RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 2 Nikki Grimes

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RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 2

Nikki Grimes

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Guest Blogger Badge RPBM 15 Nikki Grimes


As we approach Maya Angelou’s birthday on Saturday I am reminded of how poetry can make an impact with words in a way no other medium can. Today’s guest blogger is an honored and award winning poet and author who has impacted many children and adults with her words.

This challenge is called Rhyming Picture Book Month but poetry is certainly included in this celebration because it is poetry that makes the words sing in chorus. The poetic techniques used in prose make the words leap off the page and into the reader’s heart.

And, that has nothing to do with rhyme!

I am thrilled and honored to introduce Nikki Grimes.


RhyPiBoMo 2015 Bird with Feather


by Nikki Grimes

Word is an elastic thing.
Pull it, stretch it, make it spring.
Call it music, it will sing.
Call it dance, watch it swing.
Call it brick, then build a wall.
Call it snow, see it fall.
Word is magic. Word is all.
When I teach a poetry workshop, the one law I lay down for the duration of the workshop is this: Do not use rhyme. Now, that might sound strange coming from me, a poet who is known for using a variety of rhyme schemes, and internal rhyme, in my own poetry. However, I use rhyme realizing that rhyme and poetry are not synonymous. Rhyme is an element of poetry, but it is not the thing itself. And even when I do employ rhyme, it is really the only poetic element used. The opening poem is an example of that. In it, you will notice metaphor, assonance, repetition, and meter as well as rhyme. In another poem, I might switch up the rhythms and choose consonance, alliteration, and simile. The one thing I won’t do is structure a poem solely on the basis of rhyme, internal or external. Yet, I find most writers, unfamiliar with the genre, approach poetry as if rhyme were its primary default. It is not. Nor should children’s poetry be so narrowly defined. Poetry for young readers should be as rich as you can make it, and rhyme alone won’t get you there.
To write a poem is to paint with words, to create a moment or a story using imagery. I’d rather a writer explore the use of metaphor and simile to create imagery. In so doing, the pen becomes a paintbrush, words become colors, and the page becomes a canvas. That’s the kind of writing I mean when I speak of poetry.
Don’t get me wrong: rhyme is a wonderful tool, when used wisely. But the rhyme should feel organic, not forced, as is too often the case. The words “forth” and “north” may rhyme with one another, but unless both words are germane to the topic, the rhyme is forced. Nor should rhyme get in the way of telling the story. Story is key! No amount of clever wordplay (if indeed it is clever) can make up for a lack of coherent storytelling.
As a writer stretches by employing a variety of poetic techniques, the poet becomes more sensitive about when and how to use rhyme, and focuses, instead, on wise word choice based on meaning, emotional impact, and, where appropriate, musicality. If, for example, your subject is a somber one, you don’t necessarily want to create a rhyme scheme that is sing-songy. And if you do, that choice needs to be clearly intentional. Of course, developing that kind of objectivity requires the perspective of distance. Pulling back from using rhyme as a default gives the poet an opportunity to develop that kind of objectivity.
In Poems in the Attic, my newest book of poetry, I mix free verse and tanka. I especially love haiku and tanka poems because, while both require a fairly tight rhythmic structure, they also challenge the poet to paint a picture or tell a story using the briefest amount of words. Such poems are, of necessity, short on rhyme, but long on metaphor. A few strokes of the pen is all you have room for. Creating this type of verse pushes the poet to dig deep, and both reader and poet benefit from the effort. The work thus created is often more powerful, beautiful, lyrical and meaningful than poems which rely on rhyme, alone, most especially if the writer is new to the genre. Like most things, rhyme done well appears to be easy. In reality, it is anything but.
Is what I’m suggesting more difficult than “simple” rhyme? Absolutely. But isn’t your reader worth your best effort? And trust me, that extra effort will show, and editors will take note. In an industry as competitive as ours, such things matter. If you want your poetry text to make it out into the world, you’ll have to get it past an editor first! And if that text employs rhyme, it had better be extraordinarily well done. And if it isn’t, what’s the point?
About Nikki Grimes
New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.




Look at all these fabulous books by Nikki! WOW! And these are just the ones available now…

Find out more at: http://www.nikkigrimes.com/




Thank you so much Nikki!


RhyPiBoMo 2015 tiles with bird

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Optional Writing Prompt: 4

This is NOT part of the pledge. It is an option for a writing exercise for those interested. You will not publically share this as part of RhyPiBoMo but may keep a journal of your writing this month for your own review.


Today your challenge is to write a TANKA, which means “short song,” and has been used in the Japanese culture for nearly a thousand years. It is sort of a longer version of a Haiku that gives you a bit more room to tell a story.

In a tanka, there is something special about the third line. This line is called the pivot, which means a turning point. The pivot divides the tanka into two different sections, which are joined in the middle in order to tell the whole story. The first section uses the pivot as the ending line. The last section uses the pivot as the beginning line. Each half is an individual story but when added together by the pivot, both tell one complete story.


The theme of your tanka is: Bird Cage

Line 1 – 5 syllables
Line 2 – 7 syllables
Line 3 – 5 syllables (pivot)
Line 4 – 7 syllables
Line 5 – 7 syllables



For example:

She pecked and peeked out
Wondering what was out there
The door flew open
She paused, then flew in joyful
Fear, pecked and peaked in freedom.
© 2015 Angie Karcher

Maya Angelou image


RhyPiBoMo 2015 Maya Angelou’s Birthday Celebration Webinar

This will be a fun celebration of Maya’s life! The evening is hosted by Jackie Wellington and Angie Karcher. We will read Maya’s poetry plus some of our own poetry written to honor her. We will discuss diversity in children’s books and how through poetry, children may gain a new view of the world around them. Jackie has organized a poetry contest only for those who attend the webinar. The winner will receive a copy of  the picture book MAYA ANGELOU, donated by Jackie. Details will be given during the webinar.

Don your fanciest hat and put on those pearls and join us for an evening of celebrating this extraordinary person. See you at the party!

cheers to Maya

Please register in advance as there are limited number of spots available. Once you register you will be emailed a direct link to the webinar as well as a reminder.

Link to register for the webinar:





More information coming soon concerning

Rhyming Critique Groups,

the Barnes and Noble BookFair and

the Official Golden Quill Poetry Contest!

Stay tuned!


Official RhyPiBoMo 2015 Registration ends on April 8th, Midnight Central Time

so register now!


If you are not officially registered you will not be able to participate in the Golden Quill Poetry Contest, in Rhyming Critique Groups or will not be eligible for daily prizes.


To see if you are registered go to the Master Registration List on the drop down menu under the RhyPiBoMo Blog tab above.


Registration Link:




RhyPiBoMo 2015 Pledge
Please comment below. You MUST add your FIRST and LAST names
to be eligible for today’s prize!

97 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 2 Nikki Grimes

      • Thanks for the clarification, Angie! I wish I had known you were at this past SCBWI Summer Conference – I would have stopped by to say hello! Well, prior to the wine glass bite, at any rate.

        Since I have your okay to share what I wrote, here’s my Tanka:

        Caged, I know my place.
        You bring seed and I chirp chirp
        For your enjoyment
        I will sing for my supper
        But I belong to the sky.

  1. Nikki: Our readers do deserve the best writing that must be more than simple rhyme. Your post shares valuable information. These words explain it well: rhyme and poetry are not synonyms. I look forward to creating a tanka poem. Thank you.

    ~Suzy Leopold

  2. Nikki:
    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us. I look forward a new challenge. I write a haiku each day but have not written a tanka,

  3. Nikki, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and experience. I’ve only recently discovered tanka, but love cinqu and haiku – limiting syllables certainly stretches me as a writer. Here’s my attempt at the challenge:

    Glistening feathers
    Filled me with jealous longing
    I caught you, kept you
    Feathers fading through the bars
    Longing, jealous, I set you free

  4. [ellen izenson]

    Tanka very much (I couldn’t resist) for introducing me to tanka! I tried to capture and paint a moment with my words as I wrote my practice poems.

  5. MaDonna Maurer

    Thanks for introducing me to Tanka poems. I’m excited to try it out this weekend when I have some time.

  6. Hi Nikki, I really gleaned so much from this post. I have a better understanding of what forced rhyme looks like. I love what you said, “To write a poem is to paint with words…” Letting my pen become a paintbrush, the words color, and paper the canvas…incredible description on what its all about. Thank you so much 🙂

  7. Nikki thank you so much for your post. I also love to read great poetry and rhymes but just because writers study poetry and rhyme doesn’t mean they should write it. I appreciate it but find myself horrible at writing it. But for me studying poetic techniques makes prose better, writers more perceptive and hopefully will challenge us to dig deeper. Thank you again for the post

  8. Peggy Archer–Thank you so much for reminding us of the true heart of poetry. I will be reading your post again, to remind myself when I write.

  9. Comment from Cynthia Cheng: I agree that one should not force things to rhyme because then it makes the writing appear less sincere. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  10. Tanja Bauerle – What a wonderful post! Thank you, Nikki. Tankas are new to me so this will be a fun exercise for me. Hugs. T

  11. I love this post for its beauty and its truth. The opening poem is a wonderful tribute to the power of language, and the rest of the post calls us to respect and refine that power.
    Cindy Argentine

  12. “Poetry for young readers should be as rich as you can make it, and rhyme alone won’t get you there.” Yes, yes, yes!

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