The Jabberwocky and the Art of Nonsense Poetry

I love children’s literature. Indeed, most of the poems or stories I write could be classified as such. The part that I love the most about children’s lit. is its cheerfulness. The playful goofy verse of Dr. Seuss, the fairy-tale depth of the Chronicles of Narnia, the magic and complexity of Harry Potter, the innocence of Beverly Cleary, and the adventure of Curious George. Children’s books bring out the best in us. They present complex themes -life, death, happiness, forgiveness, and friendship to name a few- in simple, entertaining ways. There is no room for the snooty grown-up ‘that’s highly illogical’ or “that’s nonsense” or ‘that’s preposterous!” (And no one even cares what preposterous means!) Children’s literature is an escape from the staunch, professional world of adults into the fluid, vivacious world of kids.

For this reason, I love nonsense poetry. Nonsense poetry is pretty self-explanatory; it includes made-up words, fantastic or impossible situations, and seemingly random illusions. Think of Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, and Lewis Carroll. My favorite nonsense poem is from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. It is called “Jabberwocky”. Be careful as you read “Jabberwocky.” There is some sense to it, though less than most poems. Also watch out for portmanteaus. (Portmanteaus are words created from the combination of two words.)


`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, has 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.

Mostly, “Jabberwocky” is fun to read aloud.

I felt that this poem deserved an illustration, so I borrowed one from

Fun fact: The word “chortle” was coined in this poem, formed as a combination of chuckle and snort.

And now for my own attempt at nonsense. I have included a list of portmanteaus I created in writing this piece, but feel free to try to figure them out before scrolling down to the bottom. And now, without any more interruptions. . .


The Brusted Wheel at Frempton’s Mill


The brusted wheel at Frempton’s Mill,

Bescraped away adown the hill,

Smusmashing gree and daisidill,

The brusted wheel of Frempton’s Mill.


It sprolled along the dusten woad,

Where the knortmen nobly rode,

In the dark with sneakret load.

It sprolled along the dusten woad.


It flurst out of the floriage,

And floppled o’er the clifflet’s edge,

And loafted out to Brinely’s Wedge,

Postflursting from the floriage.


Don’t bejudge the water wheel by finentual restination,

But atherly, mark it by its succete journeration.




Glossary of Secret things in this poem:

“Brusted” is a combo of Brown Broken and Rusted

“Frempton” is derived from Middle English “frempt” meaning “strange”

“Bescraped” is escaped and broke

“adown” means away down

“smusmashing” is smush and smash squished together

“gree” = any number of green trees

“daisidil” = hybrid flower combination of a daisy and a daffodil known for its bright yellow flowers and ordinariness

“sprolled” = sped and rolled

“dusten” is dusty and beaten

“woad” is simply way and road (or road with a speech impediment)

“knortmen” is a combo of horsemen and knight

“sneakret” is sneaky and secret

“flurst” is flew and burst

“floriage” is flora and foliage

“floppled” is fell, flopped, and toppled

“clifflet” is a small cliff

“loafted” is floated and drifted

“Brinely’s” is Lonely and briny (salty)

“Postflurting” means after flursting (see a”flurst” above)

“finentual” is final and eventual

“restination” is rest and destination

“atherly” is a combo of actually and rather

“succete” is success and complete

“journeration” is a weird way to say journey.

You might just say “Well that’s nonsense!”


Yes it is.




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