A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms

Kick in the Head

by Paul B. Janeczko

Paul B. Janeczko’s  A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms (Candlewick, 2009) should be required reading for literature classes from elementary school through college. It’s the best way I know of to discover (and appreciate) the various forms of poetry, including, as it does, memorable examples and joyful – there’s no other word for it – illustrations by Chris Raschka. Janeczko covers 29 different forms of poetry, ranging from those likely to be familiar to most readers, such as couplets, haikus, sonnets, and quatrains, but also those less likely to have been encountered in casual reading, like concrete poetry, villanelles, the found poem, the pantoum, and more. The poets and and their works include a satisfyingly diverse mix of writers, both the famous and the unknown (at least to me). The former includes everyone from Ogden Nash (and his couplet “In the world of mules/There are no rules”), to William Blake (and his quatrain that begins “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright … “); as well as Edward Lear, followed by what I can only call an “anti–limerick” by Stephen Herrick on the opposite page; Gary Soto (an ode to a pair of sneakers); and an excerpt from one of Robert Service’s most famous ballads, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.” Don’t miss the examples of epitaphs – I’m still smiling about the one for Pinocchio.

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