net/~ggao/P/poems-2.html - Read classic poems from around the world, arranged by nation and by genre such as ballads, odes, sonnets, humor, children's rhymes, etc.

http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets_by_nationality.html - Famous poets and poems from around the world, listed by nation and author.

www.poetry4kids.com - Children's poet Kenn Nesbitt provides helpful advice for kids on how to write funny poetry and shares some of his own humorous poems online.

http://home.freeuk.net/elloughton13/scramble.htm - Unscramble the words of some short poems or write your own creations; works just like refrigerator magnetic poetry.


These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
All rights reserved.

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