If you ask your friends to define poetry, one may say something like: “ Poetry is a collection of words that express an emotion or idea.” Another friend may say “Poetry is a fancy kind of writing that uses rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, simile, personification, and other such language tools,” while still another might say “Poetry is when someone writes in lines and stanzas instead of sentences and paragraphs.”

All of your friends would be right. Poetry does all of these things. But did you also know that poetry
doesn’t always have to be serious? Or that it doesn’t even have to make sense? Poetry can also be a form of writing where you just have some fun by playing with words. Poets are people who love words for their sounds, for their different meanings, and for their histories, but they also like to make up new words with new sounds and new meanings.

I am sure you have read some poetry by Dr. Seuss, a writer who made up lots of new words like: ooblick, grinch, wocket, sneetches, lorax, and zlock. Usually these words describe imaginary creatures or things and were made up to rhyme with real things: like a zlock behind the clock. By making up new words with new sounds, Dr. Seuss is able to entertain us all with his poetry and often makes us giggle.

Shel Silverstein (author of the child-ren’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends) is another poet who played with and made up new words (like bloath and yipiyuk). Sometime he did this by combining real words (whatif, mustn’ts) by abbreviating them (vert, horiz) or by changing their meanings (the Flying Festoon).

And if you have ever read Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, you probably know that he wrote a very famous nonsense poem that has lots of made-up words. It is called Jabberwocky and begins with these lines:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

It would be really fun to see what kinds of made-up words you can make up in a poem.
Here are some ideas for ways to start.

  1. Write a regular rhyming poem but rhyme all or some of your real words with made-up words.
    Example: I have a computer that’s called an aptooter.
  2. Write a poem that doesn’t rhyme and combine words to make new images.
    Example: He skiphopped down the road (combines skip and hop).
  3. Write a non-rhyming poem using some flipped combined words.
    Example: Brainbird instead of birdbrain/bowrain instead of rainbow.
  4. Write a nonsense poem with made-up words.
    Example: From above below the grimly waves, an orcan willopcan slept still.

Have some fun playing with words, sounds and meaning. Experiment. If you come up with something you like, send it to the Magic Dragon, who loves to read new ideas.