cover image A POKE IN THE I: A Collection of Concrete Poems

A POKE IN THE I: A Collection of Concrete Poems

Paul B. Janeczko, Chris Raschka, A POKE IN THE I: A Collection of Concrete Poems

On this book's cover, a winking man nudges a letter "I" with his umbrella. This multilayered image, with its homonym and visual game, provides a stimulating introduction to 30 concrete poems by various authors. Throughout the volume, crisp black words on spotless backgrounds do double-duty as concepts and physical objects. Raschka (Waffle, reviewed below) works in tandem with each poem's design; for example, he fashions the palindrome "eyeleveleye" as a bar across three faces, with each pair of "E's" standing for eyes, and the giddy eat-it-before-it-melts "Popsicle" presents a block of words atop vertical letters spelling "sticky," as a nearby ice cream vendor gazes out from the page. Other poems contradict top-to-bottom reading conventions. The phrases of "Sky Day Dream" ("Once I saw/ some crows/ fly off...") ascend the page, diminishing in size as though growing distant. For the spread "Tennis Anyone?" words and artwork suggest a tennis court with the gutter as the net, so that readers glance from side to side as though watching a volley. Janeczko (Very Best [almost] Friends) selects economical works that allow plenty of space for reflection. "Whee" offers a slope of six single-syllable words ("Packed snow steep hill fast sled") and a scattered group of rag-doll figures; another piece simply joins "merging" to "traffic." Raschka's restrained collages of calligraphic watercolor lines and torn paper leave most everything to the shaped poems. He and Janeczko provide an uncluttered, meditative space for the picturesque language. All ages. (Apr.)