Category: Lessons

How to Write Funny Poetry – Chapter 4 – Making it Funny

Funny poems are enjoyable to read. The more a poem makes you laugh, the more fun it is to read. This doesn’t mean that a poem has to be funny to be good. Nor does it mean that funny poems are better than serious poems. There are lots of very good poems that are not funny at all. But if you are trying to write a funny poem, the funnier you can make it, the better it will be.

If you have been wondering how you can make your poems funny, you will be glad to know that there are some very easy ways to do it. In this chapter, I show you several different ways that you can make your poems funny. These include:

  • using a “surprise ending”
  • exaggerating
  • using opposites
  • putting your idea in an unusual place
  • using funny words
  • a special type of wordplay known as a “pun”
  • a combination of the above

Each of these is a different method you can use to get your reader to laugh. First, let me show you the surprise ending.

The Surprise Ending

There are lots of different ways to make a poem funny, but they all rely on one thing: the “element of surprise”. A funny poem is like a joke or a riddle that rhymes. For a joke or funny poem to be a good one, it has to surprise the reader with something they don’t expect. When they get to the end of a poem and suddenly find a surprising twist or unexpected “punch line”, it can really make them giggle. Look at the following example:

Seven, Six and Nine

Seven, Six and Nine
all sat down to dine.
Now Six is scared of Seven
because Seven ate Nine.

This is an old joke, told in the form of a poem. Hopefully it made you laugh or at least smile. A couple of things make this poem funny. First, the reader knows that the three numbers, 7, 6 and 9 are going to eat dinner (or dine), but the reader probably does not expect that 7 is going to “eat” 9. So when the reader sees the last line, it is a surprise. Second, the reader has heard the numbers “7, 8, 9” many times, but has probably always thought of them as “seven eight nine”, and not as “seven ate nine”. This shows the reader something familiar in a surprising new way. Seeing something in a way that you have never noticed before can also be quite surprising. The combination of these two surprises can startle the reader and make them laugh.

So how can you use this knowledge to make your own poems funny? Here’s one way: After you select a topic for your poem, ask yourself “what’s funny about that?” Try to come up with as many things as you can that might be funny about your topic. Each time you think of something that seems funny, write it down! After you write down everything you can think of, you will have a list of funny ideas to choose from. You can then choose the funniest idea on your list and use it as your surprise ending.

For example, let’s say you decide to write a poem about a bee. Ask yourself “what’s funny about a bee?” When I think about bees, I think of several things. They are colored with yellow and black stripes. They sting people when they are angry. They fly and make a buzzing noise. They make honey and honeycomb. And so on.

So here are several ideas for funny poems. Write a poem about:

  • a bee that is purple and green instead of yellow and black
  • a bee that never takes a bath because it thinks it is supposed to “stink” instead of “sting”
  • a bee that can’t fly so it takes the bus instead
  • a bee that makes a honking noise instead of a buzzing sound
  • a bee that uses honeycomb to comb its hair

I like the last idea best, so I am going to write a poem about a bee that combs its hair with honeycomb. This will be the “surprise ending” of the poem – the thing that makes the poem funny – so I will save this for the end of the poem.

Here is the most important rule to making a poem funny. If your poem has a surprise, save the surprise for the end of the poem. If you start the poem by saying that the bee combs its hair with honeycomb, you may have nothing else to say. That would be like telling the punch line of a joke at the beginning of the joke instead of the end. On the other hand, if you save your surprise for the end, you can start the poem by telling all about the bee and then make the reader laugh at the end.

I promised you I would write a poem about a bee that combs its hair with honeycomb, so here it is.

Pete the Sweet Bee
There was a bee
named Sweetie Pete.
His hair was slick
he smelled so sweet.
He’d take a bath
each day at home.
Then comb his hair
with honeycomb.

Finding a Funny Idea

As I mentioned above, a good way to make a poem funny is to ask yourself the question “what’s funny about that?” If you are going to write a poem about an eagle, ask yourself “what’s funny about an eagle?”

Here is one possible answer: One well-known type of eagle is the “bald eagle”. What if there was a bald eagle that had lost all the feathers on his head, so it was actually bald? What if the eagle was embarrassed about it and thought that it should buy a wig or a toupee so people would not know it was bald?

Here is another possible answer: what if, when its mother said it was an “eagle”, it thought she said “beagle” and so it thought it was a dog?

And here is yet another possible answer: Eagles are known for building very large nests. What if this eagle didn’t know when to stop building, and ended up with a nest larger than a baseball stadium, or a taller than the Empire State Building?

As you can see, there are plenty of different ways to answer the question “what’s funny about that?” In the first example above, I looked at the name “bald eagle” to see what I could do with the word “bald”. In the second example, I looked to see what I could do with the word “eagle”. In the third example, I took a characteristic of eagles and exaggerated it.

Let’s try doing the same thing with an alligator. Alligator rhymes with elevator, so perhaps you could write a poem about an alligator that likes to ride the elevator. Alligators also have lots of teeth, so maybe you could write about an alligator that didn’t brush his teeth and had a hundred and forty seven cavities. Alligators are very mean creatures, so you could write a poem about a kind-hearted alligator that was sad because everyone thought it was mean.

Before you start writing your funny poem, see if you can come up with three or four different answers to the question “what’s funny about that?” Write down each of your ideas and then pick the one that you think is the funniest.

In each of the following sections, I will show you different techniques you can use to create funny ideas.


One common technique for making poems funny is to exaggerate. Exaggeration means taking a characteristic of your subject and making it bigger or more extreme than normal. A bicycle that can go a thousand miles an hour; a teacher that assigns a hundred hours of homework every day; cafeteria food that tastes worse than sewage; a dog is so smart he can speak five languages; these are all examples of exaggeration.

The children’s poet Jack Prelutsky wrote a book of poetry entitled A Pizza the Size of the Sun. Jack Prelutsky is widely known for his use of exaggeration, and this book title is just one example. A real pizza usually has to be small enough to fit on a table or inside a pizza box. Saying that the pizza is much larger than normal is one way of exaggerating about it. Saying that the pizza is as large as the sun is an extreme exaggeration.

So how can you use exaggeration to make your poems funny? First, write down as many characteristics of your subject as you can. Then for each characteristic on your list, write down different ways to exaggerate it.

Here is an example. Let’s say that we are going to write a poem about playing basketball. You could exaggerate by saying that all the players on the other team were twelve feet tall. You could claim to be the best (or worst) basketball player on the planet (or in the entire universe, for that matter). Your could say that the game was so long, it took three years to finish. And so on. Each of these exaggerates one feature of the game.

Let’s try another example. Let’s say you want to write a poem about bubble gum. You could write about blowing a bubble bigger than the state of Nebraska. You could write about getting the world’s stickiest bubble gum stuck to your shoe; stickier than Krazy Glue, goopier than honey, and so on. Each of these ideas takes one characteristic of bubble gum and exaggerates it.

As you can see, exaggeration is an easy way to take any topic and make it funny.


Another way to make something funny is to give it characteristics that are the opposite of what you would expect such as:

  • a tiny elephant or a giant hummingbird
  • a fast turtle or a slow race car
  • a friendly monster or a mean kitten
  • a stinky rose or a sweet smelling skunk

To find a funny opposite, first choose an idea to write about. Let’s say you decide to write a poem about an alarm clock. What do you know about alarm clocks? One thing is that they tell you what time it is, and the other thing is that they are usually very loud. The opposites of these would be an alarm clock that always told the wrong time, or an alarm clock that was so quiet, nobody could hear it.

Or maybe you would like to write a poem about an alien from outer space. People usually think of aliens as “little green men” with antennae on their heads, and maybe with three eyes, four hands, and so on. The opposite of this might be to write about an alien that looked exactly like a human being, with two eyes, one head, two hands, etc. For example, you might write about a UFO that landed in your back yard, and the aliens that came out looked exactly like your sister, or your teacher, or the President of the United States.

Using opposites in this way can make it easy for you to come up with funny ideas for poems.

Unusual Places

Setting your poem in an unusual place is sort of like using opposites. But instead of finding the opposite of a characteristic, you simply place your idea in a place where no one would expect it.

For example, you would not expect to go fishing, or surfing or swimming somewhere where there is no water, such as in the middle of the street or the Sahara desert. If you were writing a poem about fishing, you could make it funny by setting it in one of these places.

Here are some other examples:

  • a bald eagle in a barber shop
  • a cowboy in a ballet
  • a snowman in the desert
  • a fish in an airplane
  • a plate of spinach in a candy shop
  • playing tennis in a swimming pool

Whatever your idea – whether you are going to write about baseball game, a polar bear, your favorite food, or just about anything else – try putting it in an unusual place and you may have the beginning of a very funny poem.

Using Funny Words

I think some words are just funny all by themselves. In the notebook where I jot down my poem ideas, I also keep a list of words that strike me as funny. Sometimes I will write an entire poem just so I can use a single word like “blubbery” or “succotash” or “flapdoodle” or “snorkel.”

While you can’t always write whole poems around a single funny word like this, you can often choose to use a funny word instead of plain one. For example, if you are writing about someone walking down the street, it is funnier to say they “waddled” down the street or “stumbled” down the street than to say they “walked” down the street. If you are writing about someone crying, it might be funnier to say they are “blubbering” than to say they were “crying.”

Using funny words may not be the main thing that makes your poem funny, but it can make the difference between a so-so poem and a really funny poem, because funny words can keep the reader smiling or giggling throughout the poem until you get to the punch line at the end.

So, whenever you have a choice to use one of several words to describe something, ask yourself which word sounds the funniest and try to use that one rather than the plainer words.

Are We Having Pun Yet?

Many jokes and riddles involves a special type of word play called a “pun”. There are actually several different types of puns, but they all contain a word that has two different meanings. For example:

Q: What kind of knots do you tie in outer space?
A: Astronauts.

Q: Where do fish keep their money?
A: In a river bank.

As you can see in each of these riddles, one of the words has more than one meaning. “Astronauts” has the sound of the word “knots” in it, and a bank is both a place to keep your money and the side of a river.

Puns can be used at the end of a poem for your “punch line,” or they can be used throughout the poem, as in this example:

The Hungry Little Giant

“I’m hungry! I could swallow Wales!”
the little giant cried.
“Tonight we’re having Chile, dear,”
the giant’s mother sighed.
“Can I please have Samoa, Mom?”
the little giant asked her.
“Just don’t forget dessert,” she said.
“We’re having Baked Alaska.”
“Tomorrow we’ll eat Turkey,
there is truly nothing finer.
We’ll cook it in the oven and
we’ll serve it up on China.”

There are actually five different types of puns, and you can use any of these in your poems:

  1. A word that has two different meanings, such as the word “bank” in the riddle above.
  2. A word that sounds exactly like a word with a different meaning, such as “ate” and “eight.”
  3. A word that sounds similar to a word with a different meaning, such as “waiting” and “wading” or “fun” and “pun.”
  4. Words that are combined or “melded” to form a new word such as “rhinocerusted,” “hippopotamustard,” or “pelicannot.”
  5. A special type of pun called a “spoonerism,” in which parts of words are swapped, such as “bad salad” and “sad ballad.”

You don’t need to learn all of these, but it’s nice to know they are available to use. The more techniques you know for writing funny poems, the easier it will become.

One or More of the Above

To make a poem as funny as possible, try using a combination of the above. For example, try writing a poem with a surprise ending, funny words, a play on words, and opposites, exaggeration or an unusual setting. For example, the following poem, The Cow Town Ballet has a surprise ending, a play on words, and an unusual setting (cows in the ballet).

The Cow Town Ballet

This here is the story of Jed Beaudelay,
who once was the head of the Cow Town Ballet,
the greatest of all of the old western sights,
for Jed would take milk cows and dress them in tights.

In tutus and slippers his cows would sashay,
they’d spin pirouettes, they’d glissade and plié.
And cowpokes from Boston to Monterey Bay
would journey to Cow Town to see the ballet.

And every night how his cattle would dance!
They’d act out a musical cattle romance,
with skill and precision, with grace and with flair,
they’d glide ‘cross the stage and they’d leap through the air.

And when it was over the cowpokes would cheer
and even the manliest men shed a tear
for nowhere on Earth but the Cow Town Ballet
had anyone ever seen cattle sashay.

Old Jed Beaudelay would still run the ballet,
if not for the fact that when cattle sashay,
and all of their tutus are flapping around
their costumes make sort of a shuffling sound.

And some no-good cowpoke, on hearing that sound,
grew rather unhappy; he stopped and he frowned,
then ran to the sheriff, deciding to tattle,
so Jed was arrested for rustling cattle.

So you see, there are lots of different techniques you can use for making your poems funny. In addition to these special techniques for making any poem funny, there are a few special types of poems, such the funny “list poem,” that you can write. In Chapter 5 I will show you how to write some of the more common types of funny poems, including “list poems,” “opposite poems,” and “repetition poems.”

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write Funny Poetry – Chapter 3 – Choosing a Topic

The “topic” is the thing you write your poem about. Choosing a topic, means deciding what you are going to write about. Selecting a topic can be the easiest or the hardest part of writing a funny poem. If you let yourself, you can spend hours or even days trying to come up with just the right idea for your funny poem. However, if every time you start to get an idea, you tell yourself it’s not a good idea, or not funny enough, or that you should be able to come up with a better idea, you will never start writing.

Instead, if you force yourself, each time you sit down to write, to use the first idea that comes to mind, you will end up writing a lot more poetry, much of which will be better than you ever expected.

Also, if every time you come up with an idea for a poem, you write it down without worrying about whether it is a good idea or a bad idea, you will soon find you have more ideas than you know what to do with, and many of them will make excellent poems.

Look Around You

But what if nothing comes to mind? Can you just pick an idea out of the air? Of course! Look around you. What do you see? If you are at home, you could write a funny poem about:

  • The toaster
  • The bathtub
  • Your mom
  • Your pet
  • Your sister’s or brother’s bedroom
  • Dinner
  • And so on…

If you are outside, you could write a funny poem about:

  • A car
  • Trees
  • A dog
  • Skateboarding
  • Baseball
  • And so on

If you are at school, you could write a funny poem about:

  • Your teacher
  • Homework
  • Your messy desk or locker
  • Cafeteria lunch
  • Recess
  • The principal
  • Excuses for missing school
  • And so on

Other Funny Poem Topics

In addition to poems about home, outdoors and school, there are lots of other subjects you can choose from. For example, you can write about birthdays or holidays, chores, animals, babies, family vacations, meals, sports, or just about anything else you can think of. You can write about aliens, monsters, robots, movies, toys, comic books, and so on. As you can see, the list of things to write about is nearly endless.

In addition to writing about things you know about, you can also write about things in your imagination. You could write about a town where everyone does everything backwards, eating dessert before dinner and lunch before breakfast, and waking up before they go to sleep. You could write about your own private kingdom where you were the ruler and everyone did exactly what you said. You could write about a land where all the dogs were orange and corn dogs grew on trees. And so on. If you can think of it in your imagination, you can write a poem about it.

Narrowing it Down

Let’s say you decide to write a funny poem about an animal. How do you pick an animal to write about? You could write about an animal you know, such as your pet dog, frog, fish, cat, etc. Or you could write about an animal you’ve seen in the zoo or read about in a book. I like to write about animals that have a funny characteristic. For example, skunks are fun to write about because they smell so bad, like a dirty old pair of gym socks. Kangaroos bounce as if they have springs in their legs and they have a pouch for carrying baby kangaroos and spare change. In fact, most animals have one or two unique characteristics that make them an easy subject for a funny poem.

In Chapter 4, I will show you how to use these funny characteristics to make your poem funny. But for now, let’s concentrate on how to choose a subject.

So let’s try it. First let’s pick an animal. Let’s say you would like to write a poem a bird. Should you write about:

  • A pelican?
  • A parrot?
  • A toucan?

You could write poems about any of these, so how can you pick one? All of these birds have special characteristics. For example, pelicans have extremely large beaks, many parrots can talk, and toucans have long, colorful beaks.

If you think of several different topics, how to you choose which one you should write about? One easy way is to pick the first thing you think of. So if the first bird you thought of was a pelican, write a poem about an pelican. When you finish that one, then you can write a poem about the second one you thought of, and the third one.

So you see, choosing a topic for a poem is easier than you thought! If you feel like you are having trouble choosing a topic, just decide to write about the first thing you think of. Then sit down and write. I often find that while writing a poem I come up with more ideas for other poems. You may find that this happens to you. You may start writing about the first idea that comes to you, but find yourself coming up with new and sometimes even better ideas while you are writing.

Once you’ve decided what to write about, now it’s time to learn how to make it funny. In Chapter 4 I will show you how to do exactly that.

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write Funny Poetry – Chapter 2 – How to Rhyme

A rhyme is when two words end with the same sound. For example, moon rhymes with spoon because they both end with an oon sound. Wizard rhymes with lizard because they both end with an izard sound. In this chapter, I will show you how to find words that rhyme and what to do when you can’t find a good rhyme.

Finding Rhymes

An easy way to find rhymes is in your head. First figure out what sound a word ends with. If the word is cat, the sound it ends with is “at”. Once you know what sound a word ends with, try adding new beginnings to the word. For example, how many words can you think of at end with the sound “at”?

Try thinking of every letter in the alphabet, and adding “at” to it. You will come up with a list that includes batdatfatgathatjat, and so on. Some of these aren’t real words (such as “dat”, “gat” and “jat”), but many of them are, including “fat”, “hat,” and “mat.”

Another way to find words that rhyme is with a rhyming dictionary, as I mentioned in Chapter 1. In your rhyming dictionary, you would look up “at”, and it would give you a complete list of all words that end with the “at” sound.

Does it Sound the Same?

When you select a rhyme, be careful to make sure that the words sound the same. For example, if you wanted to rhyme the word rocket, you might rhyme it with pocket or socket, because these sound the same. On the other hand, you might think that it rhymes with chocolate. But notice that they don’t end with the same sound. Rocket sounds like “rock it”, but chocolate sounds like “chock lit”. As you can see, these don’t end with exactly the same sound, so they don’t rhyme.

Words that almost sound the same are sometimes known as “slant rhymes”. I will talk about this more in Chapter 8. For now, though, always try to make sure your rhyming words end in exactly the same sound. If you are not sure if two words rhyme, think about the last sound of each word and ask yourself if they sound exactly the same. If they do, then the words rhyme. If the last sound is close, but even just a little different, the words do not rhyme.

Which Words Should You Rhyme?

In rhyming poems, you usually only need to rhyme the last word of each line. In other words, you don’t need to make as many rhymes as possible. Don’t write the fat cat with thehat sat with the bat on the mat and that was that. Instead try rhyming just the last word of each line, like this:

My family has a cat.
He’s really, really fat.
He sat on daddy’s hat.
Now daddy’s hat is flat.

In fact, you don’t even have to rhyme the last word of every line. The easiest way to write a rhyming poem is to rhyme the last word of every other line, like this:

Hercules avoided
baths and showers all week long.
Though it left him awfully dirty,
no one ever smelled so strong!

In the poem above, only the words long and strong are rhymed. So if you can think up just a few words that rhyme, you can write your own rhyming poetry.

There are other ways to rhyme besides the ones I’ve shown so far. We will get to each of these later in the book, in Chapter 8. But you don’t need to know advanced rhyming to write funny poems. As long as you can tell if two words sound the same, you can make up rhymes and you can write your own rhyming funny poems.

Finish This Poem

Now it’s time to make up some rhymes of your own. I will give you several verses and your job will be to finish the poem by writing the last line and making sure it rhymes with the second line.

Let’s start with an example. Look at this poem:

Whenever I play baseball
I hit a foul ball.
I think that maybe I should…

To finish this poem, first think of as many words as you can that rhyme with ball, because ball is the last word of the second line. I can think of allcallmall, and several others. So here are some different ways to end this poem:

I think that maybe I should
never play this game at all.

I think that maybe I should
give the Yankees’ coach a call.

I think that maybe I should
just go shopping at the mall.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Try to complete each of the following verses by finding the words that rhyme with the last word of the second line. In the first poem, you’ll want to think of as many words as you can that rhyme with “ants”.

Our picnic was ruined
by too many ants.
At least I am grateful…

My brother’s a genius,
as smart as they come.
Without his computer though…

Tomorrow we’re having a test
at the beginning of class.
I didn’t remember to study…

I dreamed I was riding a zebra
with curly pink hair on his head.
And when I woke up in the morning…

If I had a dollar
I know what I’d do.
I’d go the mall and…

All done? How did you do? Were you able to think of an ending for each poem? Did you think of more than one ending for any of the poems? Congratulations! You have just finished your first five poems!

What If You Can’t Find a Word that Rhymes?

Sometimes you will be in the middle of writing a poem and you’ll find that you can’t think of a rhyme. What should you do? For example, imagine, one day you are writing a poem and you start writing:

Roses are red.
Violets are purple.

Now you are scratching your head trying to think of a word that rhymes with “purple”, but you can’t find one because there isn’t one. Nothing rhymes with “purple”! What should you do? One thing you can do is choose a different color. For example, you could change it to “violets are blue”, because lots of words rhyme with “blue”. So, even though violets are really purple and not blue, you might say this instead:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.

In other words, if you write a line but then can’t find a word to complete your rhyme, try changing the last word to something that’s easier to rhyme. “Purple” is impossible to rhyme, but “blue” is easy to rhyme.

Another way to solve this problem is to completely change the line to something else. Here are several poems where I changed the second line to something completely different to make it easier to rhyme the last line.

Roses are red.
I’m sure that they’re blushing.
But soon as they’re dead,
they’re just good for flushing.

Roses are red,
but sometimes they’re yellow,
and some people give you them
just to say “hello”.

Roses are red.
Carnations are pink.
They frequently smell good
but sometimes they stink.

So you see, if you can’t think of a good rhyme, don’t let that stop you. Instead of giving up because you can’t find a rhyme, just change the word you are trying to rhyme, or change the entire line until you come up with something that is easier to rhyme.

Now You Know How to Rhyme

Knowing how and when to rhyme is the most important skill you need when it comes to writing funny poems. Now that you know how to find words that rhyme, and you know when to rhyme them, you are well on your way to becoming a poet.

So far you have completed a few poems that I started for you, but you haven’t written any poems of your own yet. Before you can write a poem, you have to decide what to write about. In Chapter 3, Choosing a Topic, you will learn how to find ideas for your poems and how to get them started.

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write Funny Poetry – Chapter 1 – Writing Poetry

You Can Do It

I promise you, you can write wonderful, exciting, funny poetry that will amaze your parents and teachers, and have your friends falling down laughing. Everything you need, except for a pencil and a piece of paper, is in this book right here in your hands. I know you don’t believe me yet, but keep reading and I will show you lots of simple methods you can use to create your own original, hilarious poetry. You will soon find it is simpler than you thought and people are going to wonder how you got so talented.

Getting Started

Maybe you have thought about writing poetry, but don’t know how to get started. Or maybe you are already writing poetry, but want to learn how to make it better. Whatever your reasons for picking up this book, get ready to have some fun! Just by reading a few chapters in this book, you will be able to write funny, exciting poetry. By learning a few specific tricks and techniques, you will soon be amazed at your own poetic skill. Most importantly, you will have a lot of fun doing it.

But what if you fail? What if you find can’t write poetry? Or worse, what if you write a poem and someone tells you it isn’t any good? I swear to you, cross my heart, if you can read this book, you can write poetry. In fact, you will soon find that it is nearly impossible to fail. I say “nearly” because there is really only one way you can fail when it comes to writing poetry: to not write at all. If you have written a poem, you have succeeded, even if someone else tells you they don’t like it.

Let me give you an example. If you want to be a runner, you don’t run a four-minute mile the first time you try. Even if it takes you 20 minutes to run a mile the first time you try, you will have succeeded if you complete the goal you set for yourself. If someone tells you, “you’ll never be a runner because it took you 20 minutes to run a mile,” pay no attention. Just run another mile and another. Soon you’ll be running 15-minute miles, and 10-minute miles, and 8-minute miles, and faster.

Writing poetry works the same way. Each time you do it, you get a little bit better. If someone tells you “your poem isn’t any good,” pay no attention. Each poem you write makes you a better poet. If you write a new poem every day for a month, you will be a better poet at the end of the month than you were when you started.

TIP: You become a good poet by writing lots of poems. Each time you write a new poem, try to make it as good as you can and your skill will improve with each poem you write.

The reason that you become a better poet by writing poems is because, no matter what skill you want to learn, you always “learn by doing.” After you have written your first poem, you will know something that you did not know before, even if it is just that you can write poetry. After you have written your second or third poem, you will know even more, perhaps you will have learned something about rhyming or the rhythm of poetry. By the time you have written twenty or thirty poems, you will find it both easy and enjoyable.

At each step of the way, I will be here to guide you. I will be with you on each page of this book to show you how to make people laugh and enjoy your poetry. I will give you the tools and the knowledge you need to make your poems as good as they can be. Although this book contains a fair bit of “technical” information about poetry, I have tried my best to make it as easy to understand and fun to learn as possible. I have also included plenty of helpful tips, examples, and fun exercises to help you learn to write your own original funny poems. All you need to do is open this book to any chapter and start reading.

In this first chapter, I show you how to get started writing poetry and offer some general advice for the new poet.

What “Tools” Will You Need?

As with any hobbies or sports you might enjoy, writing poetry requires a bit of special equipment. Fortunately, it does not require any protective clothing such as helmets or knee pads, and is not generally considered to be dangerous. All you really need is a pencil and a piece of paper. Though a pencil and paper are the only things required, if you are serious about writing poetry, there are a couple more things you should have.

The Importance of a Notebook

The most important tool you should have as a poet is a small notebook, preferably one that fits in your pocket, that you can carry with you everywhere you go. You never know when an idea will come to you, and if you don’t write it down, it is likely you will forget it. By carrying a notebook with you at all times, you can write down your ideas immediately when they come to you so that you don’t forget them.

Some poets prefer to use a “journal,” which is like a book with blank pages that you can write whatever you want in. A journal is sort of like a diary, except that it doesn’t have pages for each day of the year. Instead, you can organize it any way you like. Personally, I prefer a pocket notebook because it is easier to carry. But you should use whichever feels more comfortable to you.

So go get yourself a small notebook or a journal and start writing down ideas. When you write down an idea, it doesn’t have to be an entire poem. An idea can be as simple as noticing a fun rhyme and writing it down to use it later. In my notebook, I often write down single words that I think are funny or interesting, such as “linoleum” or “Bermuda” because I like the way they sound and I think they might be useful in a poem later.

Don’t worry about neatness. Be as messy as you want and don’t worry about spelling or punctuation. The only thing that matters is that you capture ideas as them come to you by saving them in your notebook or journal.

You can also use your notebook to write entire poems, or to start poems that you can finish later. Sometimes I will write down a single line that I think might make a good first line of a poem, like “The fish in our aquarium are looking rather sad” or “The pumpkin and the ladybug were drifting on the sea.” Sometimes I may write a verse that I think of that is not a complete poem, such as “I think my brain is wearing out, from working much to hard, and now it’s just as useful as a bucketful of lard” or “Molly McDoon was a purple balloon, who floated all morning and all afternoon.” Someday I may take these “starters” and write entire poems from them.

TIP: A notebook you can carry with you all the time is your most important tool for writing poetry. Take it with you everywhere you go, and always try to remember to write your ideas down when they come to you.

Other “Tools of the Trade”

The serious (or not-so-serious) poet has several other tools in his or her arsenal in addition to pencil and paper. These include a rhyming dictionary, a standard dictionary and a thesaurus.

TIP: The only tools you really need to write poems are a pencil and paper, and your brain. But writing poetry can be even easier if you have a rhyming dictionary, a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Rhyming Dictionary

The most important of these is probably the rhyming dictionary. If you have never seen a rhyming dictionary, it is a book that lists the words that rhyme with end sounds of other words. For example, if you want to find a rhyme for “cat,” you would look up “at” in a rhyming dictionary, because “at” is the ending sound of the word “cat.” The rhyming dictionary would give you a list of words, including “at,” “bat,” “cat”, “fat,” and so on.

My personal favorite paperback rhyming dictionary is the Complete Rhyming Dictionary by Clement Wood. If you do not already own a rhyming dictionary, I recommend you consider adding a copy of this book to your library.

Although paperback rhyming dictionaries are handy when you are away from a computer, rhyming dictionary software is easier to use and far more useful. My favorite rhyming dictionary software is called Rhymesaurus, and you’ll find it here:

In addition, there are several online rhyming dictionaries. Here are a couple of the best:


In addition to a rhyming dictionary, you should also have a regular dictionary and a thesaurus. If you do not already have a dictionary, my personal favorite dictionary is the hardback “college edition” of Webster’s New World Dictionary, published by Simon and Schuster.

In my opinion, dictionaries are not all created equal. Some dictionaries are better than others in terms of word selection, clarity of definitions, and so on. If you don’t believe me, or if you just want to prove it to yourself, go to the library and get several dictionaries from the reference section. Now look up the same word in each dictionary and see how the definitions are organized and written. You may find you have a favorite as well. If this seems like too much trouble to you, just take my advice and get yourself a copy of the Webster’s New World Dictionary. Make sure it’s the hardback “college edition” and not the paperback version, which is a smaller, more concise edition.

Just as there are rhyming dictionaries on the Internet, there are also several standard dictionaries on the Internet. The easiest one to remember is “” at However, I usually use Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary at, as it is a more modern and more complete dictionary.


Finally, the last tool that every poet should have in his or her toolbox is a good thesaurus. A thesaurus is a “dictionary of synonyms and antonyms”, allowing you to easily find words that “mean the same thing” or the opposite of a given word. Often I use a thesaurus to help me find words to use in my poems. For example, in the following poem, I looked up the word “detective” in my thesaurus and came up with several synonyms, including “private eye”, “spy”, “Pinkerton”, “gumshoe” and “sleuth”.

My Dad’s a Secret Agent

My dad’s a secret agent.
He’s an undercover spy.
He’s the world’s best detective.
He’s the perfect private eye.

He’s a Pinkerton, a gumshoe,
he’s a snoop and he’s a sleuth.
He’s unrivaled at detecting
and uncovering the truth.

He’s got eyesight like an eagle.
He’s got hearing like a bat.
He can out-smell any bloodhound.
He’s as stealthy as a cat.

He can locate nearly anything
with elementary ease.
But no matter how he looks and looks
my dad can’t find his keys!

Using a thesaurus can help you improve your poems by choosing more appropriate words, or words that fit the structure of your poem better. They can also help by giving you new ideas that you wouldn’t think of otherwise. I often find my poems take on a new direction after I spend a little time “surfing” a thesaurus. As with the dictionary and rhyming dictionary, you can also find thesauri (the plural of thesaurus is thesauri) on the Internet. The easiest one to remember, and possibly the best one on the Internet, is Roget’s International Thesaurus at Merriam-Webster also has a thesaurus at, but I prefer

TIP: If you have a computer and Internet access, you don’t need to buy reference books such as a rhyming dictionary. All the references you need are available online!

Start Right Now!

People often ask me what I think is the hardest part of writing poetry. They usually think it is the rhyming, or the meter, or coming up with a clever idea, or some other technical aspect of poetry. However, in my opinion, the hardest part of writing poetry is not any of these things. Instead, I think the hardest part of writing poetry is sitting down and starting. I once heard Michael Crichton, the best-selling author, refer to this as “putting butt to chair”.

It is so much easier to go see what’s in the refrigerator, or find out what’s on TV, or play a game, or clean your room, or do your homework, or do just about anything besides sit down and write. But despite this fact, you will often find that, once you actually do sit down to write, that the writing is not has hard or as painful as you thought it might be.

Remember what I said earlier in the chapter: the only way you can fail at writing poetry is to not write at all. So remember every now and then to stop whatever you are doing and sit down and write. If you do this often enough, you will soon have a lot of poems and you will be a much better poet than you are today.

Wait Until You Are Done Writing to Edit

A very important job that all poets and other writers must learn is the job of re-writing, or “editing.” Editing is the task of making changes to your writing to improve it. Poems are almost never done when you first think they are done. I often “finish” a poem, only to find the next day that it can be improved by changing a word or a line, or even by removing a whole verse.

The trouble with editing is that you often want to do it while you are writing your first draft. It is tempting to spend time correcting spelling, searching for the perfect word, and so on. Unfortunately, if you stop to make corrections as you write, trying to make each line perfect as you write it, you will find it much harder to finish anything.

TIP: Editing while you write can slow you down. If you can’t find the right word or the perfect sentence, move on to the next verse and come back to the problem later when you will see it with “new eyes.”

On the other hand, if you force yourself to keep writing, even if something is not perfect; if you push yourself to move on rather than letting yourself get stuck, you will get a lot more written. Oftentimes a problem that seems insurmountable will be quite simple to fix when you look at it later. Some people have referred to this as seeing it “with new eyes.” By this, they mean that you have a fresh perspective on it when you’ve been away from it for a while.

If you watch a sculptor carve a statue from a block of stone or wood, you will see that they first carve out the rough form. Next, they come back and carve the detail. Finally, they come back and polish it.

When you write poetry, think of yourself as a sculptor of words. Don’t try to polish it before you finish the detail, and don’t try to finish the detail until you have carved out the rough form.

Save Your “Unfinished” Work

If you have trouble finishing a poem, don’t worry about it. Do your best, but if you run into difficulty, it may be best to set it aside and look at it later when you are fresh.

Many times I will write most of a poem, but leave a section of it, maybe just a line or two, unfinished because I run into a problem that I don’t know how to fix. I keep these unfinished poems because I know that I will usually be able to finish them later.

Sometimes, if I can’t think of the right word to put in a line, I will just write the words “blah blah.” Then, when I come back to edit the poem later, I’ll see those words and know that I have to replace them with a real word. Writing “blah blah,” when I can’t think of the right word to use, frees me up to keep going and work on the rest of the poem.

Don’t Worry About Spelling and Punctuation

Spelling and punctuation (commas, periods, semicolons, etc.) are important, but you should try not to worry about them as you are writing. Spelling and punctuation are part of the “polishing” stage of writing a poem. They aren’t really important until you are all done writing your poem.

After you feel you are completely done with your poem, that is the time to go back over it to check your spelling and punctuation, but you should not let spelling and punctuation slow you down as you write.

TIP: Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation until you are done writing a poem. Check the spelling and punctuation as part of a final “polishing,”

If you have a computer with a word processor, try typing your poem in and letting the computer check your spelling for you.

In Chapter 8, I discuss how to use punctuation in a poem to help you polish your poems. But until you feel you are ready to put these types of “finishing touches” on your poems, don’t even worry about it.

Don’t Criticize Yourself

Earlier in this chapter, I told you not to listen to people who criticize your poems. Now I am going to tell you something even more important: don’t criticize yourself.

If you tell yourself that your poetry is not any good, you will probably stop writing before you ever have a chance to improve. Remember, each poem you write is part of your journey to becoming a good poet.

TIP: Don’t criticize yourself or your poetry. Instead, congratulate yourself each time you complete a new poem!

Some of your poems will be better than others. Nobody can write all good poems. It is a fact of life that no one can write good poems without writing a few bad ones too. I should know; I have written my share of “stinkers.” So if you write a poem that you think is not very good, don’t let it worry you; just put it away and go write another poem.

You Don’t Have to Know How it Ends

You may find this surprising, but you don’t have to know how a poems ends before you start writing it. Quite often poems turn out to be about something other that what you expect when you start. Writing poetry is an “organic” process. That means that each poem you write grows and takes on a life of its own as you write it.

Trying to figure out how your poem will end before you start it can slow you down, or prevent you from writing altogether. My advice is don’t worry about it. If you think you have a good idea for a poem, but don’t know how it will end, just start writing. You will figure out the ending as you write.

Let me give you an example. One day I decided to write a love poem about Valentine’s Day. It was going to be about kids exchanging valentines in class and about the embarrassment of giving a big valentine to someone you really like. However, as I was writing it I was thinking about movie monsters like Godzilla and the Wolfman, and I ended up writing the following poem:

Will You?

Will you be my Valentine?
Will you marry me in June?
Will you lock me in the basement
when there is a bright, full moon?

Will you bring me lots of roses?
Will you bring me chocolate sweets?
Once a month when I get hairy,
will you feed me doggy treats?

Will you treat me with devotion?
Will you bless me when I sneeze?
Will you dust my back with powder
just in case I’ve gotten fleas?

Will you be my darling angel?
Will you be my dream divine?
That’s exactly what the Wolfman
said to Lady Frankenstein.

As you can see, poems can change a lot as you write them. So don’t worry if you don’t know what your poem is about when you start it. You may find that you discover what the poem is about when it is halfway written, or even when it is nearly complete.

At the same time, be open to letting your poem change and grow as you write it. It’s okay to change your mind while you are writing. In fact, a lot of the time it is unavoidable because you will get lots of new ideas as you write, and some of those new ideas may be very different from the ideas you started with.

Different Types of Poetry

A friend of mine once said, “There are two types of people in the world; those who divide people into two types and those who don’t.” Similarly, although there are many different types of poetry, they are usually divided into just two groups: structured poetry and “free verse.” Structured poetry can follow one of the traditional poetic forms such as a “limerick” or a “clerihew,” as shown in chapters 5 and 6, or it can be a rhyming poem with or without meter. Free verse, on the other hand, usually has no rhymes and no set meter.

TIP: Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with poetic terms such as “clerihew” or “meter,” You can look them up in the Glossary at the end of the book, or you can read more about them in later chapters.


“Rhyme-and-meter” poetry is poetry that has rhyming lines, and meter or rhythm. Usually the rhymes are at the end of each line, or every other line. “Meter” usually means that every line or every couplet (a couplet is a pair of lines) has the same rhythm; the same number of syllables and the same pattern of emphasis. I talk about meter in detail in Chapter 7, so don’t worry too much about it right now, except to realize that when I say “meter,” I mean that the poem has a rhythm to it.

Rhyming Poetry Without Meter

Just because a poem rhymes, does not necessarily mean that it has to have meter. Rhyming poetry usually has meter as well, but this is not a requirement. In general, I recommend that rhyming poetry should either have a very strict meter, or an extremely loose, exaggerated lack of meter. Take a look at the following example:

Mary had a little lamb
she fitted with a saddle.
Mary rode it every time
that she was herding cattle.

This poem has four lines. Notice that the second line and the last line rhyme, and that they have exactly the same rhythm or meter. Also, the first line and the third line have the same meter. Now look at this example of rhyme without meter.

I wanted to write a rhyming poem,
But everyone said it had to have the same number of syllables in each line and a consistent pattern of emphasis and I disagreed, so instead I wrote this one just to show ’em!

In this poem, the lack of meter is very obvious and exaggerated. The reason for this is to let the reader know that your lack of meter is intentional. If you write a rhyming poem without meter, but without making it obvious that the lack of meter is intentional, the reader may just think that you don’t know what you are doing.

Good, consistent meter in rhyme-and-meter poetry is an indication of a talented and experienced poet. When you are just getting started, don’t worry too much about meter. As you write more and more poetry, you will find that you begin to recognize meter. When you get to the chapter in this book on meter, you will learn and you can start incorporating it into your own poems.

Free Verse

Free verse is poetry that does not necessarily have rhymes or meter. In free verse, your lines can be as long as you want, they don’t have to rhyme, and they don’t have to follow any type of pattern. Here is one example of free verse.

First Horseback ride
I never rode a horse before,
until that sweltering August day
riding through
the New England woods
the horse was
and I was helping
trying hard to
That was when I discovered
how reins are not
like steering wheels,
for no matter which way
I turned or pulled
she would only go
to the barn.

As you can see, the above poem has no rhyme, no rhythmical pattern, no fixed number of lines, and so on. In short, it has no structure at all. This is what makes it “free” verse. And this is what makes it so much fun to write.

Free verse is wonderful because there are no constraints on what you can or cannot do. There are no rules to follow so you can’t possibly do anything wrong.

In free verse, you are free to tell a story, play with words, express your feelings, or do whatever you like to create something interesting and new.

Humorous Poetry

In Chapter 4, I discuss specific techniques for making a poem funny. Before we get there let me say that, in general, most funny poetry has rhyme and meter. Although there is some funny free verse, it is easier to make a poem funny if it has rhyme and meter. One reason for this is that rhyme and meter can make a poem feel more lighthearted. Take a look at the following example.

I had a love,
her name was Jill,
I met her in December.
I loved her more
than anybody
else I can remember.

Although the subject is serious, the rhyme and meter make it feel less so. The light, bouncy rhythm of this poem is in contrast to the serious subject. This makes it easy to follow this first serious verse with a second one that is less serious:

When we broke up
I then met Joan
while strolling through the dog pound.
We played a lot
of basketball
since we met “on the rebound.”

As you can see, the playful nature of rhyme-and-meter poetry makes it a natural fit for humor. A poem does not have to rhyme in order to be funny. It is just easier to make poems funny when they rhyme. It is more difficult, though not impossible, to write funny poetry in free verse. For this reason, and the fact that this book is entitled How to Write Funny Poetry, this book focuses mainly on rhyme-and-meter poetry.

Ready, Set, Go!

Here you are at the end of Chapter 1. Believe it or not, you already know a lot more about poetry than you did at the beginning of this chapter. You know what tools you need to write poetry (pencil and paper), what special books can help you (dictionary, thesaurus and rhyming dictionary), the two main types of poetry (structured poetry and free verse), and how to avoid the most common pitfalls that most poets face.

Armed with this information, you are ready to start writing. So let’s move on to Chapter 2, where you will learn how to rhyme, and you will even write a few poems of you own!

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write an Exaggeration Poem

Exaggeration means claiming something is greater than it really is. For example, if you said “my cat is as big as a house” or “I can run faster than the speed of light,” you would be exaggerating.

Exaggerating is a fun way to write imaginative poetry. When I exaggerate in a poem, I like to pick one characteristic of the thing I am writing about, and exaggerate it as wildly as I can. For example, my poem “The Biggest Burp Ever” is about a burp that is so huge it knocks over buildings, makes rivers run backward, and even widens the Grand Canyon. The crazier your exaggerations, the more exciting the poem is.

Let me give you an example, let’s say you want to write a poem about food. The first thing you need to do is pick a type of food to write about. You might decide to write about something delicious or something disgusting. You might decide to write about a cold food, a sticky food, a spicy food, etc. Let’s pick one and see what we can come up with.

Let’s say we want to write a poem about a spicy food. But let’s exaggerate and make it the world’s spiciest food. What kind of food might that be? How about the world’s hottest hot pepper? What kinds of things would happen if you ate the world’s hottest hot pepper? Would you breathe flames? Would your hair ignite? Would you drink a lot of water? Perhaps an entire lake? What else would happen? Let’s start writing and find out.

I Ate a Spicy Pepper

I ate a spicy pepper
From my brother on a dare.
The pepper caught my head on fire
And burned off all my hair.

My mouth erupted lava
And my tongue began to melt.
My ears were shooting jets of steam.
At least that’s how they felt.

I ricocheted around the room.
I ran across the ceiling.
I dove right in the freezer
To relieve the burning feeling.

I drank a thousand soda pops
And chewed a ton of ice
To try to stop the scorching
Of that spicy pepper’s spice.

At last, the flames extinguished,
I admitted to my brother,
“That pepper was the best one yet.
May I please have another?”

Let’s pick another topic. Let’s say you want to write a poem about a computer. We could make it a slow computer or a fast computer. A large computer or a small computer, and so on. Why don’t we make it not just a fast computer, but the fastest, biggest, smartest computer in the world. How big would it be? How much memory would it have? What sorts of things would it be able to do? Here’s what I came up with.

New Computer

We have bought a new computer
that’s the fastest ever seen.
It has terabytes of mem’ry
and a forty-eight inch screen.

It has all the latest gizmos
and accessories galore.
It has every last peripheral
they carried at the store.

It has disk drives by the dozen
it has twenty-seven mice,
and it even has a microwave
included in the price.

It can teach you how to mambo.
It can play the violin.
It can calculate the distance
from Botswana to Berlin.

It can speak in seven languages
with scholarly finesse,
then defeat the world’s grandmasters
in a tournament of chess.

It can conjure anti-gravity,
or build a time machine.
Our computer is undoubtedly
the fastest ever seen.

When we went and bought it yesterday
we thought it pretty neat,
but today our new computer
is already obsolete.

So you see, to write your own exaggeration poem, you only need to do three things:

  1. Pick something to write about.
  2. Pick a feature or characteristic of the thing that you are writing about.
  3. Exaggerate that characteristic in every way you can think of, making a list as you go.
  4. Take your list of ideas and turn them into a poem.

Here are some more tips to help you get started:

  • When you write your exaggeration poem, it doesn’t have to rhyme, unless you want I to.
  • If you can’t think of a funny ending for your poem, try ending it with the same lines you used at the beginning of the poem.
  • If you have trouble thinking of something to write about, read Chapter 3 of How to Write Funny Poetry on this website for some ideas.

Good luck writing your own exaggeration poems!

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write a Clerihew

You’re going to love learning how to write clerihews. Why? Because clerihews are funny poems you write about specific people. That means when you learn to write a clerihew, you can instantly write funny poems about your parents, your teacher, your favorite movie star, your best friend, your pet, or anyone else you can think of. The clerihew was created by a poet named Edmund Clerihew Bentley (and named after himself!) when he was just 16 years old, proving you don’t have to be old to invent a new kind of poem.

Clerihews have just a few simple rules:

  1. They are four lines long.
  2. The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
  3. The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person.
  4. A clerihew should be funny.

That’s it! You don’t have to worry about counting syllables or words, and you don’t even have to worry about the rhythm of the poem.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say your art teacher was named Mr. Shaw, and you wanted to write a clerihew about him. You might start your clerihew like this:

Our art teacher, Mr. Shaw,
Really knows how to draw.

Notice that the first line ends with the name of the person the clerihew is about, Mr. Shaw. The second line ends with “draw” because it rhymes with “Shaw.”

To finish the clerihew, you need to write two more rhyming lines. In a well-written clerihew, those next two lines will make the poem funny, like this:

Our art teacher, Mr. Shaw,
Really knows how to draw.
But his awful paintings
Have caused many faintings.

You don’t have to limit yourself to writing clerihews about people you know. You can write clerihews about people you have never met. A clerihew will work best, though, if you write it about someone who is well known, or who at least is known to the people who will read it.

For example, if I wrote a clerihew about my aunt Norma, that might not mean anything to you. But it might work very well if I planned to share it only with my family. On the other hand, if I wrote a clerihew about a famous musician, it might be funny to many more people. Here is an example of a clerihew about some well-known singers:

The music of Katy Perry
Is kind of scary.
I heard it and sniffed,
“I much prefer Taylor Swift.”

And you don’t have to limit your clerihews to real people. You can even write clerihews about characters from books, movies, comics, cartoons, etc. Here’s an example of a clerihew about a character from a book:

The enemy of Harry Potter
Was a scheming plotter.
I can’t tell you what he’s called; I’d be ashamed
To name “he who must not be named.”

So you see, clerihews are short, easy to write and can be about any person or character, real or not. They can be about people you know, people you don’t know, or even about animals, cartoon characters, rock groups, or anyone else you can think of.

Just remember, put the person’s name at the end of the first line, rhyme it at the end of the second line, and then write two more rhyming lines that make it funny, and you’re done. Have fun!

Clerihew writing worksheet for kids

Click here to download a clerihew writing worksheet

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Rhyme

A video poetry-writing lesson

The first in a series of videos demonstrating different aspects of poetry writing for elementary students, this video shows what a rhyme is (and what is NOT a rhyme). It gives examples of different types of rhymes, and it demonstrates where to put rhyming words when writing a poem.