On March 20 and 21, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented Carnival of the Animals, a concert designed for schools and families with children ages 5 and up. In addition to presenting an exciting program of classical music, including Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals and excerpts from Stravinsky’s The Firebird, the concert featured poems written by students participating in Hands On Stanzas, a program presented by the Poetry Center of Chicago.

Below, you’ll find the poems that were performed by four participating poets of the Hands on Stanzas program, accompanying the performance of The Carnival of the Animals: Rebecca Besecker, Aaron Ivsin, Jade Ocytko, and Lauryn Shields.

Introduction (written by students of PCC)

Walking into the fair, I see a big red tent rising above the others
In big letters the sign says: CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS!
I walk inside and my eyes can’t believe–
I see a lion holding court
I see hens clucking everywhere
I see donkeys running fast
I see a tortoise going much too slow
and an elephant in a tutu!
and a kangaroo hopping
and fish doing the strangest things
and a proud little horse
I hear a cuckoo in the trees
I see birds flitter flatter in bright color
and pianists being chased by their pianos!
and a T-Rex is on the tightrope!
and a swan swimming gracefully
And then! I hear it start…

The Royal Lion – Alyssa A., grade 6 (Moos Elementary)

The Royal Lion marches in
To give his first speech,
Happy and proud—

Hi! I am here to tell
You how I will be
Running things.

I would like the
Jaguars to hunt more.
And don’t sit in the shade.

Monkeys should stop
Messing around because
You might damage
Somebody’s stuff.

The toucans who play
Music need to start
Playing better music.

Elephants, don’t stomp
So hard, you might
Cause an earthquake.

And that is all
I have to say… For now.

And then all the animals
Run off to do what the
Lion said.

Hens – Emily Landicho, grade 7 (Taft High School)

Out of an egg
The light is bright
The air is warm
I topple out
with a soft thud.

I am young
Eggs to give
life to have
I beat my wings
with a soft thud

Swift Animals – Cristian Garcia, grade 4 (Avondale-Logandale Elementary)

Donkey, Donkey,

from what
are you running?
From a tiny spider?
Or ants?

There’s
no need to
run or…

if it’s a wolf,
then run,
donkey, run!
run!

My Tortoise – Tiara Harris, grade 2 (Skinner West Elementary)

I saw my green tortoise it was
neon watch it glow.
So green so slow. Will it take
a million years to watch it go?
Fast oh someone oh someone make
it fast it’s slow it’s too slow.
Oh no it’s so slow, so slow so
slow. It might make me blow.
I’ll huff with madness
and puff with sadness.
Until it goes fast
I hope slow is the past.
So hope will blow all of the
slow away today.
Slow slow slow it goes
slow slow oh so slow.
You are slow.
You’re slow.

Elephant – Alexandra Milovanovic, grade 2 (Skinner West Elementary)

The elephant is dancing ballet
with a pink tutu dress. The
elephant is huge but kind and gray
with ballet shoes on and big floppy
ears. The elephant is very beautiful.

The audience is cheering just for her
because her pirouettes are amazing.
To me she is a blossom blooming in the
spring. It feels like she’s in The
Nutcracker. Her nails are pink and
I love her as a ballerina.

Kangaroo – Miryam G., grade 3 (Darwin Elementary)

I imagine the kangaroo
Is hopping, hopping, and hopping,
And the kangaroo stops hopping.

The kangaroo is doing
Tippytoe, tippytoe, tippytoe
And stop!

The kangaroo is running,
Running, and running.
He runs all the way home and stops!

Then he goes cha-cha-cha because
He is dancing, dancing, dancing!

Aquarium – Lauryn Shields, grade 5 (Moos Elementary)

I see a school of fish
Making a heart

I see a seahorse
Making art

I see a shark
Dressed like a bear

I see a whale
Sitting in a chair

I see a jellyfish
Trying to bark

I see a squid
In the underwater park

I see an octopus
Holding a box with care

I see clowning fish
Everywhere!

Wild Horse – Jacob Warren, grade 4 (Avondale-Logandale Elementary)

A scared little horse
crying in the shadows,
eyes watery and dark

Can’t sleep, too scared,
running to get a drink
so fast like a torpedo

but then he faces his fears
now his eyes fill with light
he is not afraid

turns on the light
now he knows its just his imagination
that kept him afraid

he finally can go to sleep

Cuckoo – Jade Ocytko, grade 4 (Avondale-Logandale Elementary)

Strong in deep forest,
heavy footed.

Yelling a song
in the countryside.
Dresses of leaves,
toys of birch,

And boat of bark.

A community

in the deep forest,
heavy footed.

Birds – Rebecca Besecker, grade 2 (Skinner West Elementary)

Flitter flatter birds!
Flying fast. Fly on
faster, but then stops.
I see 15 toucans.

They are all a beauty.
Red, green, yellow.
One plays my piano.

I wish I could fly gracefully.
Gracefully.
Gracefully.
Gracefully!
I give it my snack.
More birds!

Oh how they fly.
Fast, slow, does it matter?
Pretty, musical, small, big.
In all different colors.
They look like a
beautiful cake.

Chirp! Chirp! Noisy
birds! Chirp! Chirp! Then
the music chip chirp!
Chirp! Chi-chi chirp!
It flows through my
ears.

They pick me up.
They are small.
I fly now, on and on.

Now they fly me home.
This is a moment I’ll
never forget.

Pianist – Olivia Diaz, grade 7 (Taft High School)

I was practicing my piano and let me tell you what
happened, although you may not believe me, my piano
and chair started to dance, you may think I’m crazy but
this is exactly what happened, I tried to run after my piano
and my chair followed. I ran and ran but it wasn’t enough. I
collapsed huffing and puffing. What’s with that look? I said
it was crazy. I told you you would think I’m insane. Just
don’t look behind you… or you’ll become crazy too…

Dinosaur Circus – Aaron Ivsin, grade 7 (Taft High School)

(A large red and white tent arises in the distance, with
flags waving and trumpets blaring, while a figure makes
announcements on the megaphone.)

Come one
Come all
to the GREAT DINOSAUR CIRCUS!
balanced precariously upon the tightrope,
the T-rex walks
while pterodactyls spin circles in the air.
Oh no!
The T-rex has fallen,
hanging in the air
but he picks himself up,
and brontosauruses cartwheel across the floor
and the velociraptor makes an appearance
riding a unicycle while juggling
“No humans allowed!” booms an allosaurus
to a disappointed archeologist.
Come one
Come all
to the great dinosaur circus!

Swan – Hannah Brolin, grade 7 (Taft High School)

A swan
On the peaceful pond
The bright green trees
Shimmer with dazzling light
Water blue murky
With life all around
Fish scales shimmer like stars
Grass and plants flourishing
A crisp white swan
Surveys it all

Finale – (a cento poem)

Come one, come all!
Birds flitter flatter
And cuckoos make toys
While the kangaroo cha-chas
And the T-Rex tightropes
Donkeys run and
Horses become brave
While the tortoise goes slow
and an elephant dances ballet
the swan swims in shimmers
while the fish make strange plans below
the pianists play us out while
the royal lion surveys his work–
“A Fine Carnival We’ve Made!”