Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Guest post: Marjorie Maddox

I'm hosting a guest today-- poet and teacher Marjorie Maddox. She has a new book that debuts today and is chock-full of great teaching strategies accompanied by example poems. Perfect for teens and young adults. Want to know more? Take it away, Marjorie...

Inside Out:
Why Writing Poetry Helps You Read Poetry
and Why Both Help You Experience the World
by Marjorie Hafer Maddox

Ready for some fun? Step into the world of poetry and you step into your life and the lives of others. Slide into the lives and experiences of others and you saunter into a wide-open world of observation and insight. And in this many-faceted universe of sparkling details, there are poems. 

And more poems. 

And even more waiting to be written and read, available to circle you back to your life, and the lives of others, and that sometimes hard, often beautiful, always thought-provoking real and imaginative abode we call home.

But first, step inside, take a look around, rearrange the furniture of words, pull up a stanza or two, and settle in. Lounge with alliteration. Chit-chat with personification. Shift around the puzzle pieces of a sestina.

Now, like any good host, invite in your friends, students, or children. This, I would argue, is the best way to experience and share the joys of writing and reading poetry—from inside the poem. To understand the home of a poet’s creation, step into that home. But don’t stop there. Take up your own tools—pen, pencil, or keyboard—and begin creating. Feel with your mind (and fingers!) the energy of breakthrough, the trial-and-error of revision, the exhilaration of playful work that is the house of writing.

Yes, playful! Quite simply, my years of playing with words are the foundation for Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises. I want to pass on that sense of play to others. Many young people grow up with a love of language, but others are fearful of or intimidated by writing. Inside Out is about getting to know the poem and its possibilities. Here’s the opening piece:

How to See a Poem 

Close your eyes. 
What swims behind your lids
lights imagination. 

Sometimes you’ll recognize flecks 
of what is or what was. 
Sometimes specks of speculation 

will filter in, or fine strands of Never-Never Land
will land in the inner world of mind.
Just keep not 

looking into what’s expected
until you’re free to see
with vision that’s beyond 

the ordinary.

Inside Out also is about trying on the perspectives of other people (or things): “a prince, a pauper, a piece of popcorn,/a philosophical panda, a paranoid piano…Cleopatra…the president of Mars” (“Dramatic Monologue). It is about knowing, through writing, the power and delight of puns, rhyme, onomatopoeia, line and stanza breaks, and simile and metaphor. And it is about discovering HOW to write a sonnet, triolet, clerihew, sestina, or villanelle through a poem that IS a sonnet, triolet, clerihew, sestina, or villanelle.

How to Write a Villanelle 

To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that soars and swoops in seven different ways
and sings a song that you’ve already heard, 

returning to its favorite branch to perch. 
Become a sparrow—light, and quick, and gray— 
to write a villanelle. Think how the bird 

salutes you every morning undeterred
from trilling what it always wants to say
within its favorite song, the one you’ve heard 

so many times you suddenly are stirred
to listen closer still, to find the way
to write a villanelle, just like a bird 

that flits across your vision in a blur
and leaves the sound of beauty in its trail, 
still singing songs that you’ve already heard. 

Next time you want to fly away on words, 
remember what we talked about this day. 
To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that sings a song that you’ve already heard.

For me—as a poet, as a creative writing professor, and as a frequent visiting author at schools—the play of poetry occurs when I’m writing, yes, but also when—with primary, secondary, and university young poets, I’m sparing with puns, soaring on a sonnet, or romping through meter. Thus, Inside Out, also includes nine interactive writing exercises, tested over many years in classrooms and school visits. (Plus, there’s a helpful glossary of poetic terms.)

Geared toward MG and YA poets (and their teachers and parents), these activities encourage introspection and collaboration, allowing young authors the freedom to experiment with poetry’s “fun bag of tricks” while addressing a wide range of topics. After all, poetry’s great gifts to the world are observation and empathy, allowing us to express our own experiences, as well as to better understand the similar (or very different) experiences of others. 

All those details, all those lives, all those different ways—through poetry—to discover our world…. and have fun doing so—that’s how this book came to be. 

Please join me in this exciting adventure of writing and reading poetry—from the inside out!

My web site:

Sylvia: Thank you, Marjorie, for this enticing glimpse! What a gift for young writers and teachers, everywhere.


Marjorie Maddox said...

Thanks so much, Sylvia! Thrilled to be here on your pages.


skanny17 said...

I am ordering this book. I KNOW I will love it and will share. Thank you both Sylvia and Marjorie for this post and your beautiful new book!! Poetry lovers share a special bond, don't we?
Janet Clare F.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Congratulations on the new book, Marjorie - sure to be a resource budding poets can dip into again and again!

Marjorie Maddox said...

Thanks so much, Robyn, much appreciated!

Marjorie Maddox said...

Janet, yes we all DO share a bond! Glad for yours.