How to Write a "Mary Had a Little Something" Poem
by Bruce Lansky

Over the years, poets have had a lot of fun with the "Mary Had a Little Lamb" nursery rhyme. This rhyme is so simple, and so well known, that you’ll love creating new versions. For example, one way to do this is to make Mary into quite a hungry girl. Here’s one of my rewrites based on this theme:

    Mary had a little jam,
    she spread it on a waffle.
    And if she hadn’t eaten ten
    she wouldn’t feel so awful.

    © 1996 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from Mary Had a Little Jam with permission of Meadowbrook Press

Try to think about what else Mary could have or could be doing. There are a number of possibilities:

    1. She could have a little lamb.
    2. She could eat a little lamb.
    3. She could have a little something else that rhymes with lamb.
    4. She could have something else altogether (like bubble gum).

Pick any one of these themes as a point of departure, or write all four on your paper and start making lists of ideas:

    Mary Had a Little Lamb

    They went to the library
    The went to the amusement park

    Mary Had (Ate) a Little Lamb

    What else did she eat?
    How did she feel afterwards?

    Mary Had a Little Something Else

    Mary had a little ham
    Mary had a little Spam
    Mary had a little jam

    Mary Had Something Else Altogether

    Mary had some bubble gum
    Mary had a water gun

No matter which themes you choose to pursue, you’ll want to make sure they follow the ABCB rhyme scheme and the rhythm scheme shown below:

    DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (A)
    da DUM da DUM da DUM (B)
    da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (C)
    da DUM da DUM da DUM. (B)

I suggest that you read a few Mary poems to get yourself in the mood. You’ll find "Mary Had a Little Ham," "Mary Had Some Bubble Gum," and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in A Bad Case of the Giggles and "Big, Fat Mary" in Miles of Smiles.

No matter what you create, have fun with Mary and her lamb, her weird eating habits, her bubble gum, her water gun, or whatever.


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