A poem a day kee kids at play, says p

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPOSTER - CHRISTINA BAR­RON

WHEN Kenn Nes­bitt was a kid, car rides didn’t in­clude a Nin­tendo 3DS and an iPad.

“I have two broth­ers, and we would fight a lot in the car,” said Nes­bitt, who’s 51. His dad learnt pretty quickly what would get their at­ten­tion, he said.

“He would just start recit­ing Casey at the Bat,” Nes­bitt said of the base­ball poem that was writ­ten 125 years ago.

That poem and many oth­ers fas­ci­nated Nes­bitt as a child, but he said he didn’t think that po­etry could be a ca­reer.

He is now the author of 11 po­etry col­lec­tions, and this week the Po­etry Foun­da­tion in Chicago named him chil­dren’s poet lau­re­ate.

“I never, never in­tended to be an author,” Nes­bitt said this week from Spokane, Wash­ing­ton, where he lives with his wife and two teenage chil­dren. “Even through col­lege, I hated writ­ing.”

Nes­bitt stud­ied com­puter science at univer­sity and worked as a soft­ware de­vel­oper.

But as an adult he dis­cov­ered the po­etry of Shel Sil­ver­stein, who wrote the pop­u­lar Where the Side­walk Ends.

Nes­bitt liked Sil­ver­stein’s work, but he said the in­spi­ra­tion to write his own po­etry came from a four-year-old.

He was out with friends and no­ticed how their lit­tle girl re­fused to eat her din­ner. Later that night, while lis­ten­ing to a Sil­ver­stein record­ing of Sarah Cyn­thia Sylvia Stout (Would Not Take the Garbage Out), he had an aha mo­ment.

“I thought, ‘I could write a poem about a girl who wouldn’t eat her din­ner’.”

got a pos­i­tive reaction from friends, so he wrote an­other and then an­other.

“Af­ter 50 or 60 po­ems, I thought, ‘ Gosh, I should send them to a pub­lisher,’” Nes­bitt said.

He soon had three po­ems pub­lished in an an­thol­ogy.

Nes­bitt’s first book of po­etry, The Aliens Have Landed, ap­peared in book­stores in 2001. Two years later he gave up soft­ware to write full-time.

Nes­bitt said he has a sim­ple goal in writ­ing po­etry for kids.

“I just want them to laugh,” he said. “I’m not try­ing to de­liver a mes­sage... I want to give them some­thing so funny that they can’t not read it.”

His themes are fa­mil­iar – school, games, pets and fam­ily – with a slightly wacky twist. A re­cent one called Xbox, Xbox is a love poem to a video game plat­form.

Nes­bitt posts many po­ems on his web­site, Poetry4kids.com. Vis­i­tors to the site can vote for their favourites. He said on­line rat­ings keep him hum­ble.

“If I read a poem to a bunch of kids, they’ll all tell me they like it,” he said. “But if I post it on the web­site, they’ll tell me what they re­ally think.”

In ad­di­tion to writ­ing, Nes­bitt vis­its US schools to talk to kids about po­etry. Next year he will in­clude stops in China, South Korea and Egypt.

As po­etry choos light o An “I w to con should read a be­fore Washi

SUR­PRISE END­ING: Kenn Nes­bitt says he never thought he would be a writer.

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