Poetry Friday: “Girlzilla Gorilla” by Stephen W. Cahill
Are you ready to rumble?
Or should I say altercate, skirmish, tussle, wrangle, contend, oppugn? Oppugn? That’s right — it’s showdown time! On Monday, March 11, the devious Ed DeCaria of ThinkKidThink.com will apportion the first lexemes in the 2013 March Madness Poetry Tournament.
Here is a curtailed compendium of how it functions:
- 64 authletes: Arranged in four brackets of 16 poets each who will face off against each other, two by two, in several rounds of poem-making.
- Assigned words: Word difficulty is referred to as “seeds” and ranges from 1 (easiest words) to 16 (hardest words). Poets have been assigned a seed number and will receive words of that difficulty level throughout the tournament. Two words of opposing difficulty will face off in a poem pairing (e.g., 16-word vs. 1-word, 15-word vs. 2-word, etc.). See Ed’s concise seeding explanation.
- Pressure: After the poets receive their assigned word in a given round, they have 36 hours to create a winning poem using that word.
- Nail biting and chocolate eating: The two poems are posted on the TKT site and opened to public vote. The winner goes on to the next round and a new opponent.
And here are the imperforate brackets (click to augment):
Of course I was jubilant to ascertain that I have alighted in the 16-seed spot after lolling around with 3-seed language units in last year’s tournament. Then again, I was pulverized after the second round, so perhaps it’s all for the best.
And just now I have become au courant of the fact that if I triumph over my first opponent, and then my second, and matters proceed in a similar manner for a certain homo sapien in the other pairing in my same round, then in the hypothetical third round, I would contend with today’s guest — who happens to be the victor of last year’s March Madness Poetry Tournament! Yes, it’s…
Stephen W. Cahill
Could this be an unconscious case of keeping my potential enemies close? Ah, who knows. The third round is too many good poets away, and I have a formidable foe in the first round. Let’s not think of it anymore, shall we? Better to let Stephen entertain us with “Girlzilla Gorilla,” one of his winning poems from MM 2012. Take it away, Stephen!
Girlzilla Gorilla loves eating vanilla
And chocolate banana ice cream.
But when there’s none left, she’s completely bereft
And she screams and she screams and she screams.
Exhausted, her father decided he’d rather
Concede to Girlzilla each day.
But since he did that, she expanded so fat
That the doctor had something to say,
“This may sound absurd, but I have me a bird
Who knows how to fix your girl ape.”
He opened a door and right there on the floor
Was a goose in a bright yellow cape!
It warbled a song that was terribly long
Called “Ice Cream Will Make You Obese.”
Girlzilla just frowned. She bent down to the ground
And gobbled that goose – now deceased.
[heading style=”1″]SNICKERVIEW™ with Stephen W. Cahill[/heading]
What’s up with Stephen
Stephen: who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool?
I’m from Dublin, Ireland, where I work for a newspaper called The Sunday Times. Before that I was a copywriter in an advertising agency, where I wrote press and radio ads. Up until five years ago I had never written any poems or stories – although I had been making up stories for my daughter at bedtime. She liked them so much she kept asking me to tell them again and again. So, because I kept forgetting bits, I had to write them down. And that’s what started me off.
This is normal; it’s how a lot of children’s writers begin. What was strange, though, was that I found myself writing in rhyme, quite by accident. I don’t really know why, it was just there. I guess I somehow picked it up from my mother. She was a speech and drama teacher when I was growing up, and she used to write and produce plays for her pupils all the time. And all the plays were written in verse! So maybe I’ve been a rhyming fool all along. A poet who didn’t know it!
You wrote “Girlzilla Gorilla” in response to the assigned word warbled in the 2012 March Madness Poetry Tournament. It’s only logical that such a word would put gorillas in your head. Were you inspired by gorillas that you know personally? Which came first, the goose or the gorilla?
I have been reading at least three picture books every night for the past seven years (I have three children, now aged 8, 5, and 3). One of my favorite authors, Anthony Browne, has myriad books in which the main characters are gorillas, so I’m guessing that’s where that came from. The goose came first though. Birds warble, so I figured I’d have to throw a bird into the poem somewhere. I picked goose simply because the word sounds funny!
Can you share the first poem you ever wrote?
Believe it or not, the first real poem I ever wrote was in the first round of last year’s MMPoetry competition, where I had to use the word innuendo! (…?!?…!)
MAGIC LIVES FOREVER
Endo, apprentice to Mondo the Great,
Was crying because she had got there too late.
Her master was fading, approaching his death,
Just able to whisper his last ever breath.
She leaned in to hear his last magical word.
The word innuendo was all that she heard.
For days she was puzzled but soon she could see
“My master has given his magic to me!”
I presume your poetic opus does not focus primarily on the ice cream eating habits of primates, so what else inspires you? Are you mainly a poet, or do you write other stuff too?
I write for picture books, so I try to take inspiration from literally everything. But I would have to say my three kids are definitely my biggest inspiration. They are completely daft, really funny, and never stop surprising me. This year I’m planning to start submitting to publishers in the UK and the US. I have five or six stories almost ready – a couple of them you will be glad to hear are written in rhyming verse. I’d love to get some nice feedback – but I’ll need a lot of luck. My fingers, toes, and eyeballs will all be crossed!
You’ve got quite the knack for meter, as evidenced by every poem you wrote for the 2012 tournament. Do you have formal training in poetry/writing, or do you just naturally ooze rhythm?
Do I ooze rhythm naturally? Absolutely – I’ve always been very oozy! So no formal training needed for me!
Well, apart from a few trips to the library to read up on the technical side. I also found some good advice online (and plenty of bad advice too!) from seasoned professionals like Tiffany Strelitz. Her article “Meter, meter, sleep depleter” is a must.
If you could take a trip to the rainforest with any children’s poet (living or otherwise), who would it be and why, and what would the two of you do when you got there?
Easy, I’d take A.A. Milne, the guy who wrote Winnie the Pooh. We would spend two whole months there. Riding heffalumps, eating haycorns and honey, playing pooh sticks, sailing in umbrellas and, most importantly, catching woozles! I can’t wait!!
On March 11, you will be returning to the March Madness Poetry Tournament to defend your title of “The Thinkier.” What is your strategy this year for wiping the floor with the rest of us baboons?
Step 1: Grab baboon by the legs.
Step 2: Turn it upside down.
Step 3: Put Justin Bieber mask over its disgusting pink bottom.
Step 4: Get mopping!
(I think I’m sorry I asked…)
Unless you win again, you will have to give up your gigantic trophy. What will take its place on the mantle?
Nothing. No need. He’s not getting it back! Nevahhh!
Quick: a rhyming couplet using the word neanderthal.
Neanderthals with basketballs are jumping on my street.
They’re very tough and very rough – and boy, they’ve hairy feet!
Can we come visit you in your tree and peruse your wares? Will there be ice cream?
It’s more of a bush really. But yes, you’re welcome anytime. Can’t promise ice cream though – my pet gorillas get mighty peckish!
Here’s where you can find me:
Thanks for stopping by, Stephen, and for adding “Girlzilla Gorilla” to No Water River’s video poetry library! See you on the court!
[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities for “Girlzilla Gorilla”[/heading]
- “Girlzilla Gorilla” is a narrative poem. A narrative poem tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end and often includes dialogue. Narrative poems can be short or long, and they can rhyme or not. Teachers, guide students in writing their own narrative poems. You may want to begin with a whole-class poem to demonstrate. These guidelines and lessons will help get you and your students started: Creative Writing Now tips and poem starter; full lesson plans on reading, analyzing, and writing narrative poems here and here (older students) and here (younger students); list of famous narrative poems.
- YA readers will love the poignant 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan by Kathleen Applegate.
- For younger students, share the sweet story Gorilla by former UK Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne.
- This is a great poem to act out in mime while a narrator reads. Four students take the parts of Girlzilla, father, doctor, and goose. The narrator reads the poem slowly as students perform the actions. Alternatively, the doctor can say his own lines in the third stanza.
- Choose one image from the poem and illustrate it through drawing or collage. Write the line(s) from the poem on your work of art.
- Make gorilla cupcakes.
[heading style=”1″]NEXT WEEK: MARCH MADNESS RECAP[/heading]
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Video Location: Dublin, Ireland, where gorillas roam free and ice cream drips from the clover.See more poems in my poetry video library.
“Girlzilla Gorilla” © Stephen W. Cahill. All rights reserved.