Uncommon Sense

Paradoxes and Oxymorons” is the title of this week’s poem, by the late American poet John Ashbery. After hearing it read aloud by student volunteers, we considered how it was different from the other poems we’ve read so far. When the speaker says, in the first line, “This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level,” I asked what “a very plain level” means? (The speaker also asks this, in line six.) Some students recognized Ashbery’s widespread use of personification, identifying it in such descriptions as typewriters that “chatter,” or a poem feeling sad, or talking. We also wondered who the listener, or “you” in the poem was?

As it neared time to write, I wrote “paradox” and “oxymoron” on the board, asking if anyone could define them? I then listed examples under each, adding others supplied in each class; for example, for paradoxes, this statement is false, beginning of the end, and less is more; and for oxymorons, bittersweet, jumbo shrimp, only choice, random order, and so on. For their own poems, students were encouraged to reflect on the terms, think about comparison, contradiction, opposites… Here’s what they came up with.

Mr. O’Brien, 4th Grade

Kaidan K.

I want a jumbo shrimp.
Peoples’ handwriting is pretty ugly.

Eleanor M.

We’re so far away from
home it will take so long to get

But we’re so close I can
feel it in my blood.

I’m clearly confused where
I am.

Oxymoron Day
Jackson M.

Oxymorons. They are funny,
confusing, and fun to use. Today
I will be using oxymorons in my
poem. Today I woke up and
saw my mom in a pretty ugly shirt.
Then I watched a bittersweet
show. When I came to school
everyone was lined up in
a random order to get in
the school. When I got in
there was a small crowd.
Since I was new people could tell
I was clearly confused. I tried
to act naturally and find my
class finally I found my class.

Jaden M.

I’m so tired today.
I had frozen lunch
today and
it was very cold.
I had a bittersweet treat
and a bag of carrots and
watermelon. I had a big
stuffed hat and a bag
on my tired back. And that’s
all today
I will maybe see you again
sometime else

Jayce M.

I love jumbo shrimp
when it’s alive it is pretty ugly
but very tasty close but far what
is in the other galaxies

a mystery yet to be discovered
sometimes dreams with no ending
are aliens real what’s in
area 51

we want to know but can’t
what sea creatures
are yet to be discovered
who knows maybe alien sea creatures

but yet to be discovered

Nhi N.

When things are in random order, it’s random
but in order?
It’s in an order that’s random.
It’s random but in order.
Is this confusing?
1 9 4 3 5 2 7 8 6
a random order
at one perspective, it does not make sense
at another, it does make sense

So which one is it?
I’m confused as you.
You are confused as I
both make sense but mean different things


Mrs. Rupp, 4th Grade

Opposites, But Not Opposites
Emiliano B.

This poem is false
For those who read poems
with a bittersweet taste for them
Big babies with plainly dumb intelligence
And others
eating vegetarian pizza
with extra sausage
and clearly confused meowing dogs
pretty ugly glitter lizards
with hardly easy Jumbo Shrimps which are
Opposites, but not Opposites.

Adrian F.

This candy is bittersweet
and I just have
Wait what I am clearly confused.
How do I have an only choice?
Well I have to say you are
pretty ugly. A big baby is a
jumbo baby. He is simply complicated.
This poem will make you clearly
confused and confused clearly.
This poem is the opposite of a poem but
the same.

Wacky Poem
Aiden F.

The poem has ended
The light room
is dark.

The blue water is
The sky is falling.
The living is

This poem is dead
You’re Bob not Bob
You’re Jeff not Jeff
The poem has begun

Ray H.

The great blue sea is red.
The vegan pizza has sausage.

The jumbo shrimp ate the glitter lizard
who was light dark. He was
clearly confused by the
meowing dog who was pretty ugly.
The bittersweet open ended simply
complicated random ordered only choice
was hardly easy for the big baby.
The pencil is appetizing but
not. Crunch Crunch Crack
Krunch crack! YUMYUM!

Atia L.

If at dinner you
ask for a jumbo shrimp

If you want a
bittersweet dessert

If you want
an open-ended book

If you want a
simply complicated
math problem

If you ask for
these hardly easy

you might get it

or not!

This Poem Will Make Your Head Spin
Solomon P.

It was hardly easy to eat
so says the glitter lizard.

It was simply complicated to get
the meowing dog to bark.
The big baby was CLEARLY confused.

The random order was bittersweet
and open-ended, and it was pretty
ugly, even though it was the only choice.

It was lightly dark!!!


The vegan rattlesnake is

Jordan W.

Hi I’m Jerry I have a
brother named 1479542167895L0 he is
the pacific ocean he has a twin brother
that’s red his name is 9547341259684
people say they’re twins but red is bitter
sweet. There was also two kids named
Salty and Saltshaker they’re very salty.

Ms. Travis, 4th Grade

Matasia C.

went to a
school and my teac-
her was bad at being
good. She school napped a li-
ttle girl just because she a
student teacher assistant, ma-

was pr-
etty cool. A-
re you kidd
ing mehh prett-
y fool or foolish.

Elle C.



That is what this
young girl was
learning at

She was clearly confused.

The teacher said they
were to
in random order.

Leo J.

He was earliest I’ve ever late
been wins to losing and he is
pretty ugly to himself.
Jumbo shrimp him.

He thinks he is
a big baby.

He is random order.
And he is a small

Bullies Are Nice
Mykayla M.

The bully
wakes up!!
She has been the earliest she’s
ever been late.

All because
of opposite
day _____

tries to look
her best
she thought
she was pretty

Her mom takes to start the

Isis O.

I have a clown he is
a big baby
all he does is
cry cry
It is bad
bad bad

I need to help him
help help
wait to see what happens

Luke R.

I am pretty happy about being
mad I am also pretty cool
about being lame but I’m not
a big baby I’m good
at losing I’m also
good at nothing.

Madeline S.

Nothing. Everything is nothing. Nothing isn’t an order
just a random order. The world is nothing.
Math is nothing. Money is nothing. But nothing
is everything.

Mrs. Johnson, 4th Grade

(small Crowd)
Aarvi A.

I went to a shopping mall, a small
crowd I saw there. Even in the
room, small crowd. I went home.
Outside the house, small crowd.

Oxymorons + Paradoxes
Jacob L.

Today I saw a JUMBO shrimp
A small CROWD appeared
They came in modnar order

My only choice was 2

I acted naturally
I know
this is clearly confusing
it is my only choice


Less is more.

Moses N.

I’m a jumbo shrimp
act naturally oxes only
choice wrong stop book
I’m right and wrong.

Howard W.

I saw a jumbo shrimp

and I saw a small

The lights turn on and off.
More is less and less is
I had only one

Claire X.

In a jumbo shrimp room, a man
walk in, the light was so dark, the man
open the TV, and the TV shown nothing,
the man open a book, that’s the only
choice for the man to during the night.

When it’s a deep night, the book fly up,
and the man’s face was clearly confused.

Mrs. Oluewu, 4th Grade

It’s as Clear as Mud
Addison A.

You say same difference, but what does that mean?
It’s different, but the same.
Obvious but not clear.
Generous but cold hearted.
Like my grandfather says, it’s as clear as mud.
If you know what that means.
You’re right there, but that isn’t true.
You seem to want to do something.
But you have nothing to do.
You say that there is light in the doorway.
But exactly how far?
You’re dressing up as someone else
but did you forget who you are?

Aidan C.

Quite a small wait it took for you
to get here,
you’re clearly confused about this.
But welcome! Here lies the end of
the beginning,
the beginning
of the end,
and all in between.
Take your only choice:
one of several,
your bittersweet wins that mean nothing.
You have a lot to learn, child,
but less is more.
Take your short lectures and
put the big midgets onstage,
find where you belong,
the big nap,
the short coma,
and wake up in your fate.

Aurelie G.

People can be interesting.

Some say, “Oh, it’s a small crowd, so it
will be a short wait.”

Wait. What was that?

Have you ever thought about clearly confusing

Biggest loser. Same difference. Pretty ugly.

Those are Oxymorons.

Some people have different words.

Contradictions. Comparisons. Opposites.

But in the end, less is more. It’s
Bittersweet. It’s the only choice.

The Test
Erik I.

You stand before
your paper. The problem
stares. You believe A is your
only choice but B is tempting.
No matter what you choose, it would
be bittersweet your sweat falls
you circle in both A and B.

Oxymorons and a Paradox
Josiah R.

I went to the junk food kingdom to get
some jumbo shrimp but was stopped by the pretty
ugly guard. I tried to act naturally but he saw right
through my jumbo shrimp disguise. He told me that to
get into the junk food kingdom I had to say
a statement. If it was true he would ban me from
the kingdom. If it was fake he would cut off my head.
I told him he would cut off my head. He was clearly
confused so I got my jumbo shrimp.

“Jumbo Shrimp”
Leila S.

A jumbo shrimp. What even IS a jumbo shrimp?
An oxymoron saying “jumbo,” meaning big and “shrimp”
meaning small? I would have thought most people
thought of “shrimp” as a food. But I don’t even know
anymore. I mean, now that I’m writing, I don’t even
know. Or maybe “jumbo shrimp” could mean a big
piece of shrimp that you can buy at Red Lobster.
So anyways…i just wanna say…


Random Order
Maya S.

start very
I random order
with a

Random Order do

It’s an
just random

It’s order have


It’s a random order.

John S.

I love jumbo shrimp.

I like junk food.

Is It Sense?
Luke V.

Is it a thing or a living thing?
Is it good, bad or is it the beginning
of the end or does it make a
difference? It might be good it might
be great it could be something
that was made out of nothing.
Now you tell me does it
make sense?



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.