NONFICTION

What Is Poetry?: The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems

illus. by Jill Calder. 208p. index. Candlewick. Jan. 2019. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781536201598; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781536201581.
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Gr 5–8—Using examples of classic poems written by masters of English poetry—Edward Lear, Percy Shelley, Alfred Tennyson, William Shakespeare, and more—Rosen attempts to define what a poem is and what poetry can do: be symbolic or personal, borrow voices, capture a moment, or be ironic. He suggests a number of uses for poetry, citing a variety of rhymes, rhythms, and forms of poetic expression (alliteration, assonance, imagism, metaphor, personification). Using a few of his own poems as examples, he notes how he chose a topic and decided for whom he was writing the poem, what kind of poem he wanted to write, and what he wanted to convey to its readers. The author offers writing tips based upon his own habits: keeping a notebook of ideas; listing topics and related questions, dreaming topics of fantasy or nonsense, creating question-and-answer poems, and more. Finally, he suggests ways readers can use their poetry: perform it, make a poetry wall, form a poetry club, and participate in a poetry slam. And he notes technical points, such as rhyme schemes, sounds, and other poetic devices. Rosen ends with five blank lined pages where young poets can write their own definition of poetry. An appendix lists relevant websites and online videos of individuals performing their poems. This brief introduction may be more useful to teachers than to students. Many poems introduced here are sophisticated classics—by mostly white men—studied in high school English classes.
VERDICT A supplemental purchase for classrooms doing poetry units.

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