SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Some people have an aversion to poetry. They think it's got rules. You know, like, it's got to rhyme. Moon, June, croon a tune to a raccoon and an old spittoon. Blah, blah, blah. Chris Harris, who's never written a children's book before, has produced a new book that children may enjoy so much, they may not realize that they're actually reading - let me say this quietly - poetry. The book is called "I'm Just No Good At Rhyming: And Other Nonsense For Mischievous Kids And Immature Grown-Ups." And Chris Harris, who was also a writer and executive producer for "How I Met Your Mother," joins us from NPR West. Thanks so much for being with us.
CHRIS HARRIS: Thank you, Scott. Really, I love being here. Thank you.
SIMON: Why did you want to write this book?
HARRIS: It really started with my kids. You know, as you said, I've been a TV writer for a while. But once they came around, I really wanted to write something special for them. And as parents of young kids understand, you don't get a lot of sleep. And so short-form poetry was just about all that I had the brain capacity for.
SIMON: Well, let's read one right off the bat, "I'm Just No Good At Rhyming," the title poem. Can we?
SIMON: Let's alternate paragraphs, if we can.
HARRIS: (Reading) I'm just no good at rhyming. It makes me feel so bad. I'm just no good at rhyming, and that's why I'm so blue.
SIMON: (Reading) My teacher asked if I could find a word that rhymes with hat. It means something that a dog might chase. A-ha, I said. A car?
HARRIS: (Reading) My teacher asked if I could find a word that rhymes with wizard. It's something small and with a tail. A-ha, I said. A puppy.
SIMON: (Reading) My teacher asked if I could find a word that rhymes with wall. It's something you might try to catch. A-ha, I said. A lizard.
HARRIS: (Reading) I'm just no good at rhyming. I'm sorry, but it's true. I'm just no good at rhyming, and that's why I'm so sad.
SIMON: (Reading) I'm pretty good with meter and with spelling and with timing. But I'll never be a poet because I just can't rhyme words at all.
What a heartbreaking poem. I really is.
HARRIS: (Laughter). My only regret is that they get to hear my voice next to yours.
SIMON: There's some really good voices around here. Mine is not one of them...
SIMON: ...I can assure you. Did you grow up with any kind of aversion to poetry?
HARRIS: I wouldn't say aversion. I've actually always enjoyed it and tried to absorb it. And I think, like a lot of people, up to a certain point - maybe sixth or seventh grade - I would have fun dabbling with it. I can remember - I believe, it was sixth grade writing - a really just morbid and gruesome parody of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas," where, you know, it was like, some people were hung by the chimney with care.
SIMON: Oh, but really hung, you mean.
HARRIS: (Laughter) Yeah. And I ended up reading it in my church lobby to a few friends. And someone called it satanic. It was a big...
HARRIS: It became this giant to-do. But when you have children, there's - at least for me - I think for a lot of parents, there's a little bit of, oh, yeah, I remember what it's like to be a kid. And I think that brought back all of those instincts to try my hand again at it.
SIMON: Nobody kvetches like a kid. And if we could read together "The Argument."
HARRIS: Oh, great. I love this.
SIMON: All right.
HARRIS: "The Argument." (Reading) I hate that you're always finishing my...
SIMON: (Reading) Sentences?
HARRIS: (Reading) Yes. So stop it. You know that I...
SIMON: (Reading) Really don't like it?
HARRIS: (Reading) Stop it. It's getting...
SIMON: (Reading) Worse and worse?
HARRIS: (Reading) Stop...
SIMON: (Reading) It? Stop it? Stop it? Wow. If you keep this up, then soon...
HARRIS: (Reading) You'll be starting my sentences instead.
SIMON: (Reading) Argh.
HARRIS: (Reading) Argh.
HARRIS: That's pretty good. I might need to take you on the road, Scott. I love that. Some of these are little bits and routines that started out with my own kids. And other ones are things that are just almost little skits that I thought of.
SIMON: I've saved one poem for the last. And I'm going to get you to read both the beginning and the end. I'll read the happy part in the middle. The poignant part is on either end - because I can't bring myself to read this without beginning to tear. It's as simple as that. This is "The World's Best Offer." If you could begin, I'll do the part in italics, which is going to be easier than what I've asked you to do.
HARRIS: "The World's Best Offer." (Reading) I'm in Dad's arms. The night is clear. His collar rubs against my ear. I hear the wind sift through a tree. I hear the world. It calls to me.
SIMON: (Reading) Why are you waiting, kid? How could you rest? You're wasting your time sitting there on his chest. You have too much to do, and you've too much to see. My secrets are yours if you'll just run to me. I've deserts to dance in, oceans to dive in, mountains to prance on and pastures to thrive in, strangers for meeting, caves for exploring, freeways for speeding, and airways for soaring, high-rise construction, shipwreck recovery, harvest production, diamond discovery, turbines and combines with power untold, castles of silver and cities of gold. My treasures are waiting for you to come see. So hurry up, kid. Hurry up. Run to me.
HARRIS: (Reading) The wind dies down. I know it's true. I've much to see and be and do. Dad's breath is warm. I feel his size. The night is still. I close my eyes. There's plenty of time for all that stuff. Tonight, right here is world enough.
HARRIS: Thank you.
SIMON: Well, it's a wonderful book. And you've read these poems. You've tried them out on your children, right? These come test-marketed? That's your focus group?
HARRIS: Absolutely. And I have loved creating it with them. And the fact that it's seeing the light of day with many more people is a huge bonus and an honor for me. I hope people can take away this excitement that I was sharing with my own children about, look at all that you can do with words. I remember reading and seeing some of the most formative books and TV shows and movies when I was growing up, things like "The Phantom Tollbooth" and even "Monty Python" and thinking, oh, my gosh, I never knew that I could do that. I never knew that someone could do that. I wonder what else I can do? And I would love if X number of kids read this and also said, wow, I didn't know you could do that. I wonder what else I can do?
SIMON: Chris Harris - his book, beautifully illustrated by Lane Smith, is "I'm Just No Good At Rhyming: And Other Nonsense For Mischievous Kids And Immature Grown-Ups." Thanks so much for being with us.
HARRIS: Thank you, Scott. It was a real pleasure.
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