Mash-Ups

By Kathleen Flenniken, WITS Writer-in-Residence

The best way to become a better writer is to read a lot. It makes sense that sometimes I meet a poem that I immediately recognize could fill a whole classroom with smart things to say about how to write. I ran into Bruce Dethlefsen’s poem, “New Moons” (from the June 2014 issue of Hummingbird) at Seattle’s all-poetry bookstore, Open Books. The minute I finished reading it, I wished I had written it. And then, I wished I could write it. And then, I knew it would be a lesson for my fourth graders.

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Image from Open Books, http://www.openpoetrybooks.com.

 

Here is Bruce Dethlefsen’s witty and inspiring poem:

New Moons

januember
the moon of the burning cold

farch
the slice of ice moon

mabruary
the peeking moon

aptember
the moon of potential

member
the reunion moon

joctober
the moon of dance and play

julust
the moon most beautiful

augril
the angry dog moon

senuary
what was that feeling moon

ouly
the two faced moon

novay
moon of the closing door

and dune
the wall at the end of the world moon

I love to read poems to children and then open the conversation up with the question, “What do you notice?” My students immediately picked up on the way the months in “New Moons” were mash-ups of our everyday, conventional months. Right away, they also saw the possibilities of inventing new ones. It wasn’t easy to categorize the lines that described the moon, but we could all agree that those lines contained the poem’s magic, that something about the names of the months inspired them, that those lines didn’t necessarily need to make perfect sense.

We talked about other categories that could be mashed up. I had a few already started:

Times of day: morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night, dusk, dawn, twilight, sunrise, sunset

Meals: breakfast, snack, lunch, teatime, dinner, midnight snack

Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall (Autumn), Winter

Moods: happy, angry, sorry, sad, irritated, blue, jealous, silly, serious, shy, embarrassed, afraid, depressed, bored,

School subjects: Arithmetic / Math / Algebra, History, Writing, Reading, Physical Education, Art, Chemistry, Biology, Physics

Languages: Latin, Greek, Spanish, German, French, Mandarin, Farsi, English, Russian, Portuguese, Hungarian, Arabic, Japanese, Tagalog

Styles of potatoes: baked, French fried, boiled, au gratin, hash browns

Donuts: sprinkled, raised, cake, chocolate covered, maple bars, holes, fruit filled

Fruit: apples, strawberries, peaches, apricots, watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, kiwi, pineapples, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, cherries, persimmons, pomegranates, pears

Vegetables: peas, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, corn, potatoes, rutabagas, kale, chard, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, turnips, broccoli, brussel sprouts

Musical Instruments: violin, cello, bass, piano, trumpet, saxophone, bassoon, oboe, guitar, trombone, flute, piccolo, clarinet, xylophone, tuba, glockenspiel, accordion, harp, recorder, zither

Street Signs: Stop, Yield, No Parking, Caution, Soft Shoulder, Freeway Entrance, Exit, Transit Only, School Zone

Housing: tepee, yurt, tree house, mansion, castle, cave, hut, colonial, trailer, cape cod, craftsman bungalow, log cabin, mother-in-law, condominium, apartment, tent, cottage, farmhouse

These helped get students’ brains turning. But, as usual, my fourth graders had lots of ideas beyond my initial prompts and even thought about combining lists in ways I hadn’t considered. For ideas about mixing across categories, take special note of Waylon’s mash-ups of hunger and emotions (I confess this hits very close to home), Gabe’s mash-ups of popular culture and vegetables, and Aidan’s mash-ups of pop stars and musical instruments.

I love the way this prompt invites young writers to use their senses of humor in very natural and surprising ways.

Carlyn /New Vegetables

Corrishes
A long, red veggie crunchy and fresh
as Snow White’s apple before the potion.

Bravocado
A tough, lush green food for dinner in shadow skin
like the dark leather on my worn-out coat.

Cornions
If you slice this neon yellow vegetable your tears
will fall like smooth rain on the silver blade.

Beanshrooms
My family isn’t fond of this umbrella-shaped mushroom.
But the green tummy-filler matches my taste buds,
like the colors in a sunset.

Kaleatos
My dad sautés them with eggs but don’t eat it whole!
These flaky potato-like veggies aren’t tasty if you eat them entirely.

Brusselberries
An aqua, freckled berry spicy on a stove for Mom and I to gobble up
till we’re full as a tiger licking her lips.

Hayden /New States

Orington
The people who live there can run over 50 mph

Arkanfornia
Their bodies are made out of squid

Tenesippi
Don’t drink a sip from their sippy cup

New Vania
The people won’t give anything away until it’s
10 years old

Florco
Their floor companies are really good

Kalaska
Their heads are made out of chocolate

Missowa
They miss everything that leaves

HawHampshire
Everyone eats ham

Rain
It rains 20 hours every day

Arizoma
There are human-eating frogs there, so beware.

Lita /Ways of Change

Spummer
the waves wash on the sandy beaches
like a leaf in the breeze

Sumtumn
Color fills the trees, a brush of air that silences all

Finter
The snow falls and there is new life all around

and Sprall
the flowers sprout and bring joy everywhere,
the shouts of voices and music fill the air.

Sofia /Book World

Annamanda
When you’re worried, you go to her.

Harry Kane
An English wizard with Egyptian parents.

Star Magic
A glazxy with good and bad fairies.

Judy B. Jones
A silly gilr with two brothers, Stink and Ollie.

Diary of a Wimpy Doll
Greg’s journal about his life as a doll.

Dork Breath
Nikki Dorkbreath is a dragon. She writes in a diary.

Timmy Warrior
A cat detective whose partner is a polar bear.

Rima /Time of Day

Aftereve
I can’t wait till Christmas tomorrow.

noonsun
The sun has not shined at all today
I wonder where noonsun has gone?

risenoon
I always try to wake up at 8:00
but instead I wake up at noon.

morndaw
When it is morn I sleep all day.
When it is daw I play all night.


Vedika /FYI I Have Feelings

Hamused
Keep it up! Keep on making it!

Sumbfounded
Why did you let Tim play with my Babie?

Deterleous
I know you got more pins down, but I’ll get more down for sure!

Curetful
I gave my wood blocks to you and you make them in the shape of the White House

Embarritated
Why did you attach a microphone on me while I was singing to myself?

Admoud
Ah! Yes you can put me in the newspaper.

Gabe /Teenage Mutant Ninja Turnips

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turnips
those veggies sure pack a punch

Sour Rangers and N.C.urger
taking a bite out of crime

Star Taco
a taco with a dream

Pokedog
a dog playing Pokemon

Big Bang Steak
A smart steak

Sim Spaghetti
A show with stringy humor

Nati /Months of the Year

Octanuary
The lights go out at
midnight and all spirits
fly away.

Marprill
The very chilly wind
takes over the land
and it turns quiet.

Maytember
The entire world covers
with flowers and piece
flies through the world like
a horse galloping through
the sunrise.

Nocember
The entire universe
covers the planet with snow
all over like an eagle
soaring through the sky

Febuly
The globe fills with
birds and the sun comes out
like a lake glimmering
through the shadows.

Junuary
pouring down rain comes
down like a waterfall
flooding the city
Vani /The Fruit Bowl

Orap
I’m nice but I have a sour face

Pompes
I take much pride in eating grapes

Melums
A purple outside layer will make you laugh

Rasfruit
This will get you to the razziest parties

Kiak
Your delicious ticket for a black belt

Kiwimelon
It’s so small and juicy you could eat it in one bite

Alex /Screwed Up Names

Janember,
my birthday and Christmas at the same time.

Stoit,
stop there’s an exit.

Hapad,
Feel sad about my life.

Sprinummer,
Running around with shirts without sleeves and shorts shorter than ever before. The hottest time of the year.

Matebra,
something so hard even the teacher can’t figure it out.

Angorry,
Angry at the world but sorry at what I did.

Yanka /Fruits

Banapples
an apple that is banned far away,

Waterberries
a berry from the water’s wave,

Blueanas
a blue banana who feels alone inside,

Hukleum
a fruit from a plum tree,

Rasplums
a plum from rasp bushes in a garden,

Manwi
a man with a kiwi on his head,

Persimos
a persimmon from an O’s tree that is shaped like an O,

Cherrcots
a cherry on an apricot leaf,

Pineges
a pineapple on an orange bush,

Starberry
a fruit from the stars in the sky

Nora /My Instruments

Tromba
My own boom-box.
Harin
Is a golden bird floating through the air.
Cellar
A place where I die.
Claro
Ends up in your cake.
Baset
The sound that wakes you up.
Biolin
Makes a horrible sound.
Umpia
The state’s capital.
Flbone
Better not go to school.

Aidan /Crazy Instruments

Jayaphone
Jazzy

Guilor Swift
Strumming loudly

Kim Karbassian
Low and inappropriate

Flutin Beaber
A high-pitched singer.

Clarimore
A tooting rapper.

Drummy Fallon
A loud comedian

Bill Tubas
Low and techy

Waylon /Hungry Emotions

hangry
Don’t make me angry or I will eat you.

fappy
This meal was good so want to go skateboarding?

huad
Don’t say anything! I feel like eating pizza.

hunmbarressed
“Stop talking to me. Let’s just eat. Got it?”

hilly
Why did the turkey not cross the road? Because he didn’t want to be paved over.

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