Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sooooo.. ok... really... blaaa

The title of this blog pretty much sums up nonsense poetry. There is not one answer for any of the work that is considered nonsense poetry. It is created to allow the audience to escape into their imagination which in my view is the best place to be. Hence why I am inspired by Michael Rosen. The poems which I have looked at are only a few of his poems which highlight the use of food. I attempted to make my own poem in his style and it really allowed me to understand at what stage his mind would have been in when he wrote those poems.

Food is not simply a physical object on a plate. As we grow older we begin to disregard the necessity of food and the importance of it. However, children, much like those within Michael Rosen's poems still see the ways in which it can be used. Whether it be by eating all the food in a manic state of gluttony, or whether it be that they throw it around and use it as a weapon, or even if they simply are questioning why adults rush their food and do not have patience, it seems that children notice the importance of food much more than the adults. Michael Rosen cleverly highlighted this at the same time as reinforcing the idea that the food is the physical metaphor for the lesson which should be taught as a child.

Food is not there to just be eaten and forgotten about. It is part of an experience. Children take this and explore it. As adults we need to remember those moments we got cake all over our face and custard all down our new shirt, because those moments reconnect us with our childhood. The fact food can do that suggests that it has to be of importance. Michael Rosen knew this and he represented it beautifully. Next time you see a food which holds a nostalgic memory, do not rush past it. Think about. Remember it. Enjoy it.


I didn't know what I wanted for lunch at work today. I spent my entire lunch break deciding on what I wanted and by the end of my thirty minute break I quickly ate a packet of crisps and gave up thinking of any other option. Michael Rosen's poem Say Please sprung to mind so thought I would share it with you!
I'll have a please sandwich cheese
No I mean a knees sandwich please
Sorry I mean a fleas sandwich please
No a please sandwich please
no  no -
I'll have a doughnut
Say Please
This poem is simple and sweet. In a matter of six lines, Michael Rosen explores the excitement for this sandwich. So much excitement that the narrator cannot even ask for the correct sandwich which he wants. However, as excited as the narrator is, a doughnut quickly becomes a feasible replacement. Seems that the doughnut is what the narrator craved all along. Laziness is a huge part of food consumption. Michael Rosen depicts this very quickly and cleverly. Interlinking impatience whilst highlighting that impatience can originate from the fact that we never wanted that first option in the first place.
Maybe I always wanted that packet of crisps. Sounds quite feasible!
Works Cited: Rosen, M. and Blake, Q. 1996. Don't put mustard in the custard. London: Scholastic.

Don't Put Mustard in The Custard

Above is Michael Rosen reading Don't Put Mustard in the Custard
Here is the link

This poem tells the story of a father telling his son what not to do. The words say one thing, however Quentin Blake's illustrations depict the complete opposite. This is not only nonsense poetry, it is also subversive. The words are representing something different to the visual imagery which would suggest that even though the words are what should be followed, the pictures tell us that the child is going to ignore the demands just like the child in the poem. The "don'ts" that are being put in place are all very comical. The title, "don't put mustard in the custard" seems like an obvious thing as an adult, however Michael Rosen again has cleverly defined the line between childhood and adulthood as it seems that children have no realisation between what is right and wrong.

The last stanza of the poem says,
"Don't throw fruit at the computer
don't throw fruit at the computer.
Don't what?
Don't throw fruit at the computer.
Don't what?
Don't throw fruit at the computer.
Who do you think I am?
Some kind of fool?"

This final part of the poem highlights that whilst children behave as if they have no concept between what is right or wrong, they do in fact understand what is precious to them. Whilst children are innocent and easily influenced, they are also very stubborn and to an extent selfish in comparison to an adult. This is simply due to the fact that as suggested they have no concept of certain things. The food has no relevance when the young boy is being told to not put toffee in the coffee or to not pour gravy on the baby however, when the computer becomes part of the situation he considers that as more important than the food.
The moral figure in this poem is most simply the food itself. It has no importance throughout the poem, until it becomes aligned with something which is more important to the child. Only then does the child understand the importance of what his father is saying to him.

Works Cited: Rosen, M. and Blake, Q. 1996. Don't put mustard in the custard. London: Scholastic.

Hot Food

Above is Michael Rosen reading Hot Food on YouTube
Here is the link

This poem tells the story of a family at the table eating their dinner. We laugh as each person at the table blows their potato before popping it in their mouth. However, when their dad just shoves the potato into his mouth and starts flapping about, the poem becomes comical. Again this poem is showing the way in which children look at their elders in confusion. Parents are meant to be the people which guide their children through their childhood preparing them for adult life, giving them the tools to prosper in all areas. However their dad is completely disregarding the conventional parenting skills and behaving much like a child. The physical representation of the moral foundation in this poem is their father as the child points out how ridiculous he looks as he eats the hot potato. I find this poem quite close to home as many times me, my sister and my mum have witnessed my dad eat something that is too hot and then complain!
Maybe it is a dad thing!
Either way, Michael Rosen cleverly draws upon moments within childhood in relation to food which depict a child's view on life which I believe we can all relate with.

"I was trying to be healthy"

December 2013 I moved into my own flat. It was a huge move and living on my own was a big change for me. The idea of food shopping seemed quite surreal. My friend Bianca and I went to the local Asda near my flat in Kingston and did some intense bargain shopping. I decided to create my own nonsense poem on my experience of living on my own and learning to deal with groceries and keeping up with my own meals. I wrote it in the style of Michael Rosen aiming it at an audience of young children just like him. I wanted to ensure that I had a moral foundation behind my poem just like Michael Rosen so I decided that learning to live on your own and understanding when not to be tempted was a perfect lesson to be learnt.

So here goes...

I wanted to make my flat super original and girly,
The shabby chic look I saw in the magazines.
So, I went to a home furniture store in Kingston.
Surrounded by little trinkets, I filled my basket up with candles and bowls.
I saw this beautiful glass deep bowl.
PERFECT I screamed in my head.
Ooooooh I know what I would use with that.
I could display all my healthy foods I had bought.
Just like Snow White, I can have the shiny red apples with the bananas draped over the sides.
went to the till and paid my £8. It was on sale by the way.
I am an amazing bargain hunter.
So there we go. On the bus, staring at my bowl.
Jittering and overly excited to get home and fill it up with all my fruit.
Rush through my front door and unload my shopping.
Placing the bowl neatly in the centre of the table I stare at my creation. LUSH

1 week later. I haven't eaten any of the fruit. Just still staring at its' beauty.
But what is that smell?
Smells like an old flip flop which had been marinated in out of date mustard and left in fish water overnight.
Ewwwwweeeeeee that pongs!!
Right, time to diagnose the situation.
Picking out the fruit. It's green and mouldy!!
Ahhhhh nooo. All that beauty has been ruined.
What a waste of money on fruit!
Dammit, "I was trying to be healthy".
Never mind.
Right, fill it up with water, soak, rinse, scrub, rinse, dry. Place back on the table.
Now what do I fill it up with??
Those sweets my mum put in my Christmas stocking.
Mmmm, yummy!
Haribo's, Chewits, Lollies, Toffee.
Now that's what I am talking about.
So it's filled up.
They won't go mouldy and green! I am so clever ahaha

But the sweets are just staring at me.
The Harbio's are calling my name.
Paige, EAT ME!
Like Alice and Wonderland when the label tells her what to do. The sweets wanted me to do the same.
I gave in.
I grabbed the bowl. Sat on the sofa.
Carefully unwrapping them all.
Scoffing them in my mouth.
"Arghhhh uhhh pheets areee ickingg ma eeff ugevaaa"
I couldn't speak.
The sweets were sticking my teeth together, I couldn't prise open my mouth.
After a few moments, my mouth released.
And breathe.
The sweets are all gone.
Dammit. "I was trying to be healthy!"

I took inspiration from this poem mainly from The Chocolate Cake. I wanted to explore the idea of greed and not evaluating the consequences of your actions. The entire idea of the bowl was to fill it up with something healthy. However, it was used for the exact opposite. Human instinct of temptation was displayed through the use of the rotten fruit and the sweets. I used the line "I was trying to be healthy" on both occasions to demonstrate that the thought track of Paige, myself, was not really to be healthy, it was too look good. That is why she was so easily tempted. Children are easily tempted into certain things, especially in regards to food due to their innocence and naivety and just like Michael Rosen I used the bowl as the metaphorical representation of the moral significance behind the food.

Chocolate Cake


Above is Michael Rosen performing his poem on YouTube.

When I was younger this poem stuck in my mind for a long time. My mum and I used to buy a  huge slab of chocolate cake in one of those silver trays and sit and indulge in front of the television. It felt like we were living the poem. Filling ourselves with cake until it hurt, the idea of gluttony is highlighted throughout this poem.
"I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
I loved it even more.

Sometimes we used to have it for tea
and Mum used to say,
'If there's any left over
you can have it to take to school
tomorrow to have at playtime.'
And the next day I would take it to school
wrapped up in tin foil
open it up at playtime
and sit in the corner of the playground
eating it,
you know how the icing on top
is all shiny and it cracks as you
bite into it,
and there's that other kind of icing in
the middle
and it sticks to your hands and you
can lick your fingers
and lick your lips
oh it's lovely.

Looking at the first part of this poem, we can see that the descriptive words used by the narrator is the young boy as an older male. The idea of a memory is
prevalent within all of us. I have always said, "mum do you remember when we did so and so" or " wow that was so amazing". The past is either a happy moment or a sad moment, but Michael wanted to ensure that the words he used only created good memories for this man who was once a young boy obsessed with chocolate cake.
I recall this feeling myself. I remember when I had an obsession with cheese slices for burgers. I believe I ate four packets in one day, with fifteen in each packet. I have never eaten one since due to the fact that all I remember from it is this sick feeling that overwhelmed me and to be honest, puts me off them. Dad used to call it, "cheese slice time". That has stuck with us for a long time.
into the kitchen
open the cupboard
and there it is
all shining.

So I take it out of the cupboard
put it on the table
and I see that
there's a few crumbs lying about on the plate,
so I lick my finger and run my finger all over the crumbs
scooping them up
and put them into my mouth.


I look again
and on one side where it's been cut,
it's all crumbly.

So I take a knife
I think I'll just tidy that up a bit,
cut off the crumbly bits
scoop them all up
and into the mouth

oooooommm mmmm

Look at the cake again.

That looks a bit funny now,
one side doesn't match the other
I'll just even it up a bit, eh?

Take the knife
and slice.
This time the knife makes a little cracky noise
as it goes through that hard icing on top.

A whole slice this time"

In this this part of the poem we witness the young boy sneaking downstairs, even after he has been forbidden to sneak some of the chocolate cake. Again, Michael is highlighting the normal yet possibly exaggerated traits of a child, as he wakes up in the middle of the night due to the memories of the chocolate he had tasted earlier that day. Nevertheless, it supports my theory that Michael's words were not simply to be read and laughed at as simple nonsense poetry. There is a lesson behind it. Just because we want something does not mean we can always have it.
Food is consumed on a daily basis all over the world. But do we appreciate it? Do we understand where it comes from? Do we understand the meaning of where it came from and how it got onto our plates? Most often the answer to that is no. We are too consumed by our needs and wants to take the time to question these things. Michael wanted the young boy to realise that there was a reason his mother wanted to keep it safe in the fridge but his need for chocolate overwhelmed him and this impaired his judgement.

"Oh no
they're bound to notice, aren't they,
a whole chocolate cake doesn't just disappear
does it?

What shall 1 do?

I know. I'll wash the plate up,
and the knife

and put them away and maybe no one
will notice, eh?"

The fact that the young boy believed that washing the plate and the knife would eradicate what he did suggests that he is not thinking straight. He is clearly still in ecstasy after eating the chocolate cake. Even by the end of the poem when he remarks that "Maybe she'll forget about it by next week", highlights the idea that as a child he is not thinking about the consequences of his actions. This is something which is prominent in children and especially in Children's Literature. Supporting my idea that there are morals behind the food in Michael Rosen's poetry, I believe that the chocolate cake is the physical metaphor for a child's judgement. Not particularly understanding the difference between what is right and wrong and more so what the consequences are of their actions. It seems that Michael Rosen wanted to teach children not to just go full steam ahead like a dog with a bone and should listen when they are told to do something.

Works Cited:

Michael Rosen...

Michael Wayne Rosen was born in Harrow, London, Britain on 7th May 1946 into a Jewish family. Son to Harold (1919 – 2008) and Connie, we can see where Rosen gained his writing talent. Harold became a secondary school teacher soon after working for the Institute of Education as professor of English. Connie was a primary school teacher for a short time before she ventured into lecturing and broadcasting for the BBC. Whilst on the BBC, Connie initiated the idea of creating a programme featuring poetry using Michael Rosen's material. Rosen’s writing was becoming more popular than he ever imagined.
Rosen spoke these words in 2008 in The Sunday Times, “I went to [Middlesex Hospital] Medical School, started on the first part of a medical training, jacked it in and went on to do a degree in English at Oxford University. I then worked for the BBC until they chucked me out and I have been a freelance writer, broadcaster, lecturer, performer ever since – that's to say since 1972. Most of my books have been for children, but that's not how I started out. ... Sometime around the age of twelve and thirteen I began to get a sense that I liked writing, liked trying out different kinds of writing, I tried writing satirical poems about people I knew” [1].
Rosen is now a highly regarded children’s novelist and poet with over 140 novels and poetry books. Being awarded the British Children’s Laureate in June 2007, Rosen’s career only grew as a result. In 1947 Rosen published his first poetry text, Mind Your Own Business. Soon after came, Wouldn’t You Like To Know, Quick Let’s Get Out of Here and You Tell Me.

Attaining an MA in Children’s Literature from the University of Reading in 1993, establishing himself as not only a writer but as highly intellectual man with ideas which others found hard to understand. Whilst the writing was phenomenal, we cannot forget the outstanding illustrations which went alongside his work. Quentin Blake created beautifully crafted iconic pictures.
As a whole, Michael Rosen had the ability and the opportunity to become a great writer and he did. My most favourite poems are The Chocolate Cake, Hot Food and Don't Put Mustard in The Custard . These three poems I will be exploring in regards to my argument that Rosen's work was not simply whimsical nonsense, but in fact underpinned moral values of a child's experiences within his poetry.

[1] Emily Bearn (16 November 2008), “A novel approach to the classroom”, The Sunday Times

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Nonsense, Nonsense, Nonsense...

When I was a young girl, my grandparents used to take me to book shops every weekend. I loved sitting in the corner of the shop reading through all the children's books and especially the poetry. The idea of being able to create an emotion through poetry excited me and I began to explore this more and more. One writer which caught my eye was Michael Rosen. His poetry was unique. Simple and sweet, he managed to make me laugh every time I read one of his poems. I noticed that food was a  theme which he followed throughout his work and will be exploring this throughout this blog in relation to moral beliefs and childhood experiences.

Nonsense poetry or verse is considered as a form of writing aimed towards children. Exploring the humorous and imaginary world of mundane situations, the writing is stereotypically formatted in a rhythmical sequence. The tone regularly uses exaggerated and to an extent made up phrases or words touching the reader on an emotional level more so than an academic one.

I am going to explore the use of food in Michael Rosen's poetry highlighting that the poems he chose, were not completely "nonsense". I strongly believe that his poems hold a moral and thought provoking foundation which he wanted to get across to young children in an attempt to educate children through the use of his words.