872: Jabberwocky

Slowdown Kids Drawing

872: Jabberwocky

This week’s episodes are special – Major sat down in the studio with five amazing young poets. They laughed, learned, and shared their love of language. We would love to hear your thoughts on this new idea for The Slowdown. Please go to slowdownshow.org/survey to tell us what you think!


Major: I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown. This week, we’re doing something special – we’re exploring poetry in all of its forms with kids who write, rhyme and sing about their lives.

Our co-host today is named Nova. She’s 11-years-old, has pet guinea pigs named Oreo and Snickerdoodle, and loves hanging out at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

Nova: I love the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens because there is so much nature here!

Major: She also loves reading and writing poetry –

Nova: I find making nature beautiful in my poems easy because it is beautiful. Poetry is just exaggerating something that already is.

Major: We’re always looking for inspiration here on The Slowdown so I invited her into the studio to chat.

Major: Welcome to the studio, Nova!

Nova: Hi Major!

Major: So Nova, when did you start writing poetry?

Nova: Um, about when I was 5 or 4 I think?

Major: Do you remember the first poem you wrote?

Nova: Of course! I was in kindergarten. I remember that I saw a roly poly so then I went to my Mom at the end of the day, and I was like, Mama, I have a story to tell you. Not a story really, but more of a poem. And, she wanted to hear it!

Major: Can I hear the poem?

Nova: Yes, I have memorized it.

Major: Bring it!

I saw a roly poly
It was you!
Wait a minute
Why am I shrinking?
I’m a roly poly too!

Major: Brilliant! It rhymes! Now, tell me. What do you like about your poem?

Nova: Well, every single time I read it, it makes me burst into laughter because it is just so strange. (laughs)

Major: (laughs) I love your poem because not only does it rhyme but the words sound like what it’s doing! The words roll!

Nova: What do you mean about the words rolling?

Major: I mean that the sound – the O sounds roll through the actual poem itself. You have roly. You have poly. You have too. You have you. And then roly and poly! So that sound just kind of rolls right through the poem. Did you notice that?

Nova: No!

Major: Yeah, isn’t that pretty cool? I think that’s pretty cool.

Nova: Either kindergarten me was a genius, or I… or that was just a coincidence.

Major: Do you like reading, too? Do you like reading poems as much as you like writing poems?

Nova: Of course!

Major: Who are your favorite poets?

Nova: Well, I like Emily Dickinson...

Major: Ooo.

Nova: I like Lewis Carroll.

Major: Hold it! Did you say Lewis Carroll?

Nova: Yes…

Major: He’s one of my favorite poets, too!

Nova: He is?

Major: Yeah! There’s actually a Lewis Carroll poem I love, and you probably love it too. Should we say it at the same time together? 1, 2, 3…

Major & Nova: Jabberwocky! (laughter)

Major: Would you read it for us?

Nova: Of course! Here’s “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
      The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
      Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
      And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
      And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
      He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
      Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
      He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

Major: Frabjous work Nova!

Nova: Hey, you used frabjous from the poem! (laughs)

Major: Exactly.

Nova: That’s awesome!

Major: What do you love about the words in Jabberwocky?

Nova: Well the made up words are just so bizarre and outrageous and it's so cool that they make no sense but then, at the same time they make complete sense. And it’s all just so weird.

Major: I like reading this poem because of the way saying those words makes my mouth feel. Galumphing and frabjous. What's your favorite word?

Nova: Snicker snack.

Major: Snicker snack.

Nova: Snicker snack.

Major: You're making me hungry just saying it.

Nova/Major: (laughter)

Major: Have you ever made up a word?

Nova: I – for some reason, when I was a little kid, I started calling my armpits, turkeys. And now everyone in my family calls them turkeys for some reason. And –

Major: Wash your turkeys.

Nova: I'm gonna tickle your turkeys!

Major: Since kids and teens are taking over The Slowdown this week, we thought it’d be fun to play a different word game every episode! And today’s game is…

Leaning Tower of Titles!

Major: For this challenge, Nova and I are going to co-write a found poem together.

Nova: Ooo!

Major: Tell us what a found poem is.

Nova: A found poem is like a collage. You steal words and phrases from anything you can see and you just put it together and make a poem.

Major: So, let’s do it ourselves! Here are the rules. We’re going to have 15 seconds on the clock.

Nova: Only 15?

Major: I know! Pressure! During that time, we’re going to borrow words and phrases from the titles of Nova’s favorite books and write a poem together. Nova, what books did you bring into the studio? Could you read off their titles?

Nova: Yup! I picked A Single Shard, Rise of the Dragon Moon, Diary of a Young Naturalist, Snow and Rose, The Benefits of Being an Octopus and The Ice Cream Machine.

Major: Alright, you’ll start. We’ve got 15 seconds on the clock and… go!

ice cream


















Major/Nova: (laughter)

Major: Nice work, Nova!

Nova: Thank you. You too!

Major: Now, before we go – we’ve received some amazing haikus from young poetry fans over the past few weeks, and we want to share them with you. Here’s one about Mount Everest from Myles in Wyoming, Michigan.

Wow! Mt. Everest
The highest mountain on Earth
I can’t see the top

Nova: Ooo, that’s a good one.

Major: What do you like about that poem?

Nova: I like the wow.

Major: It's very expressive and exclamatory!

Nova: And I felt wow. About the poem.

Major: Oooh, clever. (laugh)