cover image A KICK IN THE HEAD: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms

A KICK IN THE HEAD: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms

, , illus. by Chris Raschka. . Candlewick, $17.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0662-6

Janeczko and Raschka, on the heels of A Poke in the I , explain and sometimes bend the rules of 29 poetic forms, taking their title from a concrete poem of a stick figure punting a ball ("poetry jumpstarts my imagination.... poetry gives me a kick in the head"). By way of introduction, Janeczko asks, "Why 17 syllables in a haiku?," then points out the pleasurable rigors of poetic exercise: "Can you do a good job within these limits?" The pages demonstrate compact forms like the couplet, tercet and quatrain, and proceed to the more complex roundel, triolet, villanelle (basically "five tercets followed by a quatrain") and pantoum (a set of quatrains where, in the final stanza, "lines 2 and 4 repeat lines 3 and 1 of the opening stanza. Whew!"). Janeczko emphasizes play, and gives definitions in unintimidating, perhaps too tiny gray print; his approachable examples range from an Edward Lear limerick and Shakespeare's 12th sonnet to an "Ode to Pablo's Tennis Shoes" by Gary Soto and a comic epitaph by J. Patrick Lewis. Raschka marks each form with a witty icon: stacked rows of tulips (haiku, tanka), a bouncing ball (limerick), an urn (ode), a guitar (ballad). His multimedia collages feature fibrous, fuzzy-edged origami paper on a clean white ground; his sensuous brushwork alludes to Zen calligraphy, while his poppy reds, jade greens and brilliant yellows recall kimono designs or Matisse's tropical palette. Janeczko's disciplined but accessible examples, plus Raschka's spirited Asian-inspired images, add oomph to this joyful poetry lesson, sure to be welcomed by teachers and aspiring poets everywhere. Ages 8-11. (Apr.)