Is Dr. Seuss Poetry? Here’s What We Think

Dr. Seuss is one of the most popular authors, but is Dr. Seuss poetry? Learn more about Dr. Seuss and poetry below. 

Poetry has been around for thousands of years, and Dr. Seuss, whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, is one of the most famous American authors of the 20th century. He spent most of his time in Massachusetts and New York, and most people associate Dr. Seuss with some of his most popular books, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. But, even though he is well-known as an author and cartoonist, is his work considered poetry? 

Yes, Dr. Seuss is considered a poet, and he produced plenty of poetry during his career. Many of his works have defining characteristics found throughout multiple types of poetry, and Dr. Seuss’s poems are staples of children’s literature.

What Is Poetry?

Before diving into the works of Theodor Geisel, it is important to take a closer look at the most significant defining features of poetry. Some of the unifying features that most types of poetry share include:

  • Stanzas: Stanzas are the basic building blocks of poetry. A stanza is a group of lines that focus on the same topic or thought. It is similar to the paragraph, which is the foundational feature of standard prose, but poetry uses stanzas instead. Stanzas come in different sizes. For example, some stanzas are divided into two lines each, called a couplet. Other types of stances are divided into three lines each, which is a triplet. 
  • Meter: Most types of poems share something called a meter, such as an anapestic tetrameter. This describes the rhythm and emphasis of different words or syllables throughout the written work. Even though there are certain types of poetry, such as freeform poetry, that does not have any meter, most types of poetry have a meter.
  • Rhymes: Written work does not have to rhyme to be considered poetry, but rhyming is one of the most common features across multiple types of poetry. Sometimes, words and lines next to each other rhyme, but there may be words on the first and last lines that rhyme in other cases. 
  • Columns of Words: Finally, poetry is visibly unique on the page. Many poems have a narrow column of words with visible breaks between the stanzas. In some situations, lines may be lengthened or indented, using extra spaces between the words to make the columns line up—the white space around the words frames how the reader is supposed to interpret the work.

These are just a few of the most common features that poems share. Even though there are many types of poems, many types share these common features.

Why Dr. Seuss Is a Poet

Is Dr. Seuss Poetry?
Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

With these common features in mind, it is time to look at some specific works by Dr. Seuss to see why his work is considered poetry. 

Dr. Seuss Frequently Rhymed in His Work

One of the most common reasons why works written by this children’s author are considered poetry is that he was an expert at making different passages rhyme. He was so creative that he used different rhyming schemes depending on his writing work.

Here is an excellent example from one of his most famous works, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. The passage goes:

I do not like this one so well

All he does is yell, yell, yell

I will not have this one about 

When he comes in I put him out

This one is quiet as a mouse

I like to have him in the house

The way it has been written above is the same way it is structured in the book. There are line breaks precisely as they are written. When we look at the rhyming scheme written above, there is an obvious pattern. This game is AA BB CC. This means that the first and second lines rhyme, the third and fourth lines rhyme, and the fifth and sixth lines rhyme. 

Here is another passage from a Dr. Seuss book that uses rhyme schemes. This one is a bit different, and it comes from the book Yertle the Turtle. The passage is:

My throne shall be higher, his royal voice thundered

So pile up more turtle, I want ’bout two hundred

The rhyme is not as apparent, but if you say this aloud, you will hear that thundered, and hundred are very close to rhyming with one another. That is the intention of this passage. 

Dr. Seuss Uses Stanzas in His Work

The next reason why Dr. Seuss is frequently considered a poet is that he uses a lot of stanzas in his writing. Instead of using paragraphs common in freeform prose, he uses stanzas instead. This does not mean that his work is devoid of punctuation, but typical grammar rules do not bind it. 

Here are a few examples from one of his most famous works, The Cat in the Hat:

I sat there with Sally. 

We sat there, we two.

And I said, “How I wish

We had something to do!”

Too wet to go out

And too cold to play ball.

So we sat in the house.

We did nothing at all.

The line breaks above are exactly as they are written in the book. These line breaks would be highly unusual in a traditional novel, but they are common in poetry and works for young readers written by Dr. Seuss. 

Here is another example from the same book:

“I know some good games we could play,”

Said the cat.

“I know some new tricks,”

Said the Cat in the Hat.”

“A lot of good tricks.

I will show them to you.

Your mother

Will not mind at all if I do.” 

This is another perfect example of his use of stanzas. Again, there are intentional breaks when ideas shift, but they are different from standard prose. Stanzas are common in poetry and among works by Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss Uses Meter in His Poems

Even though meter is not universal across all types of poetry, the presence of a meter is common among poets. Dr. Seuss also makes clever use of a rhythmic meter to keep his readers interested, and there are a few examples from another one of his most popular young children’s books, Green Eggs and Ham, from Random House.

Here is the first example of Dr. Seuss using a rhythmic meter in this story:

I do not like them, 

Sam-I-am.

I do not like

Green Eggs and Ham.

Would you like them

Here or there?

I would not like them 

Here or there.

I would not like them

Anywhere.
 

The way it is written above is how it appears in the book. Dr. Seuss is trying to generate a rhythm with his line breaks. There is a natural pause at the end of each line, and there is a lot of rhyming throughout the passages. The rhymes help give the reader a flow, particularly when reading the passage aloud.

Here is another passage from the same book:

I do not like them 

In a house.

I do not like them 

With a mouse.

I do not like them 

Here or there

I do not like them 

Anywhere.

Here, the line breaks and periods help highlight the piece’s intended rhythm. This type of rhythmic meter is not unique to this work. It is found throughout many of his books, including Horton Hatches the Egg, Fox in Socks, and The Lorax. The presence of a meter is one of the biggest examples of poetry and is another reason why Dr. Seuss is considered a poet. 

To learn more about poetry, check out this list of poetry terms everyone should know.

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