Guess what I've been reading this week? That's right -- poetry. This week I've been reading several excellent (and instructive) poetry books by Paul Janeczko. Regular readers know that I rhapsodize about his excellent collaboration with Chris Raschka, A Kick in the Head, and, more recently, about Seeing the Blue Between, which I mentioned wanting for the holidays, so I ordered it for my very own.
Well, the past few days I've been reading these delightful Janeczko tomes from my lovely local library:
The Place My Words Are Looking For: What Poets Say About and Through Their Work is an anthology edited by Paul Janeczko that came out in 1990. In it, he collects poems from 39 poets, plus their thoughts, ideas, and some advice on the writing of poetry. An interesting way to learn about poets through their work and their account of their history (how they came to writing poetry, primarily). The balance of rhyme and free verse, simple poems and more complex ideas, is spot on. And this book is 16 years old already, yet you'd (almost) never know it. I added the qualification because some folks will see that the fashions are a tad dated, or, if it's of someone they know, that they are older than that now.
Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers
Organized alphabetically, for each letter the book includes a poem that has something to do with the letter (a poem called "The Question" for Q, a poem about extinction for E (even though it's called "The Animals are Leaving" -- this particular one made me stop and think for a wee bit), a poem called "Which" for H (the content is about horses), etc.) And in some places, types of poems are examined: Acrostic poems under A, Clerihews and Curse poems under C, Shape poems (aka concrete poems) under S. There are practical exercises for folks who'd like to give some forms a try, and wonderful poems to look at. As always, Janeczko balances rhyme with free verse, and includes some poems in forms as well. Nice!
How to Write Poetry is the final Janeczko book I read this week. It's organized as a primer for young people who are interested in writing poetry. While instructive, it's never didactic -- something very hard to pull off, I think, yet Janeczko's managed nicely. In the first chapter, he discusses the tools needed in order to write, the usefulness of keeping a journal and word banks, and notes on how to observe, what to observe, whether to hide your journal, and --oh yeah-- a directive on the importance of READING, most particularly of reading other poetry. Chapters Two through Four are focused on writing different types of poems, with examples interspersed and useful tips interspersed. Chapter Five gives you some idea of what to do with your poems once you're finished, including advice on submitting poems for publication.
The exercises could, I suppose, easily be used in the classroom, although the way the book is written it's more like kindly advice from one poet to another, and less teacherish. And that makes it the perfect gift for a budding young poet you know. Or even an older person who's just getting started. I'm just sayin'.