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A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms


From the simplest couplet to the mind-boggling pantoum, the ...

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From the simplest couplet to the mind-boggling pantoum, the award-winning team behind A POKE IN THE I shows us the many fascinating ways poetic forms take shape.

Open this book for something
Twenty-nine different poetic forms await you
Inside these pages. How many
Can you master?

From sonnets to double dactyls,
Odes to limericks—
Raschka and Janeczko (and a frisky mule)
Make learning the rules of poetry
So much fun!

In this splendid and playful volume, acclaimed poetry anthologist Paul B. Janeczko and Caldecott Honor illustrator Chris Raschka present lively examples of twenty-nine poetic forms, demonstrating not only the (sometimes bendable) rules of poetry, but also the spirit that brings these forms so wonderfully to life. Featuring formal poems, some familiar and some never before published, from the likes of Eleanor Farjeon (aubade), X. J. Kennedy (elegy), Ogden Nash (couplet), Liz Rosenberg (pantoum), and William Shakespeare, the sonnet king himself, A KICK IN THE HEAD perfectly illustrates Robert Frost's maxim that poetry without rules is like a tennis match without a net.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Janeczko and Raschka, on the heels of A Poke in the I, explain and sometimes bend the rules of 29 poetic forms, taking their title from a concrete poem of a stick figure punting a ball (poetry jumpstarts my imagination.... poetry gives me a kick in the head). By way of introduction, Janeczko asks, Why 17 syllables in a haiku?, then points out the pleasurable rigors of poetic exercise: Can you do a good job within these limits? The pages demonstrate compact forms like the couplet, tercet and quatrain, and proceed to the more complex roundel, triolet, villanelle (basically five tercets followed by a quatrain) and pantoum (a set of quatrains where, in the final stanza, lines 2 and 4 repeat lines 3 and 1 of the opening stanza. Whew!). Janeczko emphasizes play, and gives definitions in unintimidating, perhaps too tiny gray print; his approachable examples range from an Edward Lear limerick and Shakespeare's 12th sonnet to an Ode to Pablo's Tennis Shoes by Gary Soto and a comic epitaph by J. Patrick Lewis. Raschka marks each form with a witty icon: stacked rows of tulips (haiku, tanka), a bouncing ball (limerick), an urn (ode), a guitar (ballad). His multimedia collages feature fibrous, fuzzy-edged origami paper on a clean white ground; his sensuous brushwork alludes to Zen calligraphy, while his poppy reds, jade greens and brilliant yellows recall kimono designs or Matisse's tropical palette. Janeczko's disciplined but accessible examples, plus Raschka's spirited Asian-inspired images, add oomph to this joyful poetry lesson, sure to be welcomed by teachers and aspiring poets everywhere. Ages 8-11. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-9-Following on the heels of their delightful introduction to concrete poetry, A Poke in the I (Candlewick, 2001), Janeczko and Raschka now join forces to explore poetic forms. An introduction presents an easy-to-swallow rationale for the many rules to follow, likening the restrictions to those found in sports: in both cases, rules challenge the players to excel in spite of limits. The repertoire then unfolds to showcase 29 forms, one to two poems per spread, building from a couplet, tercet, and quatrain to the less familiar and more complex persona poem, ballad, and pantoum. The selections are accessible without being simplistic; they span an emotional range from the tongue-in-cheek humor of J. Patrick Lewis's "Epitaph for Pinocchio" to Rebecca Kai Dotlich's moving "Whispers to the [Vietnam] Wall." Each page is a tour de force of design, the pace and placement of art and text perfectly synchronized. Raschka's characters and abstractions emerge from torn layers of fuzzy rice paper, intricately patterned Japanese designs, and solids, decorated and defined by quirky ink-and-watercolor lines. The expansive white background provides continuity and contrast to the colorful parade. The name of each form resides in the upper corner of the page, accompanied by a wry visual. A definition (in an unobtrusive smaller font) borders the bottom; more detail on each form is provided in endnotes. Readers will have the good fortune to experience poetry as art, game, joke, list, song, story, statement, question, memory. A primer like no other.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Why, you may ask, does a poem have rules?" asks Janeczko in his introduction; "The answer is: rules make the writing of a poem more challenging, more exciting." He proceeds to present 29 different poetic types, from the mundane couplet and the deceptively easy haiku to the villanelle, epitaph and pantoum. Each poem, collected from both writers for children and the Old Masters (Lear and Shakespeare), is accompanied by a short explanation (longer explanations appear in the backmatter) and a characteristically playful watercolor, ink, and collage illustration from Raschka (who also keys icons to each poem type). Gary Soto's "Ode to Pablo's Tennis Shoes" is elegantly flanked by two beat-up sneakers elevated on ornate pedestals; Joan Bransfield Graham's "Is There a Villain in Your Villanelle?" appears with furtive, trench-coated figures sneaking on and off the page. A beautiful, beautifully clear celebration of the discipline of poetry-and the possibilities offered by that discipline-this offering will find use both in the hands of eager poets and on the reference shelf. (Picture book/poetry. 8+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763606626
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 792,991
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.34 (w) x 10.19 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul B. Janeczko is a poet and teacher and has edited more than twenty award-winning poetry anthologies for young people, including STONE BENCH IN AN EMPTY PARK, LOOKING FOR YOUR NAME, SEEING THE BLUE BETWEEN, and A POKE IN THE I, which was an American Library Association Notable Book.

Chris Raschka is the illustrator of more than twenty highly praised books for children, including YO! YES?, a Caldecott Honor Book; CHARLIE PARKER PLAYED BE BOP; I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE; A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES; and, of course, A POKE IN THE I, which was a NEW YORK TIMES Best Illustrated Book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2005


    If you give a child but one book this year let it be 'A Kick In The Head,' an eye-popping introduction to poetic forms. Now, don't be put off by the term 'poetic forms,' the examples win both young readers and adults. Who can resist Ogden Nash's 'In the world of mules, there are no rules.'? (A couplet, of course). Poet and teacher Paul B. Janeczko has included 29 poetic forms from haiku to a sonnet to an elegy. All are so thoughtfully chosen that one cannot suppress a smile or a catch in the throat. Among the authors represented are Shakespeare, Robert Service, Gary Soto, Georgia Heard, Richard Wilbur, the author himself, and, of course, everyone's favorite - anonymous. Among these pleasurable pages readers may learn why there are 17 syllables in a haiku, and 14 lines in a sonnet. Closing pages hold further notes on the various forms. An excellent suggestion from the author is to first read the poem, then read the explanatory note at the bottom of the page, next read the poem again to see if you can detect how it follows the stated form. Fairly bursting from the pages are Chris Raschka's watercolor, ink, and torn paper illustrations. Collage-like in appearance they capture the eye and couple perfectly with each poem. 'A Kick In the Head' is that rarity - a book to be enjoyed by both adults and children, and a joy to return to again and again. - Gail Cooke

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