The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 1 - Page 32


For the Fun of It (And the Learning Just Happens!)

David L. Harrison

When I made up my first poem, I was hungry and tired of waiting. My mother was frying fish in the kitchen and I was sent to the living room to wait for dinner. The words I thought of expressed my need. I liked the way they sounded. “Sometimes I wish/I had a fish/Upon a little dish.” No one told me I had to make up a poem. I was six-years-old. It was just a fun thing to do. My mother taped the poem into my scrapbook. High praise!

Seven decades later I’m still making up poems. Kids ask why I climb out of bed at 6:00 a.m. to settle into my daily writing routine. The reason hasn’t changed. It’s a fun thing to do. Writing poems makes me feel good. Writing well is neither simple nor easy, but it provides me with a sense of gratification that drives my desire to do it again.

One of my favorite ways to dive into a poem is by association. I pick a word or phrase and follow where it leads me. “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” I don’t remember who said that. By association I realized that the proper addendum for that advice would be, “But mice will hate you.” Mice led to cheese. Cheese led to the moon. If you’re not old enough to know that the moon is made of green cheese, indulge me. The moon led to the Man in the Moon, which led to a poem.

I tend to have paper and pen close by. I stash them in my bedroom, my car, and my pockets. If there’s anything I’m better at than recognizing million dollar ideas at unexpected times and places, it’s forgetting them if I don’t quickly scratch out a note. I would never admit to an officer of the law that I’ve made notes in my car. I’m just saying that I have a good many notes that I can’t read the next day.


From Using the Power of Poetry

The man in the moon

Eats nothing but cheese.

There’s nothing but cheese to eat.

Often he cries

To the cheddar skies,

“I’m dying for some little treat!”

He dreams of chicken salad, he says,

On slices of fresh whole wheat.

“I yearn for yams,

Sugar-cured hams,

Or anything gooey or sweet!”

The man in the moon

Eats nothing but cheese --

There’s nothing but cheese to eat --

But oh how he wishes

For tastier dishes,

Like salads!

And veggies!

And meat!

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