How to Write a "My Bonnie" Poem
 
by Bruce Lansky
 

When I’ve got an idea for a poem but don’t know how to get started, I sometimes hum "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" to see if the words racing through my mind fit into that rhythm pattern.

Here’s how the original "My Bonnie" goes:

    My Bonnie lies over the ocean.
    My Bonnie lies over the sea.
    My Bonnie lies over the ocean.
    So bring back my Bonnie to me.

More often than not, this trick works. Several of my favorite poems were written to the "My Bonnie" rhythm. Here’s an example:

    Where My Clothes Are

    Dirty clothes should be put in the hamper.
    Clean clothes should be put in the drawer.
    But it takes too much time and it takes too much work,
    So I throw them all over the floor.

    © 1996 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from My Dog Ate My Homework with permission of Meadowbrook Press

A longer poem I wrote to the rhythm of "My Bonnie" is "My Dumb Cat," which you’ll also find in My Dog Ate My Homework. Here’s how it starts:

    My Dumb Cat

    My cat never comes when I call her.
    She cannot remember her name.
    Her brain is the size of a thimble.
    And that’s why my cat is so lame.

The last stanza of this poem is especially fun. It inspired me to write several other poems. Here’s the last stanza:

    I wonder why cats were invented.
    They eat and they drink and they purr.
    There’s only one trick that they know how to do:
    they sit on your lap and shed fur.

    © 1996 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from My Dog Ate My Homework with permission of Meadowbrook Press

Do you wonder why some things were ever invented? Here are a few one-stanza poems that popped into my head while preparing for classroom visits:

    I wonder why girls were invented.
    They spend so much time on their hair.
    If they were as bald as my grandpa,
    The mirror would give them a scare.

    © 2002 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from Funny Little Poems for Funny Little People with permission of Meadowbrook Press

    I wonder why boys were invented.
    They’re dirty and messy and rude.
    They never wash up before dinner.
    And burp after eating their food.

    © 2002 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from Funny Little Poems for Funny Little People with permission of Meadowbrook Press

Now it’s your turn to try your hand at a poem inspired by "My Bonnie." For extra fun, begin the poem with "I wonder why _____ was/were invented." Who knows? You and your friends may write such funny poems, your principal will visit your classroom just to find out why there’s so much laughter!

Have fun!

 

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