Poetry Monday: “The Pool, the Croc, and the Fool” by Miranda Paul

 

How Far Would You Go? 

How far would you go to bring me a poem,
to delight me with wonderful words?
Would you dive underneath the tidal wave’s foam
or soar to the treetops with birds?

Perhaps you would run with the elephant herds,
or creep through a great lion’s home.
Perhaps you would cleave a great beast into thirds!
How far would you go to bring me a poem?

Crocodile baby
Pssst. I've got an itch.

Well, I’ll tell you how far today’s guest poet would go! All the way to The Gambia, Africa, that’s how far. And not only did she travel to far-off lands to bring us a poem, she also sat in the middle of a crocodile pit. Now that’s dedication. I love poetry as much as the next gal, but I’m not sure I’d risk life and limb for it. So let’s all sit back in our comfy croc-less chairs and let Miranda Paul take us on this adventure with her delightful poem, “The Pool, the Croc, and the Fool.” And stay tuned for the interview after, too!

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The Pool, the Croc, and the Fool

I sauntered real cool
To the crocodile pool
To whisper a wish I held dear…

But out came a croc,
And boy, was I shocked
When he whispered right back in my ear!

“I’ll grant you your wish,
But I’ll warn you, my Miss–
There’s something I want in return.
I don’t want your money
And no, this ain’t funny,
It’s really a cause of concern…

“You see, I’ve an itch
And it’s making me twitch,
But I can’t reach and scratch it myself.
So if you don’t mind
Would you please be so kind,
As to ease my strange problem yourself?”

What could I say?
I just had to obey,
(I wanted my wish to come true!)
I made myself stand
Then stretched out my hand…

…and winced until it was through!

“Gee, thanks,” said the croc,
And boy was I shocked,
When he promptly slipped back in his pool.
“But my wish…” I began,
Then grumbled, “Oh, man!”
And sauntered back out like a fool.

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Crocodile
Yup. Talkin' to you.

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[heading style=”1″]Guest Poet Snickerview™ ~ Miranda Paul[/heading]

What’s Up with Miranda

Miranda Paul

Miranda, who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool? 
I’m a scuba-diving, mango smoothie lover who hails from planet Earth, and I’ve been a rhyming fool since I could say “Guess what? Chicken Butt.” My first rhyming poem was actually published in a county newspaper when I was still in elementary school. But my rhyming got a lot better in college, when I won my school’s creative writing award and was featured at a Women in Poetry conference.

I began writing for kids when I was selected to study with poet and children’s author Lucille Clifton in 2003, but (thank heavens) I never submitted or published any of that early stuff. Once I had children of my own, and filled my house with hundreds of children’s books, I realized how terrible the stories I’d written in my early twenties were.

I’m not sure if you noticed this, and I didn’t want to startle you in the middle of the video, but you are sitting in a pool of crocodiles. And there are drums. Well??????
Not too far away, local villagers were celebrating a naming ceremony — a big deal, since parents in The Gambia don’t reveal a child’s name until the baby is a week old. Luckily, they didn’t wake up any of the crocodiles. That would have been disastrous, especially since there were about a hundred of them there at the swamp at that time.

Is your opus focused mainly on what appear to be extremely lazy reptiles, or do you do other stuff, too? 
This is actually only the second crocodile story I’ve ever written or edited, if I remember correctly — and I’ve written and/or edited more than a hundred stories for kids now, and more nonfiction articles than I can count. But I do tend to love animal stories and folk or cultural tales the most. That could be because I used to volunteer as an assistant zookeeper and originally went to school for Aquatic Biology before switching to English. Most people say those two paths sound so different, but I find the parallels to be striking. At the zoo, for example, I cleaned up animal crap, and in the lab I bravely dissected things and submitted reports to intimidating professors. Now as a writer and editor, I clean up crappy stories, dissect characters, and bravely send manuscripts to intimidating editors. Same skills, really. (HA!)

What do you do when you’re not galumphing through swamps and pestering lethal animals? 
When I’m not pestering lethal animals, I’m typically pestering lethal humans — namely my husband, my two young children, and an exchange student from China who has studied Judo. They’re all deadly, I swear (and out to get Mom!).

And in addition to fending for my life on a daily basis, I run a free critique website called Rate Your Story, and I promote literacy and volunteer for several non-profit organizations that provide education and health care to kids in poor countries (hence why I travel so much!). But, as you can imagine, that all gets overwhelming sometimes. So when I need a break from all that action, I hide in my closet and play Words With Friends. I once had twenty-seven games going at a time. I’d love to bear-hug the people who invented it.

How much did you love making the poetry video? Did you have any bloopers, like maybe a yawning croc or a sudden need to flee the pit of doom?
Well…an almost-blooper (if you can call a near-death experience a mere blooper.) You see, in my years away from studying animals, I apparently forgot how to identify a pregnant crocodile. So when I chose the croc and set up my camera near an expectant mother, luckily my field guide (who finished his biology degree, unlike me) recognized my oversight and told me to back my butt away if I wanted to hang on to it. So, I chose a younger male croc instead. (By the way, readers, Miranda tells me the pregnant croc is the one directly behind her. You know, the one she can’t see.)

Can we come visit you and look at your stuff? (Online, of course, not at your house. Because for sure you smuggled a croc home in your luggage and we don’t want any surprises.)
I know. Such a fool am I. Customs took the croc out of my bag right away. But they did let me keep the monkey when I told them it was research for a new picture book. Thank goodness I’ve got a website and blog to prove that I’m a children’s writer!

Here are all the places you can find me:

Website: Miranda Paul, Children’s Author
Critique Website: Rate Your Story
Twitter: @Miranda_Paul

Your experience in The Gambia is fascinating. Where can we read more about your adventure and the library program?
I posted some of my adventures on my blog, which you can read here.
To learn about the organizations behind my trip, visit Books for Africa or Hand in Health. Or you can just Google “1 Million Books for Gambia” and find lots of cool articles about it. And contribute if you want — I think a lot of us realized how much a million is after we set the goal!

Thanks for stopping by, Miranda, and for adding “The Pool, the Croc, and the Fool” to No Water River’s growing video poetry library!

You’re welcome! 🙂

[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities[/heading]

  • The crocodile in the poem is a little bit selfish, just like the greedy croc in Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile. Have a read-aloud and talk about how these crocs can improve their manners!
  • Here is a comprehensive 5-day crocodile unit plan from Marine Discovery/University of Arizona
  • Artists Helping Children has compiled dozens of crocodile and alligator crafts including puppets, games, bookmarks, masks, and origami crocs.
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P.S. Yes, I know the word cleave is not used properly in my poem. I only had five minutes, people!

Video Location: Crocodile pool, The Gambia, Africa.

See more poems in my poetry video library.
 
“The Pool, the Croc, and the Fool” copyright © 2012 Miranda Paul. All rights reserved.

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53 Comments

  1. Miranda–Your poem was adorable–and your setting,magnificent! The drums playing in the background of your video really make it feel like an authentic African experience! And those crocs–WHOA! I don’t know how any of the other guest poets will ever be able to top that! 🙂

    Well done, Miranda!

    Renee–As always, No Water River continues to amaze and impress!

  2. Great poem, Miranda! And great interview both of you! Miranda, I an’t believe you sat in a pool of crocodiles! How did they not want to eat you? It seems very dangerous (and brave!) It’s going to take some doing for anyone to beat that setting! 🙂

    1. Susanna…guess I’m not very tasty. But thanks for the comment on the poem and interview! It was actually really fun. You should have seen some of the tourists who were visiting the other side of the pond gaping at me.

  3. Utterly awesome, and I loved the sacred crocodile pool and the naming celebration with drum accompaniment. I loved hearing Miranda’s biological and poetic background! I too am a mango smoothy lover…. Nothing beats a fresh African mango straight from the tree!!! Fab post, as always, Renée!

  4. It was lovely to hear the drums, amazing to see Miranda in the setting. That is dedication to poetry I think, & really it produced a good poem/story. Thanks for a fun post today. I will enjoy all the links, too.

  5. Great post. I couldn’t take my eyes off that croc next to you thinking he would pop open his mouth any second! Super suspense building mechanism for the video!

  6. I loved the poem but I must admit that it was a bit nerve-racking to watch. I’m so glad everything worked out at the end!
    Fun interview, Miranda & Renée. Thanks so much.

  7. Miranda….What bravery! I knew you must have made it out alive since Renee was featuring you on No Water River, but I have to say I was really keeping my eye on the crocodile behind you and hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be No Miranda Anymore! I loved both the poem and the interview. Thanks to both of you.

  8. Another great edition of Poetry Monday!

    Miranda, Thanks for teaching me a few things about crocodiles and Gambia. I was happy to learn that you volunteered at a zoo. I spent two summers working in the education department at our local zoo. It was one of the best jobs I ever had. I looked forward to going to work every day. Nothing better than spending the day with snakes, armadillos, and sea urchins! The best part was that I got to leave the “animal crap” for the keepers!

    Renee, Thanks again for hosting this great weekly feature. I am now guaranteed to get a weekly dose of poetry!

    1. Eric – thanks for the note. I almost became a marine biologist or vet, etc. (you name it – I wanted to be it). I’m so glad I found a way to tie in my love for creatures with a career in writing! And, after scooping up animal doo-doo and reading poetry to crocs, I guess I’ll have to seek out new adventures!

  9. Great interview, and enjoyed the poem very much…

    Now I know how Miranda can bravely wade out into a pool of picture books that need critiquing — after a pool of crocodiles, surely nothing can faze her!

  10. What you artists won’t do for your craft! Although, I must say this made for great viewing. The scenery, the celebratory drums, the poem…it could not have been unplanned better. Unplanned plans are always more engaging, don’t you think? Imagine, having those drums as you read your work. PERFECT! Great interview, Renee! I’m taking notes on your interviewing techniques!

    1. “Unplanned plans are always more engaging, don’t you think?” – Great thought, Pam! I echo your sentiment exactly. This was an amazing experience, and the entire trip really was. I got to see firsthand how literature can open minds and bring opportunities to thousands of kids. I feel totally blessed. Thanks for reading/watching!

  11. My heart was in my throat the first time I watched Miranda’s video. Did you see those crocs twitching??? Yikes!

    The second time through I was able to relax and enjoy the fun poem contentedly. Great job.

    Now I am off to Google Images to find out what a pregnant croc looks like, in case there is no experienced field guide with me in the swamp.

    Cheers!

  12. Wow, Miranda you are so brave. I have recently filmed my poem (though I can’t find the video so i may need to re-film) and I look like a nodding dog looking at the words so much. I was so nervous just reading and here you are in a pit full of crocs! What an amazing adventurer you are. Thanks Renee!

    1. Thanks, Patricia. This one came easily to me. Another one I’ve been working on (underwater creatures) has gone through about a hundred revisions. It’s not always a piece of cake as I’m sure you know!

  13. Great post! Miranda’s poem is so much fun. The photo of the young croc reminded me of the book “No Fighting, No Biting” — it’s one of our favorite books about siblings and features two young crocs.

  14. Renee, it’s good to get to know you too! This is fabulous project and your introduction to Miranda’s video is so great I felt like I was watching an established PBS Kids show. I’ll be back for more!

  15. Wow! Such a great poem, and your setting couldn’t have been more perfect. I think you must be very brave Miranda (and talented, obviously!). Wonderful poem, reading, and interview. Also, I’m loving the extension activities.

  16. We’ve been exploring the video archives here and WOW! Actual crocodiles for a crocodile poem! Quite impressive and brave, Miranda! The poem is great with a very funny ending, but Ethan was not happy that the crocodile tricked you. He felt it was a bit mean. 😉 Thank you!

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