Poet’s patter perks up Rosenauer pupils


Staff Writer

DAVE BENJAMIN  Poet Kenn Nesbitt entertains pupils at the Rosenauer School, Jackson.DAVE BENJAMIN Poet Kenn Nesbitt entertains pupils at the Rosenauer School, Jackson. JACKSON – Students at the Sylvia Rosenauer Elementary School got a hands-on lesson from a real-life poet recently when Kenn Nesbitt, the author of humorous children’s poetry, visited with fourth- and fifth-graders.

Nesbitt, 44, traveled to Jackson from his hometown of Spokane, Wash., to speak with the children about poetry and to present a lesson in the art of writing poetry. In the past nine years, he has written almost 100 poems a year and is still going strong.

His books include “When the Teacher Isn’t Looking” and “The Aliens Have Landed.”

“It’s time to make up some poetry of your own,” Nesbitt said during one of several sessions held in the school media center. “I will give you several verses and it will be your job to finish the last line. Make sure it rhymes with the second line.”

Other exercises for the children included writing the last two lines and then, given only the first line of a poem, the students had to finish the last three lines.

JacksonJackson “In the first line, ‘My mother makes pizza with pickles,’ you can talk about a lot of things,” Nesbitt told the pupils. “You can talk about how it tastes, what else she puts on it, what other foods she makes that are pretty disgusting and what your father makes.”

The children enthusiastically volunteered to read their creations and, in some cases, alternate positive suggestions were given.

“The next step beyond this is to make up your own ideas,” Nesbitt said before fielding questions about his poetry and signing copies of his books.

Nesbitt said what started out as a hobby 12 years ago has now turned into a full-time career. He writes books and visits schools. He said the humorous poetry he writes excites children and gets them to want to read and to write. He said he tries to make a difference by inspiring youngsters to think that books can be more fun than watching television or playing video games.

Prior to his poetic venture, Nesbitt was a computer programmer.

Principal Barry Rosenzweig said, “This was a terrific [lesson] for our students. It’s a great opportunity for the children to begin to understand what it takes to create a poem, to think like a poet and to let your mind go in all directions, while having some specific guidelines.”

Rosenzweig said Nesbitt was able to use humor and was able to easily get the students’ attention, and when he got their attention, he was able to teach them in one hour how to write a poem.

“From there, the kids maintained their focus and interest because of his general ability to be an entertainer,” Rosenzweig said. “He’s definitely a stand-up comic.”

The principal said Nesbitt held the children’s interest by reading some of his own poetry and at the same time becoming very animated.

“Then the children created poems themselves, with his guidance, using the principles he spoke about,” said Rosenzweig. “The students learned that poetry doesn’t have to go in order and doesn’t always have to rhyme.”

Fifth-grade teacher Judy Miller said, “We read a book by Sharon Creech called ‘Love that Dog’ about a boy who loves poetry and eventually has the poet come to his school. We followed that up by having a poet come to our school.”

Not only is poetry part of the curriculum, Miller said it allows children to have creative expression and to bend the rules a bit in their creative writing. That allows some children to shine in a way they might not otherwise excel, she said.