Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Poetry Month -- A Kick in the Head

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms
selected by Paul Janeczko
illustrated by Chris Raschka
Scholastic, 2005

Okay, I'll freely admit it: sometimes I don't read the introductions of books when I'm supposed to -- before I read the book. Sometimes I get around to reading the introduction a lamentable four years after the book is published and discover new ways to help kids get excited about it. Yes, I'm talking about the introduction to A KICK IN THE HEAD. Here's a little piece of what I found this morning:
"Why, you may ask, do poems have rules? Why 17 syllables in a haiku? Why 14 lines in a sonnet? The answer is: rules make the writing of a poem more challenging, more exciting. Think of a game you enjoy, like baseball. Imagine how much less intriguing the game would be if there were no foul lines or no limit to the number of outs in an inning. The rules often ask, "Can you do a good job within these limits?" Knowing the rules makes poetry -- like sports -- more fun, for players and spectators alike. Robert Frost once remarked that poetry without rules would be like a tennis match without a net."
Off you go. Grab your copy of A KICK IN THE HEAD and finish reading the introduction. Then read it to your students. Then study the little pictorial clues that illustrator Chris Raschka included in the top corner of each page where the name of the form is and try to figure out how he has represented the poetry form within that clue. (And shake your head and promise never to wait four years to read the introduction of ANY book EVER AGAIN!)

(Franki recently reviewed of Janeczko and Raschka's newest poetry venture together, A FOOT IN THE MOUTH. Tomorrow Paul Janeczko will be the featured Poetry Maker at The Miss Rumphius Effect.)


  1. I love all the books in this series, but I hate to think what body-breaking title is next!

  2. This is an excellent resource! I use Kick in the Head all year long.

  3. This is also one of my favorites, but now that the whole body-breaking concept has been noted, I suspect I'll start keeping a list of possible "sequels" just for fun!

  4. This really resonated with me. I taught drama for many years. One of the things I noticed was that if I allowed my students to just go for it, develop their own improvisations without any parameters, both they and I would be disappointed in the results. But if I gave them rues, or some kind of format, it seemed to force them to be creative, as well as guide their process.

  5. Sounds great -- I will be checking it out immediately!

    I love the idea about kids loving rules.


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