Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out

Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out

3.7 9
by Ralph Fletcher

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Maybe you've heard before that poetry is magic, and it made you roll your eyes, but I believe it's true. Poetry matters. At the most important moments, when everyone else is silent, poetry rises to speak.

I wrote this book to help you write poems and to give practical ideas for making your poems sound the way you want them to sound. We're not going to smash poems


Maybe you've heard before that poetry is magic, and it made you roll your eyes, but I believe it's true. Poetry matters. At the most important moments, when everyone else is silent, poetry rises to speak.

I wrote this book to help you write poems and to give practical ideas for making your poems sound the way you want them to sound. We're not going to smash poems up into the tiniest pieces. This book is about writing poetry, not analyzing it. I want this book to help you have more wonderful. moments in the poetry you write. I want you to feel the power of poetry. it's my hope that through this book you will discover lots of ways to make your poems shine, sing, soar...

— Ralph Fletcher

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Throw out the formidable rhythm and rhyme schemes: Ralph Fletcher's Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out laughs in the face of formality. Organized into two sections "Lighting the Spark" and "Nurturing the Flame" and peppered with interviews with published poets, Fletcher's accessible volume teaches kids to write poetry from the heart. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Budding poetry writers will receive plenty of encouragement here for both the creative process and the crafting of a poem. In part one, "Lighting the Spark," Fletcher addresses the emotional aspects, the imagery, the sound and what to write about. He tells his readers, "The best poems don't tell us what to think, they show us, and they let us feel it, too. In Part two, "Nurturing the Flame," he tells the reader to think fragments, consider the shape of the poem, the importance of the last line and wordplay. He addresses several problems that writers will encounter, such as flat language, vague ideas, and poems that go on too long. There are interviews with three renowned poets-Kristine O'Connell George, Janet S. Wong and J. Patrick Lewis, in which they respond to questions about where their ideas come from, how they deal with writer's block and what advice they would give to young writers. Fletcher encourages "Bring Your Own Poetry" parties where everyone shares a favorite poem and sometimes there are group readings. He often uses student poetry as examples, which is a nice encouragement for other young writers. He keeps his tone light and his examples straightforward. An excellent annotated bibliography of contemporary poets and selected works is found at the back of the book. Teachers will find many helpful tips in working with students and their poetry efforts. The book is very approachable for the students themselves.
—Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-A concise, nuts-and-bolts guide to creating poetry. The book begins by defining poems as "emotional X-rays" that seek to delve into a person's inner being. Chapters deal with images; creating "music," or sounds and rhythms; how to generate ideas for poems; the construction of the words on the page; and more. Tips on fine-tuning are also given, from experimenting with wordplay to finding a voice and narrowing the focus of a piece. Major poetic forms are defined, including haiku, ode, and free verse, and there is a section on ways to share your work. Interspersed are Fletcher's personal insights and interviews with three poets-Kristine O'Connell George, Janet S. Wong, and J. Patrick Lewis-who discuss what inspires them and how they go about creating their work. The many examples of poetry throughout embody the author's advice by showing how writing techniques actually function in poems. Since this thought-provoking book covers more of the internal, less-tangible aspects of poetry, it may be more suited for readers who have some experience with the genre.-Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.32(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Power of Poetry

One year I came home from college to spend Christmas with my family, and I was flat broke. I had gotten used to being a poor college student, but this year I didn't want to be broke for Christmas. I was tired of buying junky gifts for my parents, brothers, and sisters. This year I wanted to have enough money to buy nice presents.

I got a job washing dishes at a local seafood restaurant, stacking trays of dirty dishes and hauling away the clean dishes when they emerged from the dish-washing machine. It was hot, sweaty work, but on Christmas Eve the manager handed me five crisp twenty-dollar bills. I hurried out to do my shopping.

There was a shopping center close to my house. I was walking across the parking lot when I was startled to see my grandfather. He was leaning over a container of trash, picking through it.

“Grandpa?” I said. When I took a step closer I could see that even though the man was tall, thin, and bald he wasn't my grandfather. This ragged man had a ripped coat; he looked cold. All I could imagine was my grandfather pawing through trash, looking for something to eat on Christmas Eve. I walked up to him and pressed the five twenty-dollar bills into his cold hand.

“Merry Christmas,” I mumbled.

“Th-thank you, son,” the man stammered, looking at the money.

I wanted to tell him to use the money to buy a new coat, but somehow the words wouldn't come out. I turned around and started walking home.

“Merry Christmas!” the man yelled.

“Merry Christmas,” I said, waving. When I walked away I felt good. But the good feeling lasted about one minute. Mywallet was empty now. I didn't have any money to buy presents for my family.

It seemed pointless to go shopping after that, so I walked home. On the way I got the seed of an idea. I went straight to my room, took out some paper, and started to write. My brainstorm was to write a poem for each member of my family.

I started with one of my little sisters. She liked horses, so I wrote her a poem about a horse galloping on the beach. It took me about a half hour to write the poem, and when it was finished I decided it wasn't bad at all.

One of my brothers wanted to be an astronaut, so I wrote him a poem about outer space. After a while Mom called me down to join everyone in hanging stockings from the mantel. When we were finished I went back upstairs to work.

By ten o'clock I had done four poems, but I had eight brothers and sisters. My eyes started getting tired. It was hard work — talk about writing under deadline! — but it was fun trying to think of what each person would want his or her poem to be about. I wrote and wrote. By eleven my eyes were blurry but the poems were done.

I went down to the basement. Someone had given Dad a box of old paper, and I knew he wouldn't mind if I took some sheets. I copied each poem onto a piece of paper, trying to keep the letters neat and not make any spelling mistakes. When I finished copying a poem, I rolled up the paper and tied a red ribbon around the middle. It was almost 1 a.m. when I went downstairs and tucked each scrolled poem in a stocking hanging from the fireplace. Finally I could drag myself upstairs and go to bed.

Early the next morning I felt someone tugging the collar of my pajamas. When I wrenched open my eyes, I saw my three-year-old sister Carolyn standing by my bed. She was holding her Christmas stocking, all lumpy with presents, and I could see the scrolled poem sticking out the top.

“Listen!” she said in an excited voice. Gently she scrunched her stocking until I could hear the paper crinkling.

“There's something magic in there,” she said, nodding her little head and looking straight at me. “There's poetry in there. Poetry!”

Maybe you've heard before that poetry is magic, and it made you roll your eyes, but I believe it's true. Poetry matters. At the most important moments, when everyone else is silent, poetry rises to speak.

A beloved teacher retires. Her students write a poem and, later, at the ceremony, read it aloud to honor her.

A big sister gets married. Her little sister writes a poem and reads it at the reception.At funerals, graduations, fiftieth wedding anniversaries, birthday parties, at the inauguration of a president, people gather to read — what? Not stories. Not articles or plays. They read poems.

I think the reason is partly because poems are so intimate. Often we write poems for personal reasons. A girl likes a boy, writes him a love poem, and slips it into his backpack where she knows he will find it.It has been said that writing a poem for someone else is like giving blood because it comes from the heart of the writer and goes to the heart of the receiver. Poems are filled with words from the heart.

The power of poetry comes at least partly from its brevity. Poems are short, and they pack a punch — often they say a lot with a few well-chosen words. Here's a poem I recently wrote:


I left one flower
on Grandma's coffin:
a forget-me-not
as if I could

Of course, not everybody is a fan of poetry. I often run into kids who don't like to write poems. “Poems are boring,” one girl muttered when I visited her classroom. She complained that her teacher had spent hour after hour dissecting poems and pulling out similes, metaphors, and symbolism.

Poetry Matters. Copyright © by Ralph Fletcher. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Ralph Fletcher has always been a special person for children's literature. He is the author of picture books, nonfiction, and novels for young readers. How to Write Your Life Story is the fifth book in Mr. Fletcher's series of instructional writing books, which includes A Writer's Notebook, Live Writing, How Writers Work, and Poetry Matters. Mr. Fletcher lives with his family in New Hampshire.

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Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anniebell More than 1 year ago
This book taught me things that I didn't learn in school. I have wrote two poems since reading the book and everyone loved them. They could see a improvement from the ones I wrote before.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You are EXCELLENT at writing poems for children. this is a poem i made it is very short. The grasshoppers all skip, The early drop tips, under,over bent and clover Daisy,sorrel, without quarrel.
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