When Marjorie Maddox first approached me about spotlighting her new book, Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Kelsay Books), I told her I couldn’t possibly say no!
In fact, given that we already had so many interconnections, I had to yes: we were both friends of the late Lee Bennett Hopkins and Paul Janeczko; she had recently been featured on the Poetry for Children blog of Sylvia Vardell, who along with Janet Wong have been publishing the Poetry Friday series of poetry anthologies; and she is also a friend of Charles Ghigna, with whom I co-authored Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books), coming out this August.
Add to all this the fact that Marjorie is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University in PA (right near where my ancestors settled back in the mid-1800’s!) and I simply could not deny this alignment of stars.
Inside Out is a collection of original poems, but it’s much more than that; it’s a learning tool that shines a light on everything and anything a poet would ever want to know, from how to write a villanelle, sonnet, or acrostic to how to effectively use metaphor, alliteration, and just about every other poetic device out there.
Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize, Marjorie has published 11 books of poetry and knows the craft…well, inside and out! Because her book is so rich with guidance, ideas, and suggestions – a perfect book for anyone who wants to learn more about the craft and art of poetry – I thought I would ask her ONE question – the most important question a writer needs to ask when writing a book – and let her take it from there as a guest post.
That question, of course, is…
“Why did this book need to be written?” (The all-important question!) Take it away, Marjorie!
This is a book about playing with words—fun, pure and simple! Welcome to Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises! Just out from Kelsay Books, Inside Out is geared toward a YA and MG audience—plus their teachers and parents. But you’ll find no restrictions on age or experience here. If you gobble poems for breakfast or are a little hesitant about that first bite, this book is for you.
Inside Out grew out of my more than 30 years of teaching poetry at the college, high school, and elementary levels, of seeing kids of all ages fall in love with metaphors, puns, rhyme, and images. How? By actually stepping into the poem and playing around with metaphors, puns, rhyme, and images.
I begin by inviting readers to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and befriend a poem. No social distancing here when it comes to poetry! Take a listen:
And for those a little nervous about even the words “poem,” or “poetry,” this book defuses the fear and opens up a safe space to experiment with ideas—as in the following:
Befriending a Poem
Invite him home for dinner,
but don’t insist on rhyme;
he may be as tired and as overworked
as his distant cousin Cliché.
Best to offer intriguing conversation
that’s light on analysis.
Allow for silences and spontaneity.
Most importantly, like any good friend,
be faithful and patient;
remember to listen.
Sometimes he’s shy
and just needs a little time and coaxing.
Much of what he has to say
lies between the lines.
In a series of poems on poetic techniques, I then welcome the reader to step inside a poem about that same technique. Similes, onomatopoeia, paradox, alliteration, eye rhymes. Get the picture? With such tools, you can become anyone from any place. During these times of restricted travel, here’s your free ticket to trekking through time or cruising new sites—right from your own room.
Step into the words and become
a prince, a pauper, a piece of popcorn,
a philosophical panda, a paranoid piano.
Slip forwards or backwards in time
as Cleopatra or the president of Mars.
No one will interrupt.
The podium is yours.
Go ahead and pontificate.
Inside Inside Out is also a great place to experiment with new forms of poetry. While you and your loved ones are staying home and safe, why not chat with personification, dance with iambic, fish for sestinas, and text with a triolet?
What’s more, there are poems here on penning villanelles (“How to Write a Villanelle”), on scribing English sonnets, (“How to Write an English Sonnet”), on drafting clerihews (“How to Write a Clerihew”), on impersonating personification (“The Frankenstein Poem”)—plus nine lively “magic trick” exercises (connected to the poems) to keep you thinking and creating. Here’s one to try:
How to Text a Triolet
If you all want to write a triolet,
it really is no secret what to do.
First concentrate on what you have to say
and if you want to write. A triolet,
says what you said before; it’s déjà vu
though you can always change a word or two
if you all want. To write a triolet,
it really is no secret what to do.
A great new way to communicate with friends, right?
Thanks, dear readers, for coming along on this poetic ride. I hope to see you again very soon, inside the poem!
Thanks so much, Marjorie!
Wow, you can sense the enthusiasm, can’t you?? I hope you’ll check out Marjorie’s book – it really is a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration. I also hope you’ll check out Wondering and Wandering, where Christie Wyman is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup!
By the way, in addition to her 11 books of poetry, Marjorie Maddox has published 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. She’s the great-grandniece of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball. The chair of the jury of judges for the 2020 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Book Award, she gives readings and workshops around the country. For more information, visit www.marjoriemaddox.com.
I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun doing so. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.
The 2020 Progressive Poem continues…
The annual Progressive Poem, begun several years ago by poet/author/blogger Irene Latham, is a way for the Poetry Friday family and other kidlit bloggers to join together and create a crowd-sourced poem for National Poetry Month. One person writes one line, then another adds another line, until a completed poem appears on April 30. Here’s where you can follow along and find all the contributors:
1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year – and there are a LOT of them, too! In addition to April’s two releases, there are new books out from folks like Diana Murray, Corey Rosen Schwartz, Lori Degman, Michelle Schaub, and many others. I’m very proud to be part of this group of dedicated, talented writers.
Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!
Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)
- NY Public Library’s “100 Best Book for Kids 2017” AND “Staff Pick!”
- KIRKUS Starred review!
- Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Books!
- “Best Reads of 2017,” Unleashing Readers
- Finalist, 2019 New Hampshire Literary Awards
- Positive reviews from Horn Book, School Library Connection, School Library Connection, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and Shelf-Awareness!
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