After years of dabbling unsuccessfully and with little satisfaction in various genres of fiction including humor, science fiction and horror I recently decided somewhat by default that my real niche is writing poems for children. This is not the most prestigious direction to take as a writer and it’s nothing you’ll hear me bragging about at parties or to the cashier at Target. As it turns out, there are hundreds of thousands of other writers just like me who have come to the same conclusion. Do an Amazon search for books of children poetry. If you care to know there are approximately 6.3 billion books classified as poetry books for kids, give or take a couple thousand. But you know what’s really interesting? Mine are better than all of them. Yes, you heard me right. I could kick anyone’s ass in a children’s poetry slam (if such a thing existed) any day of the week. Do I really believe that? Am I really that arrogant? If I am, should I feel bad about it?
Here is a sample from my second book. This poem is entitled ‘Have You Ever Heard’Have you ever heard a goldfish burp
or a tiny hamster hiccup?
If you listen careful
you can get an earful
of a million sounds most folks don’t pick up
Like a salamander chewing gum
or a caterpillar sneezing
If you crouch near a thistle
you’ll hear a moth whistle
and maybe a butterfly wheezing
You ought to hear (if you haven’t yet)
a field mouse’s fingers snapping
And while out exploring
you should hear the snoring
of a grasshopper happily napping
You can sometimes hear a snail shriek
if you come up behind and scare him
Our world abounds
with the strangest sounds
if you’re long enough quiet to hear them
When I was a kid I devoured all the Shel Silverstein books. I loved the imagery, the cadence, the cleverness, the sick humor, the fact that the dude who wrote them was a bald hippie who also wrote the lyrics to one of Johnny Cash’s most beloved songs (and as it turns out a whole shitload of songs by the band Dr. Hook - but I’m not holding that against him). And every time I read one I wished I had written, which was about 95% of them, I told myself, “I can write one just as good if not better!” That’s the thing about inspiration. You have to have a certain amount of arrogance to admire a work of art and try to emulate it. And why emulate unless you think you are capable of producing something that’s just as good if not better? I mean, why bother? I think that’s why I quit trying to write humor, science fiction and horror stories. Every time I read a great science fiction story I have a hard time convincing myself I could do better. Do I wish I could write a better horror story than Stephen King? Hell, yes. Do I believe I can? Hell, no. Today I read Dr. Seuss books and think, “That’s pretty good, but give me eight hours in a room alone with a laptop and I bet I can come up with something better.” So yes, I am in a sense very arrogant about what I do well.
Here is another poem from my first book, ‘What if Balloons Didn’t POP?’My bicycle has sixteen wheels
and yes, I need them all,
so when I ride I’m guaranteed
that I will never fall.
My bicycle has sixteen wheels
I’m glad each one is there,
Because if I should get a flat
I’ve fifteen more to spare.
My bicycle has sixteen wheels
It goes so fast it shakes,
and now I’m kind of wishing
that my bike had sixteen brakes!
Whether anyone else thinks my work stands up to Silverstein or Seuss is up to them but I’ll go right on believing I’m every bit as good, otherwise I’ll just give up. That being said the reality is that at the end of the day my first book sold barely 100 copies and I can count on one finger the sales of my second book (which by the way is entitled ‘Have You Ever Heard A Goldfish Burp?’ and is available for $6.99 on Amazon). Duck Dynasty will probably sell more children’s books in a day then I will sell in a lifetime. Did you know there is a series of Duck Dynasty books for kids? Guess what? Mine are better.