In a successful effort to demonstrate the value of her oft-neglected medium, poet and memoirist Molly Peacock (Paradise, Piece by Piece, 1998, etc.) guides the reader through 13 of her favorite poems with grace, humor, and warmth. Peacock, who has been responsible for bringing poetry into the lives of millions of commuters via the nationwide “Poetry in Motion” series, now sets herself to the task of helping readers understand just what it is they are reading. Starting at her own childhood delight in the appearance and construction of words, and with a brief and painless stop to explain her basic terminology, Peacock moves on to detailed readings of her “talismans——the poems that are emblematic of the various emotions or stages of her life. She presents a selection of poets diverse in both style and period. From the soothing repetition of the late Jane Kenyon’s hymnlike “Let Evening Come,” which she recommends as a spiritual tonic, to the unadorned free verse of Yusef Komunyakaa’s “My Father’s Loveletters,” with which she examines her own family life, Peacock rarely falters as she reveals the nuances of language and meaning inherent in each writer’s work. Occasionally the author’s own poetic constructions obscure the clarity she is trying to elicit from the poems; but her sheer delight in them is infectious even when her point is unclear. The final chapter of the book is dedicated to advocating that readers start poetry circles, and Peacock has fellow poets suggest their own “talisman” poems for readers” use. “Poetry circles,” the author writes, “make you know you have a soul, and that other people do, too.” A fervent claim, but one that Peacock has, with this book, made valid. Essential for poetry novices yet thoroughly enjoyable for initiates, this illuminating handbook is a joy. (author tour)

Pub Date: April 5, 1999

ISBN: 1-57322-128-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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