Nonsense poetry, or nonsense verse, can be found throughout children's nursery rhymes, limericks, and even old Anglo-Saxon riddles. Nonsense poetry refers to any sort of poetry that is nonsensical in nature, be it that some of the words are made up and meaningless or that the words exist but make little sense in the context they are used in. Often nonsense poetry is lighthearted and has a simple rhyming scheme to it. Most nonsensical poems were written to entertain and amuse children, such as the verses found in children's nursery rhymes.
Popular writers of nonsense poetry throughout history include Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Roald Dahl, and the famous children's book author Dr. Seuss. The works of Lewis Carroll are examples of nonsense verses where words are made up. His poem Jabberwocky features phrases like "vorpal sword," "manxome foe," and "uffish thought." While Carroll later explained the words and how he chose them — often by combining various words that described the word he was looking for — they are still nonsensical and the reader could assign any meaning he wanted to them.
Dr. Seuss also featured made-up words in his children's books, though the intent of each word is clear and takes on a specific meaning for those reading the books. Still, the books are in keeping with the light and entertaining nature of nonsense poetry. Examples of Dr. Seuss's fanciful phrases include the book titles There's a Wocket in My Pocket and Horton Hears a Who! The word "who" does exist, but is used in a way that does not follow what a traditional English speaker would expect to hear.
In contrast, nonsense poetry can also include poems and riddles which make perfect sense grammatically but do not make sense semantically, referring to what the words mean when read as a whole, or as part of sentence. "'I see,' said the blind man" is a popular phrase that plays on the phrase "I see" meaning both "I understand" and "I can see." The nonsensical part comes from the fact that the man, being blind, cannot see at all. Anglo-Saxon riddles took advantage of these play on words to create poems that seemed to make no sense but actually referred to specific items or creatures.
Many cultures and languages have embraced nonsense verse at some point or other during their history. Today, nonsense verse is found primarily in humorous lyrics or children's books. It focuses less on riddles that require the listener to solve them and more on stringing together unusual or made-up words for amusement.