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A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems

A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems Janeczko, Paul B.  2001.  A poke in the I:  A collection of concrete poems.  Ill. by Chris Raschka.  Cambridge, MA:  Candlewick Press.  ISBN:  0763606618.

This collection of concrete poems begins with a note from editor Paul Janeczko that is concise yet gives an excellent summary of the definition and features of a concrete poem.  One word that he uses to describe the concrete poems that follow is "bewitching," and they are certainly that.  A well-rounded selection means that the reader begins to expect the unexpected as the pages turn.  Some of the poems have many words, some have just a couple of lines, and one of the poems consists of just one word.  Topics are varied, and the reader soon realizes that titles of concrete poems are often essential to discerning the subject of the poem.  One example is a poem (p.8) that consists of just two words "smitten bitten."  When one reads that the title is Snake Date, suddenly the words seem to go together and elicit a chuckle.  Because the titles are printed in small font at the upper left or right corner of  each page, it is often the body of the poem that gets the reader's attention first, and the reader finds herself looking for the title to understand the connection between the words.  This collection gives examples of the many formations that words can take in concrete poetry.  Some have formatted text that resembles the subject of the poem, while the shape of some show motion or simply one word whose letters are typed repeatedly in a pattern.

As unique as the poems are the illustrations of Chris Raschka.  Described by one reviewer as "quirky and slightly off-balance ," the images are made of torn origami paper, checkered cloth, watercolors, and ink.  (Hepler, ChildrensLit.Com)  The cloth and origami paper add bold color to Raschka's brush strokes that seems fitting for these one-of-a-kind poems.

This collection will stimulate and inspire children to create concrete poetry of their own.  The diversity of the collection shows that concrete poems come in many forms and can be as simple or as complex as the author wants them to be.  This book can be used as a springboard to help students become authors in their own right.

Hepler, Susan.  Book review of "A Poke in the I:  A collection of concrete poems.  Accessed 24 June 04.

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Holly S.
Graduate Student at Texas Woman's University