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An Original Poem by J. Patrick Lewis!

In honor of all the teachers and students finishing the school year and planning for the next, Chicken Spaghetti is happy to present an original poem—and a villanelle, at thatwhich J. Patrick Lewis sent along. Thank you! Lewis is the author of the recently published collection The World's Greatest: Poems, among many other books for children. All rights belong to J. Patrick Lewis, and this poem cannot be used without permission.

I’m Learning to Speak English

by J. Patrick Lewis



                        Be pashunt please, I don’t know how to spell

      Or read or write your language. Por favor,

         I’m learning to speak English—ESL.


     And I am getting better, I can tell.

     “The bull is mad. Be carefull, matadoor!”          

     Be payshent please, I don’t know how to spell.


     For words like ant and aunt or bell and belle,

     You must know what the extra letter’s for.

     I’m learning to speak English—ESL.


                            My teacher said I’m going to excell.

                              Excell. A word worth 50 cents—or more!            

    Be paishunt please, I don’t know how to spell.


                            She told me that I’d fall…. I did!  I fell                     

                            Into meaty words like a…carnivore!

    I’m learning to speak English—ESL.


                            I want to know my nouns and verbs so well  

                            That someday I will get a perfect score.

    Be patient (!) with me while I learn to spell

    And write and speak in English—ESL.


The June 6th Poetry Friday roundup takes place at Sarah Reinhard's blog.


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If only the government would be so patient with our ESL students and not make them take achievement tests in English until they have some level of proficiency!

Oops! That just sort of slipped out. What I meant to say was, Lucky You, to score a J. Patrick Lewis original!

I'm with Mary Lee. As someone who still can't spell very well, I have sympathy for those who must start from scratch.

And I'm marveling at how Lewis used the villanelle form here to great effect.

I'm no conneseur :) of poetry, but I liked that one. Now, I'm going to have to go look up what villanelle means... :)

What a great poem! And word to Mary Lee's point.

Susan, I've been blog-breaking all week in order to just readreadread, and so I forgot all about your party-poem request (and princesses). Did you get enough stuff?

Jules, 7-Imp

Great poem, Susan!

Mary Lee, yep, I agree with you about those tests.

Hey, Sara. Yes, I better study up on the villanelle; Lewis handles it well. You poets are so good with the forms!

Sarah R., I linked it to the Merriam-Webster definition to remind myself! Also, you might want to check out Paul B. Janeczko's "A Kick in the Head," a guide to poetic forms. It's full of information like that.

Jules, yes, I got lots of nice suggestions for the party poems. I'm going to take them along next week, and will post a compilation soon. Thanks for your ideas!

Karen, thanks! I thought it was fun, too.

Great poem! Is there a way to send this on to the NCLB people? :)

I should forward it to them, Jenny...

I love this! I'll have to pass it along to my mother, who taught ESL for years. Thanks!

A.F., you're welcome--and how cool about your mom. Occasionally I've thought of teaching ESL. (I'd have to go back to school first, tho.) The poem will appear in a future issue of ESL Magazine.

This is awesome. :) I love villanelles.

"pashunt " - my new favorite word! Great poem.

I liked it, too, Adrienne, and am so happy that Pat Lewis "lent" it to Chicken Spaghetti.

The word play is fun, right, Cloudscome? And I so enjoy the tender heart at the poem's core.

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