I can still remember the first concrete poem that I read. It was Mouse's Tail, by Lewis Carroll, which appears in his book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I thought the poem was very clever and showed it to my father. Nowadays lots of poets are trying out this clever poetry form and it is interesting to see what they are creating.
Brian P. Cleary
Illustrated by Andy Rowland
For ages 6 to 8
Millbrook, 2015, 978-1-4677-4412-6
Most of the time poems are written so that words are in horizontal lines that go across the page from left to right. We are used to this format and comfortable with it, but some people like to write poems that are a little different. They write concrete poems, which are poems that look like the thing (or things) that the poem is about. The letters of the poem “are arranged on the page to form a picture” of that thing. Thus a poem about a pair of scissors might be arranged on the page so that the words in the poem form the picture of a pair of scissors. Concrete poems are fun to create and they don’t have to rhyme, so they are a wonderful poetic form for novice poets to try.
The first poem we encounter in the book is Ode to a commode, and the words on the page are arranged in a spiral so that they look like water swirling in a toilet after it has been flushed. It is hard not to laugh as we follow the words round and round until “the bowl fills back up in a minute.”
Next there is No Wonder he is so Quiet and we see a poem that looks like a pair of glasses. We can tell at once that the writer has a just got new glasses. He or she is thrilled to be able to see everything so clearly, and now the writer knows why his or her friend is so quiet. It turns out that the friend “was really a tall potted plant.”
A little further into the book we encounter a poem called A twisted Tale and we can see straight away what the poem is about because the words are arranged on the page so that they look like a pretzel. We read how some pretzels are soft, “chewy and warm” while others are “hard and you crunch.” The great thing is that no matter what texture they are, pretzels are “always delicious with lunch.”
Wonderful touches of humor, amusing artwork, and a delicious moments of word play make this book of poetry a must for young readers who appreciate poetry in all its forms.