How to Write a Poem about a Nasty Bug…

I’m mixing things up this week because something exciting happened recently and I haven’t had time to write about it yet.

Nasty Bugs, a book of poems about bugs edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and published by Dial hit the shelves on March 16. I am thrilled to be one of the poets featured! My poem, Tick-tock Tick appears on Page 22, along with a fabulous drawing by artist Will Terry, whose jewel-toned, super-fun illustrations accompany each poem in the collection.

For this collection, Lee assigned each poet a bug. Lice, fire ants, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches, termites, and a host of other creepy crawly creatures were doled out.  We were asked to focus on scientific facts about our bugs when creating our poems.

So, how do you write a poem about something as disgusting as a tick? Well, it involves a lot of research, it really does.  Here is a photo of the folder I kept all of my tick information in while I was working on this poem.

After reading all of these articles and many more, I discovered many fascinating things about the little creatures. (These fascinating things did not make me fonder of them, quite the opposite, but it really is amazing what a tick can do.) For example, the tick’s body contains an arsenal of chemicals useful to acquisition of blood.

  • Its mouth secretes something like glue to help keep it anchored to its host.
  • It releases pain inhibitors so the host cannot feel it suck blood.
  • Its spit contains anti-clotting substances to keep blood flowing during the feast.

And I haven’t even gotten to the barbs on the hypostome, its ability to detect carbon dioxide (thus prey), and the way it uses its sharp little teeth to cut blood vessels beneath the skin. Cringing yet?  Seriously, I found out so much information it was very hard for me to fit it into one poem. I ended up writing several.

But back to the poem in the book. After reading all about the amazing tick, I highlighted important points from the articles. Then I went to my trusty notebook and started doing one of my favorite things: playing with words. I made lists, I put words in groups, I tried to think of the best ways to show what makes the tick tick. It took several pages. Here’s a glimpse of one of them:

In the end, I decided to give my poem a temporal theme, tying the tick to a ticking clock because stealth and patience are crucial to a tick’s survival, but the passage of time is really not.  To emphasize this, Tick-tock Tick is a long and skinny poem with just a few words per line. I want readers to read it slowly… at a creeping speed… like the pace of a tick.

To top off my tick poem-writing experience, while I was working on this poem I actually found a tick crawling up my arm. I’ve lived in my house for almost 5 years and it is the only tick I have ever encountered. So glad that Lee Bennett Hopkins assigned each poet only one bug!

If you want to read Tick-tock Tick, check it out in Nasty Bugs!

If you want to read one of the other tick poems I came up with, just keep reading!

The Deer Tick Larva:

Stage One of Three

by Kami Kinard

.

I wait.

I wait.

So patiently.

For future meals

to pass by me –

a bird or mouse

or hopping hare

if it’s warm blooded

I don’t care

which species or

which type of hide –

my six legs cling

to for a ride.

.

I drill.

I drill.

My hypostome

bores through the skin

of my new home.

The tiny barbs

upon my snout

keep me in place.

I won’t slip out.

Plus, I secrete

a cement-glue!

Where my host travels

I go too.

.

I sip.

I sip.

I grow in girth.

Then I detach

and fall to earth.

Call me Nymph now!

I’ve shed my skin.

I have eight legs!

So I begin

to wait

to wait

so patiently.

.

So many words, so many scientific facts, so many possibilities for tick poems…

We will return to our regularly scheduled Nerdy Chick Interviews next Monday!

6 comments on “How to Write a Poem about a Nasty Bug…

  1. sr says:

    Hi Kami,

    Thanks for the writing tips and congrats on your publication. This post resonated with me as ticks are an everyday occurrence where I live (check my last post for a glimpse). I like your poem (I like the temporal theme) but I doubt anything could make me fonder of them.

    Cheers,
    Shelly

    • kamikinard says:

      Hi Shelly,

      I can respect that they are interesting organisms, but I am not fond of them either. Having done all of the research, I’m more nervous than ever about them. I went to your post… so sorry. I did not get into all of the diseases ticks spread in the poem because I could only make it so long… and of course I didn’t want to terrify the readers. Thanks for your comment!

      Kami

  2. I am always amazed to see the process that goes on “behind the scenes.” Most of us don’t know what people who do something different than ourselves really do!

  3. Having been treated for Lyme disease several years ago after becoming a tick’s feast, your poem made my skin crawl, but kids love it when you make their skin crawl, so Yay, Kami!

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