POETRY MATTERS

WRITING A POEM FROM THE INSIDE OUT

In this pep talk for aspiring poets, Fletcher (Have You Been to the Beach Lately, 2001, etc.) speaks directly to his readers in a chatty, non-threatening manner, as if he were a guest lecturer in their classrooms or homes and he reminds his audience that poetry must be an honest expression of the heart and soul. In the first of two parts, he focuses on what he calls “the guts” of poetry: “emotion, image, and music.” He explains the key role that each of these elements plays in the creative process and he also tackles the tricky problem of selecting a subject. The second part involves the nuts and bolts of crafting a poem. Throughout, he cites extensively from his own work, as well as those by other published writers and students. Also included are several interviews with poets who are asked about their inspirations, methods of writing, and advice to young poets. There is a lot of information to digest and understand, and it is not always presented clearly; ideas are thrown at the reader in rapid succession with hardly a breath in between. Each idea is ostensibly illustrated by a poem, but in too many cases neither the idea nor the poem is adequately explained before the next one comes along. Fletcher is obviously passionate about his subject. However, he might do well to follow the warning he gives to young poets: “beware of going on and on and draining the energy.” Someone already intrigued with the idea of writing poetry might find just the right hints and tools here to spark that first successful poem. Anyone else will be overwhelmed and confused. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-79703-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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THE BUG IN TEACHER'S COFFEE

AND OTHER SCHOOL POEMS

PLB 0-06-027940-0 Dakos’s collection of 23 poems from the perspective of items found at school satisfies the I Can Read requirements of simplicity and word repetition, but may not lure beginning readers back for a second time. The material is uninspiring: The school’s front door says, “Keep me shut,/I have the flu,/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Keep me shut,/I have the flu.” A book sings “Happy Birthday” to a ruler, then sings “Happy Unbirthday” when the ruler says that it is not its birthday. Also appearing are a couple of clever items—one on a kidnapped pencil and another on a comb pulling hazardous duty—along with some typographic elements that amiably convey the idea that words are malleable; Reed’s illustrations possess geniality and character, making some inanimate objects very personable. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-027939-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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ISN'T MY NAME MAGICAL?

SISTER AND BROTHER POEMS

Leaving behind much of the lyricism found in his previous collections, Berry (First Palm Trees, 1997, etc.) pens poems in the voices of a sister, Dreena (who has the magical name), and brother, Delroy, on their experiences in the family with a dour sister, mother (“A teacher, Mom has lots of pens/and home and school jobs”), and father, who “drives a train,/sometimes in a heavy jacket.” This father is not really poem-material: “And, sometimes, Dad brings us gifts./Sometimes, he plays our piano.” The brother, Delroy, who tenders three autobiographical poems, can’t sit still and can’t stop talking about it. There is a good declarative poem, about a strong friendship he shares with another boy. Otherwise, he is dancing like a madman (“doing body-break and body-pop”) or skateboarding under the influence of a fevered imagination (“I want one owl on each my shoulder/hooting out as I leap each river”). In her first book, Hehenberger takes a literal route, anchoring every poem in domestic scenes of family and friends; the deep colors and finely sculpted forms become set pieces for Berry’s earthbound images. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-80013-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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