A new poetry challenge from J. Patrick Lewis


I’d like to see this go on even though I’m going to switch to something else tomorrow. The nice thing about a blog post is that it never goes away. If you want to keep adding comments and careerhymes, I hope you will.

BUT tomorrow will be another of your favorite treats. The wonderful artist, Rob Shepperson, will be back with another humorous drawing so we can play a new round of CAPTION THAT CARTOON! You don’t want to miss it.

Hi everyone,

As promised, here’s the latest from our U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis. This time he challenges us to write Careerhymes, an original light verse form in which the name of an occupation appears somewhere in the first line. As always, Pat models examples of the form. Also as always, I give in to the temptation to try my hand. First, of course, is Pat.

J. Patrick Lewis
J. Patrick Lewis

Psychiatrist: A member of
A race obsessed with mother love,
Another name for father hate
For which we overcompensate.
In short, he makes each one of us
Feel Oedipusillanimous.

Proctologist: A human being
Preoccupied with human peeing—
Oh, no, I am mistaken, sir,
That’s not a Proct-, it must be Ur-.

Computer Geek: A square; a nerd;
A rather antisocial bird,
Who keeps a mouse; a devotee
Of virtual reality.

[The three above appeared in Light Quarterly, Summer 1999.]
Undertaker: Working stiff,
Who’s ready with a handkerchief,
But for a casketful of cash
Gladly reduces you to ash.

Philosopher: A mind at ease
With drear eventualities
Like Existential Angst and Dread
And, “Is that stoplight really red?”

Cartographer: A person who,
Though he prefers an ocean view,
When stress becomes a leitmotif,
Draws rocky mountains in relief.

Psychic: One who always sees
Financial opportunities.
ESP—whatever you call it—
She knows just what’s inside your wallet.

Telemarketer: A chap
Who interrupts your daily nap
To say, “If you’re deceased or moved,
We’ve got you down as pre-approved.”
[The five above appeared in Light Quarterly, Summer 2000.]

Accountant: Is a he or she
Devoid of personality.
Economist: Is one who knows
That glasses are one color—rose.
Together this two-person band
Is like the bland leading the bland.

* * * * *

And now for a few of mine.
David publicity photo
A barber is a fellow who
Makes his living trimming you.
Though he may be a nosy quizzer,
Don’t forget who holds the scissor.

A plumber is a modern hero
Who, when toilet flush hits zero,
Plunges in to joust the foe,
With wise crack, returns the flow.

An orthodontist uses braces
To help him create happy faces.
True, his methods take a while,
But thousands later he’ll make you smile.

No one’s met an entomologist.
I suspect a mad mythologist,
High on anti-mosquito drugs,
Made up a guy who worships bugs.

Okay, let’s hear from you, careerhyme-wise!


229 comments on “A new poetry challenge from J. Patrick Lewis

  1. Thanks for the challenge, Pat and David. I came up with two late-night careerhymes and one other attempt that I’ll finish another day 🙂

    Illusionist: makes you believe
    There must be something up her sleeve.
    Though really, as her name implies,
    She knows the ways to fool your eyes.

    Procrastinator: one who….

    Dentist: cleaner of the gums;
    Remover of stuck seeds and crumbs.
    Years of school are on this track…
    Yet no diploma! Just some plaque.


  2. Yay, more fun to keep me from meeting my deadlines! Pat and David, you are wry and sly guys, to be sure. So clever!

    Here’s my first. Perhaps not as clever in the wordplay, but there you go:

    A teacher nurtures her little trainees
    with passion, love, and expertise
    before standards, tests, the board of trustees
    swoop in to cripple her by degrees.

  3. Argh, like eating popcorn.Must. . .stop. . .

    Folk singer–one who warbles much
    With marbles in the mouth like mush.
    He just-folks with the upper class
    For contracts and some ready cash.

    Librarian is one who seeks
    Out books for readers and for geeks.
    She eats books that are deep and chewy
    And worships the great Pan named Dewey.

    Professors read on matters deep,
    Report on them in language steep,
    And this—I fear that I must stress,
    Oft do not love what they profess.

    (I was going to rhyme theses with feces
    but find myself somehow unmoved.)

    A rock musician wild and hairy
    Looks quite mean and often scary.
    But seen undressed—he bodes no harm,
    For MOM is tattooed on his arm.

    ©2013 Jane Yolen

  4. I see Jane Yolen gave you one on librarians, but as one myself, I know that we are more than books, so here’s my go:

    A librarian is one who finds
    Answers to questions of all kinds.
    Computer and tomes stand at the ready,
    For inquiries from large to petty.

  5. Ha! These are addicting!

    A ranger roams from here to there
    to find an over-friendly bear
    and offer him a tranquil truce
    if he agrees to be recluse.

    A photographer pulls out her bag of tricks
    to elicit sweet smiles before she clicks.
    Then later erases all non-beauty traces
    that may have invaded her photographed faces.

    The referee is quite uptight
    in his shirt of black and white.
    He’s trying hard to stop the cheater
    with his old-school style of tweeter.

  6. “Oedipusillanimous:” my new favourite word! I love so many of these. I had a few minutes, so I tried to come up with some unusual choices:

    Wal-Mart greeter: welcomes you
    In their standard smock of blue;
    Frail and with a scent of liquor,
    Asks if your kid wants a sticker.

    Congressman: a person who
    Will always know what’s best for you;
    And after weeks of arguing
    Still won’t accomplish anything.

    A lion tamer needs your prayers,
    Protects himself with whips and chairs;
    But if his partner isn’t fed
    He could really lose his head.

    A pet food tester’s job’s not easy;
    Tends to make your tummy queasy,
    Tuna, beef, and shrimp and chicken –
    And never, ever finger-lickin.’

    A model, so bizarrely thin,
    Is like a living mannequin;
    From USA to Luxembourg, her
    Shape looks like she needs a burger.

    (I know, I know – I was reaching for that last rhyme!)

  7. Pingback: Write a Careerhyme | Warm Up Poems

  8. OK, last one – for now! (You’re right, Jane…like popcorn, indeed!)

    A poet has just one desire;
    Imagination feeds it.
    He sets his sullen soul afire
    And almost no one reads it.

  9. I thought of a poet one, also, as I was out on errands this morning…plus an golfer.

    A poetosaurus
    Loves her thesaurus
    and spends hours alone
    with Mr. Rhymezone.

    A golfer tees up
    and dreams of the cup,
    while praying his stroke
    won’t be the club joke.

    • Ha! Penny, they can get us for driving and drinking, driving and texting and, in some states, driving and talking on a hand-held phone. But they can’t keep us from driving and making up poems!


  10. Pingback: [Poetry Play] A Careerhyme Challenge | laurasalas

  11. Fun! Here’s mine. Thanks for my daily poem idea:>)

    Why You Can Never Reach a Teacher

    If you need to chat with teacher,
    Do not call; you’ll never reach her.
    She’s sparking thoughts, engaging kids.
    Ignoring parents who’ve flipped their lids.
    Email/voicemail never finds
    the teacher busy shaping minds.
    –Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

    P.S. There are so many wonderful male teachers, too, but “reach him” doesn’t rhyme with “teacher.” Sorry:>)

    • Hi Laura! Many thanks for coming by and sharing your careerhyme with us. And congratulations on being a finalist for the Cybils Poetry Award for BookSpeak! Poems about Books!


  12. They are fabulous! Really made me chuckle.

    Vetinarian – the cat’s got fleas
    and the vet’s got substantial fees
    Ear ache, hair and toe nails clipped
    bank account severely whipped.

    • Greetings, Amy!

      I’m glad you got that dog walker in the mix. You paint a picture that everyone can recognize.


  13. It could be a book collection! Thanks for the inspiration and the laughs. Here’s one from a recent experience:

    Hairdresser: snips and shapes, cuts and whacks.
    She likes the looks of front and back.
    She combs and sprays and oohs and ahs,
    Then turns me to the mirror-PAUSE!

  14. This one’s for my sister:

    A Navy man sails seven seas
    to save us from a coup
    But don’t forget this job is done
    by Navy women, too.

  15. This looks like fun. Thanks to @BookChook for pointing it out. 🙂

    Here are two from me;

    Grazier; a cow cocky –
    not a blocky
    always on the go
    watching grass grow.

    Patient: one who waits
    as sickness abates.

  16. The cleaning lady comes at one.
    An hour later, she is done.
    Has she been busy? What the heck!
    I’m sure, cause she’s picked up. . .
    the check!

    ©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    • Good morning, Jane. Thanks for adding another universal truth to this anthology of professions. Hope things are good with you.


  17. These are fantastic! Great job everyone! Here is mine reflecting my biggest fear concerning my furniture-maker husband:

    Form and function’s a woodworker’s goal
    In building a table, a chair, a bowl.
    He saws and turns or makes things square
    Then checks if his fingers all are there.

    (He has all his digits, but just a few screws loose :-))

  18. Archaeologist: digs for facts
    Below ancient foundational cracks.
    Otherwise how would we know
    Someone lived there long ago?

    Paleontologist: digs for bones,
    Tells us what they used to be,
    Who knows if he’s right or wrong,

  19. The P.A. works from morn till night
    To set her boss’s life aright.
    But her own life is flux and fray.
    She needs to hire her own P.A.

    Pain and decay, the dentist’s job.
    He probes and polishes your gob,
    He picks and pokes, he knows the drill,
    And afterwards–and extra thrill. . .
    He does the fill.
    And sends the bill.

    Zoo keepers are a special bunch,
    They sit with lions for their lunch,
    And hope they aren’t the added munch.

    © Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    • There you are, Pat. Yes, something right for sure. You forgot to tell us how to stop writing these things!

      Santa Claus: a jolly elf,
      Though basically quite lazy,
      He only works one night a year,
      His job description’s hazy,
      I think he squeezes down the chimney,
      Which, to me, sounds crazy.

  20. Superman is strong enough
    To break a stone apart,
    But dons glasses to hide himself,
    So you know he’s not too smart.

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Slipped and took an awful fall,
    It must have sounded like a bomblet,
    I bet he made a Grade-A omelet.

  21. I think that Pat should propose this to National Geographic or Boyds Mills or Creative editions or Charlesbeidge, starting with his own best poems and culling these for those appropriate for child readers. It would make a great anthology! Especially for the Common Core.

    • If it didn’t set a record for the fastest book every written, it would certainly be a contender. And you’re right about the Common Core. Teachers would have a wonderful time extending the exercise into their classrooms over a spread of several grades.

  22. Okay, here is one from me.

    We writers seek to write those wrongs
    We cannot fix through tales and songs.
    Who hears of wrongs well-writ just might,
    Book tossed aside, make such wrongs right.

    And maybe another, less sententious?–

    If crossing cop at school cries “Stop!”
    All students need to heed, and freeze.
    But Doctor Grammar says the prop-
    -er way to boss a crosser’s: “Please.”

    • Hi, Gregory,

      I’m a fan and delighted to have you join us today. It’s always good to hear from Doctor Grammar in such matters.


  23. Wow! These are all amazing! Thank you everyone for the grins and guffaws. Here’s my attempt…

    There once was a petite Baker
    Who was a prolific cupcake maker.
    She tasted each and every treat,
    Until she could no longer see her feet.

  24. So many fun rhymes here. Alas, I have indeed met many entomologists (my husband studied the forked fungus beetle aka Bolitotherus cornutus when he was in graduate school) so I’ve given that group an alternate careerrhyme:

    Entomologists study insects all night and day,
    from bombadier beetles with boiling spray,
    to silent mantids that stalk their prey:
    any critter on six-legs who scurries their way.

    • Hi Buffy,

      Please tell your hubby that I used the confused flower beetle, Tribolium confusum, during my master’s lab work in parasitology. Until the last minute I was headed to grad school to become an entomologist. But the parasites offered a better fellowship. Sold out for a cestode. Sigh.

  25. I don’t write poetry, but I couldn’t resist taking part in this. So here’s mine:

    A piano teacher stifles a curse
    At another Fur Elise pounded rhythmless
    Stiffened wrists and sunken knuckles,
    Oh the joys and the chuckles.

    • Hello, Yat-Yee, and welcome to the group! As an old trombone teacher, I feel your pain. Joys and chuckles for sure.


  26. Entomologists don’t study ents.
    They study insect ladies and gents.
    They study them often in places muggy.
    I’d say it drives them really buggy.

    A Cosmetician sees the stars.
    She makes them up with goo from jars.
    She plucks and pulls things into place
    Then makes an art of every face.

    ©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

  27. What fun! Here’s mine:

    Birdwatcher: Knows each owl by hoot,
    can tell a rail from duck and coot.
    Binoculars improve the view
    of warbler, finch, and cockatoo.
    Dog-eared field guide holds the key
    to tanager and wood peewee.

    • Hi JoAnn,

      It’s lovely to have you here. Thanks very much for joining the fun by contributing such a great careerhyme for the birders out there.


  28. Loving these. Hope couplets are okay!

    A children’s writer, sweet but tough,
    deftly blends fine art with fluff.

    A novelist must bear the curse
    of never telling tales in verse.

    A journalist loves to report
    good stories of a different sort,

    while poets live a life sublime
    if they can find two words that rhyme!

  29. Thoroughly enjoying reading these posts! Not sure if we were expected to match Pat’s meter and four-line stanza format, but here’s my contribution just the same:

    The work of the prosperous local beautician
    is seven parts skill to twelve parts intuition.
    When faced with a movie star magazine clipping,
    she smiles in agreement and soon begins snipping.
    She cuts, and she combs, and she curls, but she never
    admits that she knows it’s a futile endeavor.

    • Good morning, Laura,

      We’ve had a lot of exceptional contributions, don’t you think? Pat has outdone himself once again!


  30. So enjoyed reading these!

    Seems everyone I know has a shrink.
    They tell me he probes and makes them think
    of memories dank and dysfunctional doom
    of days in their lives since escaping the womb.

  31. Joanna–here’s an antiphonal response to your poem:

    So everyone here seems to have her own Shrink
    who pushes and probes and who helps them to think.
    As for me, well I think I detect a deep gap
    Between what’s the shrinkage and what is the wrap.



  32. …and here’s my response to both of those!

    These days, everyone seems to have their own shrink,
    A person who helps get their life back in sync;
    After hearing their troubles and trials, I think
    If I was that person, I’d need a stiff drink.


  33. Sorry I’m late! Just heard about this from the lady with world’s best surname, Ms Renee LaTulippe. Okay, here’s what I got so far, with the caveat that I normally only write for children under age 10..

    A doctor prods, a doctor pokes
    And tells you poorly crafted jokes
    Distracting from injection pain
    Producing language most profane.

    A clown will feel like such a plonker
    Should you squeeze upon his honker
    Revenge will come, revenge so sweet
    He’ll happy slap you with his feet!

  34. These are so much fun to read! I’m posting this from my Ojibway I hope it turns out.

    Cardiologists are complex Chaps  
    never ones for dice or craps. 
    They count the cards and count the cost 
    but play until their money’s lost. 

    Hint-cardiologist= card player

  35. I LOVE all of these! Thank you David and Patrick for this fun challenge- though I can’t get any work done! Here’s a poem reflecting that:

    Illustrator, procrastinator
    Has a deadline but says, “later.”
    Suckered into rhyming fun,
    She can’t get her painting done.

  36. Ha ha! No blame- all in good fun! Here’s another:

    A butcher, I have come to realize
    Really is a master of disguise.
    He’s on the cutting edge, I have to say,
    To magically transform a cow into filet.

    Now back to the drawing board 🙂

  37. Home Health Visitor

    I bring him his lunch, and he puts in his teeth.
    I tidy his papers, and find underneath
    A black and white photo of him in his prime,
    Movie star handsome, with no fear of time.
    I see him as fragile, on oxygen now,
    But glimpsing his past brings a moment of “Wow…”

  38. Hi everyone,

    In case you missed the announcement at the top of the page, here’s part of it again. Tomorrow will be another of your favorite treats. The wonderful artist, Rob Shepperson, will be back with another humorous drawing so we can play a new round of CAPTION THAT CARTOON! You don’t want to miss it.

  39. Not to be too pugilistic, but you just inspired me to write another one! Dang, someone make it stop!!

    A bully’s job is never done
    He always wants to fight someone
    Yet never learns til it’s too late
    A meaner bully lies in wait.

  40. The inveterate blogger
    with his invertebrate talk, these temptations to stalk –
    knows all of us want to lurk.

    This bandwidth-space hogger
    with his world-famous post-ers, these raise-your-glass toasters –
    keeps us all from our work.

    (And what is that, David… a smirk?!)

  41. WOW! What an abundant crop of verse! Such fun. I love them all. Thank you.
    Here’s my first:

    Gardeners truly dig the earth
    A pack of seeds is all they need.
    They sow and plant, water and weed
    Then in good time, harvest and eat!

  42. The farmer works and works his fields
    in hopes that he’ll get better yields.
    But weather is what holds the key
    for his loss or prosperity.

    The apple grower plants and prunes
    and sprays his apple trees.
    But he would have no fruit without
    the pollinating bees.

  43. You’ve got to love the plumber
    when your pipes are all a’hummer
    or you’ve flushed a dumb or dumber
    loo is out of order—bummer!

    Trainer counts
    my sit-ups, crunches
    while I work off
    Christmas lunches.

    Much cleverness here. I’ve been back to read several times since finding these back on Monday. They sure are addictive and fun!

    • Greetings, Violet, and welcome! I’m glad you found us and happy to read your contributions to the fun. Many thanks. I haven’t added the occupations represented so far, but we’re gathering quite a collection.


  44. The dancer twirls upon her toes,
    where music leads is where she goes.
    The tempo changes- faster beat.
    She’s now tap dancing with sore feet.

    These are fun!

  45. These are such fun, I had to try:

    Dog Walker
    By Linda Boyden

    A dog walker never stops
    as she navigates the blocks.
    Terriers on tiny feet
    tiptoe over city streets.
    St. Bernards on different days,
    tug the leashes, lead the way.
    Though when each weary day is past,
    home she goes and hugs her cats.

  46. Pingback: Poetry Friday: Poems about poetry, inspired by poets « Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  47. Pingback: No Water River One-Year Anniversary and Bloopers Video

  48. Snowman’s happy when it freezes,
    Loves the frosty winter breezes,
    But too much sunshine spells the end,
    Snowman’s no fair weather friend.

    • Greetings, Karen,

      My first job as an emerging teenager was in a bakery cleaning up after the bakers’ night of concocting yummy pastries. Worst job I ever had! Thanks for the memories.


    • Hi Calef,

      Glad you came by to join the fun. These things are addictive. We’re blaming all this on Pat. This post has drawn more comments than any previous challenge. I’ll have to let him know.

      All best,

  49. Actors: Prostituting emotions for cash
    If you’re not good, you’ll disappear in a flash
    This need for the spotlight, this need to be wild
    Because you were not hugged enough as a child.

    Professional Eaters: Don’t care if I’m messy, don’t care if I’m neat
    Stay out of my way, it’s time to eat, eat, eat!

  50. Pingback: Poetry Friday: Wry-ku? What’s a wry-ku? | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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