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Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry

How to Write a Poem

Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry by Jack Prelutsky
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Have you ever tried to write a poem about a pizza? How about a pig? How about a pigeon, penguin, potato, Ping-Pong, parrot, puppy, pelican, porcupine, pie, pachyderm, or your parents?

Jack Prelutsky has written more than one thousand poems about all of these things—and many others. In this book he gives you the inside scoop on writing poetry and shows you how you can turn your own experiences and stories about your family, your pets, and your friends into poems. He offers tips, advice, and secrets about writing and provides some fun exercises to help you get started (or unstuck). You'll also get a behind-the-scenes look at the ingredients of some of his most popular poems. If you are a poet, want to be a poet, or if you have to write a poem for homework and you just need some help, then this is the book for you!

HarperCollins; October 2009
208 pages; ISBN 9780061975257
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Title: Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry
Author: Jack Prelutsky

Chapter One

My Father's Underwear

I'm going to admit something to you. When I was a little boy, a looooooong time ago, I was not the best-behaved little boy in the history of the United States of America. It's true! Every once in a while . . . actually pretty often . . . okay, every day, I did something that made my father mad at me.

My father was a wonderful man, but he was only human and did have his limits, so he got mad at me, and I'm sure I deserved it. When my father got mad at me, he did not run around and jump up and down and get all bent out of shape and yell and scream and cry and tear out his hair (he couldn't do that anyhow, because he was bald) and get hysterical and throw a tantrum. No . . . that was my mother's job.

My father was just the opposite. He suddenly got very quiet. His eyes narrowed, and his face grew serious, with the western gunfighter look that says, "You got till sundown to ride on out of town or I'm a-comin' for you." His voice got very soft and very deep, and he simply gestured to me with his index finger and said, "Come here, son." Uh-oh! I knew that when my father said "Come here, son" in that certain special way, I was in big trouble.

You may wonder what I did in that situation. I did exactly the same thing that most of you would do. I denied everything. "No, no, Daddy!" I said. "I didn't do it. I'm innocent. I've been behaving. I've been a good boy . . . but I know who did it. My brother. He's right over there. Get him!" Amazingly, sometimes that worked. Sometimes it was even true. But of course my brother did the same thing to me, so it kind of evened out. Sometimes I got punished for things he did, sometimes he got punished for things I did, sometimes we both got punished even though we didn't do anything, and sometimes we didn't get punished at all when we deserved it. It all evened out.

One of the things that I did to make my father so mad at me was to pin his underwear up on the wall. Before I did that, though, I decorated it. You see, my father wore really boring white underwear, and I wanted to make it pretty, so I painted it with finger paint. Then I pinned it to the wall. My father didn't like that at all.

Once I put a bug in his coffee cup, and another time I put breadcrumbs in his bed. I did lots of other stuff too. I made a list of all the things like that I could remember, then picked some of them to put in a poem called "I Wonder Why Dad Is So Thoroughly Mad."

I Wonder Why Dad Is So Thoroughly Mad

I wonder why Dad is so thoroughly mad,

I can't understand it at all,

unless it's the bee still afloat in his tea,

or his underwear, pinned to the wall.

Perhaps it's the dye on his favorite tie,

or the mousetrap that snapped in his shoe,

or the pipeful of gum that he found with his thumb,

or the toilet, sealed tightly with glue.

It can't be the bread crumbled up in his bed,

or the slugs someone left in the hall,

I wonder why Dad is so thoroughly mad,

I can't understand it at all.

Writing Tip #1

Unless you're a perfect child, and I doubt that you are—for I've met tens of thousands of children, and I've never met a perfect child yet—I suspect that you misbehave from time to time. Perhaps you're the way I was when I was a kid and like to play practical jokes on your parents or on your brothers and sisters. I pulled lots of practical jokes on my brother. The advantage of playing practical jokes on my brother rather than my parents was that he couldn't punish me for them.

Think about something you did, accidentally or on purpose, that made your parents mad at you. Write down as much about it as you can. Did you fling spaghetti at the ceiling? Did you draw on the wall with crayons? Did you switch the salt and the sugar? These are all wonderful things to write about. Write about how you did it, why you did it, and what happened when you did it. You'll have lots of fun writing about your own misbehavior. by the way, I did all those things . . . and more. You see, I also was not a perfect child, but you already knew that.