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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lemonade, and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. Written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Nancy Doniger. Roaring Brook Press, 2011. $19.50 ages





It is virtually impossible to do justice to this incredible book of poetry. But, you need to know about it and I need to tell you what I can. I have read it many times, and still have not made all the discoveries there are to make, I am sure.

He takes one word. And then he uses only the letters from that word to create a POEM! How does he do that? I still can't completely figure it out. I can tell you it has made me think and try, and then think and try again...and again...and again. I have tried finding as many words as I can from that one chosen word. I have tried them in different configurations. I am NO poet! Bob Raczka is!

Here's what he has to say about this amazing book:

"I love playing with words. That's why I write poems.
I also love to see how other people play with words. That's why I read poems.
One day I was reading about poems on the internet, and I came across the poetry of Andrew Russ. Andrew makes poems out of single words. "

So, he tried it. In fact, he tried it twenty-one times. I cannot imagine how many drafts he did. Some are short and some are much longer. Here's the other twist. The letters on the first page are aligned with the letters from the original word line by line. (I could not get that to happen in the opening poem, so I used the completed one). On the following page, the words are printed in poetic form. Sounds is, but it remains unique and oh, so worthwhile.

I read somewhere that this book was like 'learning to read all over again'. I think they are right. It can be challenging, and a little disconcerting. The words on the first page have no natural breaks or even spaces. There are some that are so charming, I want to hang them on my wall. There are a few where I am still wrestling with the meaning. But, it does not hamper my admiration for his hard work and the results of that work.

Lucky are we to have such mentors for poetry! There are many different forms to try. If you have not seen James Stevenson's thoughtful and 'I can do that' poetry in his 'corn' books, look for them. If you haven't tried book spine poetry, look on the internet and see how much fun that can be. And if you have never tried one word poems, they can help you make new discoveries about yourself, or give you sleepless nights. Bob Raczka makes me believe that 'I can do it' and that's what I want young writers to believe. How about you?

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