New poetry challenge from J. Patrick Lewis

BULLETIN: POETRY FRIDAYS, the anthology of original children’s poems edited by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell, received a nice write-up from Jeanette Larson in the ALSC blog. If you are so inclined, please help spread the good news to help others find the book.

Hi everyone,

As promised, Pat’s back. Our energetic and ready-for-any-challenge U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis, has again presented a novel opportunity. This time he suggests that we try our pens at something called an ionic a minore, which is an ancient Greek poetic form.

The ionic a minore is a metric foot of four syllables. The first two are unstressed (known as a pyrrhic) and the second two are stressed (known as a spondee). Like this: da da DA DA. String two of these together and the total line scans like this: da da DA DA da da DA DA.

The ever helpful Mr. Lewis has provided two examples of how this works. Thanks Pat!


On the white hills of the green sea
Is a blue whale with a great tongue,
Who’s a king crowned in his own time
By the fish folk from the dark deep.
The serene beast keeps the dream peace
As he reigns there in the wild hush
And the slow rush of the long nights.

[This poem above first appeared in Cricket,
October 2009. All rights belong to J. Patrick Lewis]


On the worn path walks a farm hand
With his two sons and his two cents
Of advice certain to come soon.
When the elms lean in the stiff wind,
It begins just as the boys fear,
With a cough ragged as hacksaws,
As he gears up for “a long talk.”
But he turns back. All he says is:
“Life is hubbub or its humdrum
Till you set sail on a good book.”

J. Patrick Lewis
U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate (2011-2013)

Now you know that I had to try one of these at once, so I went with my sweet tooth.


There’s a bake shop with a big case
Where they sell treats I could die for,
If I have to I will crawl there
For a doughnut for my sweet tooth,
I would climb cliffs for a bear claw
Or a fried pie or a long john,
You can come too or remain here
But I can’t wait any longer.

David L. Harrison