by Ted Scheu
I’m sorry that my poem’s late;
I didn’t quite anticipate
that when I went to write it down
I couldn’t find a single noun.
Then, even worse than I had feared,
I found my verbs had disappeared.
A writing nightmare coming true—
my adjectives were missing too.
I scoured the house for metaphors
and similes behind the doors.
By now, I’m sure that you have guessed
that they were missing like the rest.
And it was just a waste of time
to look for rhythms or a rhyme.
I couldn’t even find a feeling,
though I searched from floor to ceiling.
I didn’t try to understand,
but gripped my pencil in my hand,
then set aside my fear and rage
and pulled that pencil down the page.
To my surprise, the words flew out—
began to dance and scream and shout.
Though I was mad, I had to smile–
those silly words were hiding in my pencil all the while.
Copyright © 2004 Ted Scheu. From the book The Dog Ate My Bus Pass. Macmillan Children’s Books, UK. Reprinted by permission of the author.
I like to think that words are lurking inside the tip of my pencil— waiting to burst out onto my page, just when I need them. Of course that is rarely the case. They are not there waiting patiently and excitedly for me. I mostly need to search and write, and search and write, and revise, and revise, and revise, until they finally reveal themselves.
Ted Scheu (pronounced “shy”) is a children’s poet from Middlebury, Vermont who is often introduced as a 3rd or 4th grader stuck in a grown-up’s body. Ted didn’t like poems as a kid growing up in Connecticut, because all the poems he found back then were about love, nature, and beauty, or about bratty little British kids, and not at all about his life and his concerns–which were mostly centered around sports and food.
Ted is a former elementary teacher (also a naval officer, carpenter, advertising exec and copywriter) who started writing funny poems seriously about 20 years ago. His poems are published in nearly two dozen books in the US and UK, including five collections: I Froze My Mother, I Tickled My Teachers, I Threw My Brother Out, Now I Know My ZBCs, and most recently, Getting the Best of Me, all from Young Poets’ Press. He also has poems published in numerous anthologies including, I Invited a Dragon to Dinner, (Philomel, NY, 2002), in five anthologies from Meadowbrook Press, and in several books in the UK by Hodder, Macmillan and Scholastic.
Ted’s poems, with titles like “I Froze My Mother” “There’s An Alien in Our Bathroom,” “My Mirror Really Likes Me,” “Cursive Curse,” “Who Needs Recess?” and “Sore Head,” touch right to the heart of important issues in the lives of children. His poems are written in his own anxious child-voice–a voice he says he rarely expressed as a kid. By sharing his humor, his energy, and his love of poetry with children, Scheu inspires kids to take a more poetic and confident approach in their own writing. Ted spends about 100 days a year visiting schools around the country–sharing his poems, and helping young writers, in writing workshops, find their voices and have the kind of fun with poems that he never had as a kid. He considers the writing workshops to be his most important work. “My goal in my writing, and especially in my teaching, is to help kids find their own voices. I think poetry does that better than any other form of writing because the form is loose and brief, and there is often a deep emotional connection. I’m also passionate in my efforts to help elementary teachers feel comfortable using poetry in their classrooms.” Scheu tries to write a poem every day, and when he’s not writing, or visiting schools, he loves to eat cereal with lots of milk, and ride his bike–just like any kid his age. He also really really loves being a dad to two remarkable kids, and husband to an amazing wife.
More information about Ted and his work, (plus a pile of funny videos featuring seven of Ted’s ‘cousins’) may be found at his web site at www.poetryguy.com