Poetry Friday: Reviews of Poetry

I do not have any poetry of my own to share this week as I’ve been sick for several days and have not pursued any writing. I am starting to feel better. It is amazing that we are this far into the pandemic and I am now just getting COVID. I’m so thankful that I received my vaccinations and booster shot. I cannot imagine how awful I’d feel now if I hadn’t received those protective measures.

In lieu of my own poetry, which was last worked on over the weekend prior to getting ill, I will offer a couple of poetry reviews. As I go through my bookshelves, I find some favorite titles that I read with our boys. One such book is Dinner at the Panda Palace by Stephanie Calmenson (1991). The book tells a story of a panda who welcomes guests to his restaurant and quickly runs out of space. The story is written with a lilting cadence that makes little ones giggle with joy as the story unfolds. Each stanza is four lines long with the end of the second and fourth lines set to rhyme. There are some clever twists to the story such as three little pigs seeking refuge in the restaurant as they escape from a wolf. As you can imagine, the pages become fuller and fuller with drawings of racously behaving animas as the restaurant fills up. Of course, the story has a happy ending with Mr. Panda eventually finding room for all his diners. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with young children or grandchildren. I’m not sure it is available new anymore but it is available used on Amazon and I’m sure some well-stocked local public libraries would have a copy. It’s recommended for ages 4-8. You’ll have as much fun reading it as your kids will have listening to it.

A favorite book in rhyme. Dinner at the Panda Palace (1991).

This week I also received two publications from Rattle. I became aware of Rattle while looking for publications that was accepting submissions for chapbooks. They also run a monthly ekphrastic poetry challenge which I entered in Januray. I submitted my chapbook for consideration fo this year’s contest. The entry fee for the contest covers a year’s subsciption to Rattle publications, if I remember correctly. The chapbook, Imago, Dei by Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose, arrived along with my first copy of Rattle (Spring 2022) poetry. With interest, I read the chapbook the night I received it. The poetry was emotionally heavy and intense, dealing with a dysfunctional family and the relationships within. I read it all. And, I realized several things.

  1. Poetry is more powerful when there is intense emotion associated with the event or subject being written about.
  2. Poetry is sometimes disturbing.
  3. Poetry can be honest and raw.
  4. Poetry does NOT have to rhyme. For me, this is THE most important trait about poetry that I share with students. They are shocked! Poetry does, however, have to flow. We then talk about how rhyme contributes to that flow and how to achieve flow without rhyme.
  5. The poetry in the chapbook I received from Rattle is not the type of poetry that I write. It is too deep, too disturbing, too raw. It doesn’t mean that I cannot write that type of poetry, just that I don’t.
  6. The beauty of poetry is in the eye of the reader. Therefore, what constitutes “good” poetry is highly subjective.

I can say, fairly confidently, that my chapbook will not be choosen by Rattle for publication. And, that’s okay. It’s too light hearted, too joyous, too childlike, and too celebratory. Life can be dark and disturbing. Luckily, I haven’t experienced it that way, so my writing does not (in general) reflect that. Although I had acquainted myself with Rattle and the type of poems they publish, it did not “hit home” until I read the chapbook they had selected for the winner of the last round of competition.

I did not sleep well the night I read the Ambrose’s chapbook Imago, Dei. I know why. Tonight I’ll re-read Dinner at the Panda Palace for the six-hundreth time. It’ll lead to much sweeter dreams.

Today is Poetry Friday. Our host is Kat Apel from down under at Kats Whiskers. She includes book reviews of a new publication of hers, just hitting the Austrailian bookshelves now and an interview that illuminates some of her process. Be sure to check it out! Thanks for hosting, Kat!

10 thoughts

  1. Carol, I am so sorry that you were stricken with COVID. I can imagine how exhausted you must feel. Writing this blog is a feat in itself. The Panda book sounds just delightful and definitely the type of book my grandgirls would love. Take care of yourself.

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    1. Hi Carol! Thanks! I am getting better. I thought of you and your grands when I wrote the post! Dinner at Panda Palace does sound like something they would enjoy! It’s a favorite and I hope to read it to my grands someday (when/if I have them).

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  2. We learn so much about poetry on the journey. And learn more about ourselves in the process, too. It sounds like your week has been a learning curve – and validating that need to be true to self with your writing. Take care, and feel better soon.

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  3. I hear you on the content of the chapbook. The poetry I write is not edgey enough for the adult world by far. But, also not always for children. That doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. I like your reflections! And, I’m glad you are feeling better. What a rotten thing — to catch covid in this phase of our public health. I’m sorry about that. But, I’m glad you are feeling better.

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    1. Thanks. Your use of the word “edgy” is perfect – it describes my conundrum exactly…not edgy enough! I think it opened my eyes to how I need to stay true to myself and my own writing. Writing in an edgy fashion does not have to be me. Thanks for the good wishes, too. I am feeling better.!

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  4. Oof! I haven’t had COVID yet, but I realize it’s probably in my future, no matter how protected I am. Sigh. Keep getting better!

    I haven’t read the journal and chapbook from Rattle yet, but I appreciate the heads up about reading it/them before bed! And I totally agree with your point #6.

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    1. Thanks, Mary Lee. I was surprised that it was this late in the game that I got the virus – after all I had travelled this year. But, I think that eventually, we will all have it to some degree. I am so thankful I took the precaustions I did and that they were available to all.

      And, yes, I’d steer clear of the Rattle chapbook before bed. I have not returned to read the journal of poetry yet, but I have paged through it. In general, not my “type” of poetry.

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  5. I’m glad you’re feeling better again, too, Carol. I think good poetry feels authentic. By that I mean it feels like the poet really means it (even if they are not speaking as their actual selves) and that as a reader I really feel it. That match is not always achieved. Maybe I can appreciate what went into the writing if I don’t feel along with it, but I can’t love it. But I’ve also realized that “light hearted, joyous, childlike, and celebratory” can also be edgy and surprising and raw, if the words are well-chosen and the form does its job, whatever it is. Thanks for the tip about the Panda Palace!

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    1. Heidi, your points are so true about authenticity. Thank you for sharing them. I think someone else wrote that their poetry wasn’t “edgy” enough and that was the perfect word. But, I think you are also correct that joyful or celebratory poetry can also be edgy. I haven’t been able to do that often. Maybe, it is something I can work on. Thank you for your insight.

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