Friday, April 9, 2010

The Great Animal Mask Poem Post & An Invitation

I LOVE writing animal mask poems! I enjoy assuming the personality of different kinds of creatures and imagining what they might say to us if they thought we could understand them.
Here’s one of the poems from my unpublished collection of animal mask poems titled Animal Talk. In the poem, I speak in the voice of a boastful lion.

by Elaine Magliaro

I am lion.
See my mane?
I am king
And here I reign
On the Serengeti Plain.

I am lion.
See my paws
With their sharp
And pointy claws?
See my teeth and mighty jaws?

I am lion.
Hear my roar?
I’m a cat
Of legend…lore.
I’m a fearsome predator!

I am lion.
Who are you?
You’re my prey!
How do you do?
You look plump…and juicy, too.

I am lion,
Royal beast.
Sorry that you’re
Now deceased.
You were one delicious feast!

Here are two more of my masks poems “written by” boastful mammals from Animal Talk:


I’m grizzly bear. I’m fierce and fat…
And dangerous. Remember that!
My teeth are sharp as sabers.
My curvy claws can cut like saws,
And when I prowl the woods I growl
And frighten all my neighbors.

I rule the land. This forest’s mine!
I ain’t NOBODY’S valentine!
Don’t think that you can be my friend…
My dinner?

The End


I’m the biggest whale
in the big blue sea.
I’m blubbery big
as a whale should be.

I’m bigger than
an elephant
three rhinos,
a giraffe.

I’m bigger than
ten walruses
twos hippos
and a half.

There’s nothing
in the world
that’s bigger than me…
except, of course,
for the big blue sea!

In Animal Talk, Toucan tells us about himself—but he doesn’t assume the same boastful tone as lion, grizzly bear, and blue whale do.


I’m Toucan. I’m more beak than bird.
In profile I may look absurd.
I sport a bill that’s giant-size.
It’s true. I don’t hyperbolize.
It’s strong and filled with rigid foam.
It’s like an airy honeycomb.
It doesn’t weigh me down. It’s light!
It’s sharp.
It’s colorful
And bright.
It helps me to attract a mate.
It’s perfect female birdie bait!
It’s really great for plucking fruit
From trees—and self defense, to boot.
A useful tool, it’s versatile—
A beak that truly fits the bill!

Snake takes on a sly, sneaky, quiet persona—informs us about his movements and how he goes about his business.


I’m a slippery slitherer,
silent and sleek,
sliding and slinking
through grasses
I sneak
weaving and winding
legless and low
I slip slyly hidden
wherever I go.
Wending and bending
by stalk, stem, and stone
like a ribbon of muscle
and skin without bone
tongue catching the scent
of a soft, furry prey.
Smells like it’s field mouse
for dinner today!

Honeybee’s a hard worker. She’s always busy with her never-ending chores. Still, she’s happy with her life and doesn’t complain.


I’m buzzing here; I’m buzzing there.
I’m visiting the flowers where
I sip the syrup, thick and sweet,
And powder my six little feet.

I’m fuzzy here; I’m fuzzy there.
I like the fuzzy suit I wear.
It’s yellow, black, and trimmed to fit.
It has flight wings attached to it!

A stinger’s fixed on my rear end—
A weapon so I can defend
Against intruders who would take
The sunny honey that I make

And seal inside a waxy comb
And store for winter in my home.
I’m busy…busy every day
In spring and summer. I don’t play…

Just do the duties that I must:
Collecting nectar, pollen dust,
And guarding my sweet food and hive.
But, still, it’s great to be alive!

Snail takes life as it comes. He accepts the fact that he’s a slowpoke—and has to lug his house around with him. In my mind, he speaks in a slow, flat monotone. (Sorry I can’t format the poem the way it should be. I don’t know how to do that on Blogger.)


I’m snail. I’m slow.
That’s how I go
From place to place.
I never race.
I take my time.
I s l i d e
of slime.

I have a heavy shell to bear…
But I don’t care.
I never grouse
Because I have to wear
My house.
I just suppose
That’s how it goes…
Some are fast
And some are slow…
And slow is fast
As I can go.
Slow’s the only speed I know.

Jack my daughter's Yellow Lab. He speaks in a happy, energetic voice.


I’m a dog. I’m frisky,
Friendly, snappy.
I like to make
My master happy.

I get his paper,
Lick his face.
I follow Master
Every place.

We take a long walk
Every day.
I never let him
Lose his way.

I sit, roll over,
Do cute tricks—
Beg for biscuits,
Go fetch sticks.

I always bark
To let him know
There’s someone’s at
The door. I show

Him true affection.
I DON'T pretend!
Why, I’m his very
Bestest friend.

Cat is aloof—not at all like Jack.


I’m cat.
Come pat
My head.
I’ll purr.
Please stroke
My thick
And silky fur.

I’m clean,
I lick.
I preen.
I’m naughty…
I’m the queen.

Here’s a poem about a chick who’s been working hard to peck her way out of her shell. She’s a been pecking hard for hours without success and is feeling frustrated.


I’m pecking, pecking
On this dome.
I’m cramped inside
My little home.
Can’t spread my wings,
Can’t run…or walk.
Can’t see the sun.
Can barely talk!
Oh, I’ve been pecking
Since last night.
This shell is really
Really tight!
I just can’t stand it
Oh where? Oh, where
Is my front door?!

Sometimes a group of animals will speak in unison—as young frogs do in Look at Us Now. The frogs are happy and talk excitedly because they’re grownups now—and can do things they couldn’t do when they were wee tadpoles!


The day we hatched from jellied eggs…
We looked like fish. We had no legs.
We breathed through gills. We had no lungs.
We didn’t have long sticky tongues.
We didn’t look like frogs…for sure.
But then we started to mature.
And day by day we changed and grew.
To tails and gills we bid adieu.
Now we have lungs and four fine limbs…
And we can croak
and jump
AND swim!

An Invitation
Maybe there’s an animal voice inside you that’s dying to speak out! Why not write a mask poem? Try it…you’ll like it!

If you DO write an animal mask poem, leave it in the comments or email it to me. I’ll post it next week.

(NOTE: Last Friday, I invited blog readers to write list poems. I’ll post the list poems that people submitted tomorrow. )

Two Poetry Books with some fine animal mask poems:


Written by Maya Gottfried

Illustrated by Robert Rahway Zakanitch

Click here to read my review of Our Farm, a collection of point-of-view/mask poems. Maya Gottfried wrote the poems in this book from the perspective of some of the farm animals—including sheep, pigs, a donkey, cows—that live at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York.

by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall

In this book, we hear the voices of desert animals—including those of a jackrabbit, a rattlesnake, a spadefoot toad, a buzzard, and a coyote—speaking to us about themselves and their lives in the desert. The free verse mask poems in this book serve as excellent examples for children in early elementary and middle grades--and for adults.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Paper Tigers.


jama said...

Oh Elaine, your animal mask poems are so very wonderful! LOVE them so much. I especially like the honeybee's powdered feet, and the lion and grizzly addressing their meals :). And in so few words, you nailed the essence of the cat. Bravo!!

Sheri Doyle said...

Wow! I just love the energy and playful rhythms of these mask poems. The alliteration in "Snake Soliloquy" is so much fun. Love this line in "Toucan Talk" - "I'm more beak than bird." Ha! I'm wondering what the layout of "I'm Snail" might be. I have a snail poem up today as well - in the shape of a snail. You've got me thinking about creating a mask poem. Thanks for the inspiration.

Bridget R. Wilson said...

Great animal mask poems, Elaine! You took on animalistic personas beautifully. I think I'll write mask poems about my family's 3 house dogs. They each have very distinctive personalities.

Anonymous said...

I love your animal mask poems! Thanks for sharing. I need to read my cat-obsessed girls the cat poem.


Elaine Magliaro said...

Jama, Sheri, Bridget, Jules--

I've posted all of these animal mask poems--except for "I Am Lion"--at Wild Rose Reader before. I thought it would be a good idea to show how different the voices of various kinds of animals can be. Of course, animal mask poems don't have to rhyme--like the ones I posted here. The two books I recommended have wonderful examples of animal mask poems that don't rhyme.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I loved your "snail speed" rhyming concrete poem. Well done!

Aline Pereira/ PaperTigers said...

Thanks, Elaine. There's so much good stuff here! Your animal mask poems are lovely. I should try my hand at a Tiger poem : )

Brimful Curiosities said...

After reading your post with my preschool daughter, she decided to try her hand at dictating a mask poem today. Thought you might enjoy.

I am a kitty cat
with sharp claws to scratch you.
I have a lovely little purr,
and I'm just a baby.
I can fit through little cracks
and cuddle in a little comfy box
where you can never find me.
I am a girl kitty cat,
and I love you.

Unknown said...

I love Mask Poems! They are my favorite things to teach too.

Yours are fantastic, Elaine.

Here's one I wrote years and years ago:

A BUG'S VIEW by Jill Corcoran

Stop squishing. Stop swatting. Stop stepping on us.
Why do all you big people make such a fuss?
We're just little bugs try'n to live our short lives.
Why don't you go pick on some bug your own size?

Elaine Magliaro said...


A tiger mask poem would be great! Try it.

Brimful Curiosities,

My elementray students used to enjoy writing mask poems--sometimes they'd dictate them to me. I love your daughter's kitty cat poem. Thnaks for leaving it in the comments.


Thanks for your mask poem contribution! I'll probably post all the mask poem submissions a week from tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Wow - you're so generous to share so much of your work here. I am far stingier than you with my original poems.

These were so much fun!

Mary Lee said...

Okay. I'm thoroughly inspired to write a mask poem now, and to see what my students can do with them!

Looking for the Write Words said...

Elaine, I love your animal poems. The term "mask poem" is new to me. I know my 4th graders will also love the way you bring the animals to life and want to try writing some of their own. Thank you!

Marjorie said...

Oh Elaine, these are wonderful! I know you say you've posted them before, well I'm so glad you did again as I missed them. I'm going to share them with my boys tomorrow. I know they'll laugh out loud like I did at the endings to Lion and Bear! So many different voices, so perfectly attuned to each animal! Thank you.

Sarah @ said...

The dog poem is my favorite! LOVE!

Amy L V said...

These poems have such fun-to-read word play, and I've been thinking about them since you posted them. I especially love 'Grizzly Bear" and "Snake Soliloquy". (What does it say that I love the predatory ones?) Your invitations are helping me with NaPoWriMo...thank you!


I'm a lone potato bug
who loves a leggy ladybug
who doesn't know a pillbug
from a winter afternoon.

I long to give that gal a call
whisk her from her garden wall
polka dance her to a ball
underneath the moon.

she's red
she's hot.

She and I should tie the knot.
But camouflaged I'm hard to spot.

She cannot see
what's dirt
what's me.

Pillbugs are a lonesome lot.

I'm in love.
She's not.

© Amy Ludwig VanDerwater