How to Write New Year's Resolutions

by Bruce Lansky

If you read Bridget Jones's Diary, you know it starts out with her New Year's resolutions: lists of things she will and won't do. I'd reprint them all, but it would take too much time and effort to get the reprint rights, so I'll just serve up a smattering of my favorites:

I Will Not

Waste money on exotic underwear since pointless as have no boyfriend.
Fall for any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, chauvinists, freeloaders, perverts.
Have crushes on men, but instead form relationships based on mature assessment of character.

I Will

Go to gym three times a week not merely to buy sandwich.
Learn to program video.
Give all clothes which have not worn for two years or more to homeless.
Not go out every night but stay in and read books and listen to classical music.

Interestingly, the publisher of Bridget Jones's Diary put some of her resolutions on the back cover of the book to promote it:

Meet Bridget Jones--a 30-something Singleton who is certain she would have all the answers if she could:

  a. lose 7 pounds
  b. stop smoking
  c. develop Inner Poise

And the studio that distributed the movie used her resolutions on the poster promoting the movie. Surely, I'm not the only person who was struck by the comic brilliance of Bridget's resolutions, but I'm probably one of the few who see them as delicious examples of list poems.

If this is isn't your first "poetry lesson," you already know my take on list poems--they're just about the easiest way to get kids (or adults) writing poetry. Writing a list poem is fairly easy. All you have to do is make a list, using parallel structure throughout. What makes some list poems better than others is that the better ones:

  • make sense
  • "go somewhere" (that is, begin somewhere and end somewhere else)
  • include humor or some other feeling, if possible

Notice that Bridget Jones's resolutions not only make sense, they go somewhere--that is, they cover what she won't do and what she will do. Reading them, you can quickly grasp that she's a desperate Singleton who doesn't have a boyfriend and is trying to get her act together so she might be able to attract one in the future. And, they're funny--they give you a sense of just how unlikely it is that she'll succeed with any of her resolutions.

Now that you know how much I love Bridget (if you haven't read the book or seen the movie, I suggest you do so at your earliest convenience), and know how much I like list poems, consider this opportunity: Have your class write list poems when they get back to school in January after their holiday vacations. The theme can be their New Year's resolutions or that old chestnut "What I Did Over Winter Vacation."

Here's my quick take on both of those themes:

My New Year's Resolutions

Turn off "X-Files" when I'm supposed to be studying for speling test.
Don't stay home with a "stomach ache" the day of speling test.
Don't express mock surprise when I flunk speling.
Don't fake my father's signature on the report card.
Or, at very least, learn how to spel his first name correctly.

-Bruce Lansky
2001 Bruce Lansky

To see how a list of funny ideas can lead to a poem written in rhymed verse, see "New Year's Resolutions" in my book My Dog Ate My Homework.

Have fun with this project!

If you are interested in inviting Bruce Lansky to your school, click here!


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    My Dog Ate My Homework!