Friday, May 24, 2013

Poems in Reverse

It's not every day that we can say we were around when a new form of poetry was invented! Author Marilyn Singer has done just that in her two poetry collections Mirror Mirror (2010) and Follow Follow (2013).

Singer calls her new poetry style the reverso. Read the poem one way, and you get one story. Read the poem backwards, changing only the punctuation, and you get another view entirely! For example:

Isn't A fairy tale
this this
a fairy tale? isn't …

It's fascinating how the paired poems can convey two entirely different perspectives, sometimes from the same narrator, other times from a different narrator. Both Mirror Mirror and Follow Follow rely on fairy tales and folk tales such as The Emperor's Clothes and The Ugly Duckling as their starting point. From there, Singer weaves her free-verse magic, spinning personality, emotion and wit into their fabric.

Although poetry is a writing form that often produces a sense of dread in adults, children are naturally drawn to their rhythm and rhyme. Singer fills these poems with a rollicking energy. Josée Masse's clever, colorful illustrations only add to the fun.

These two books make for wonderful additions to the canon of children's poetry and that of poetry in general. Read them aloud for the best effect; each poem has a distinctive voice. They are short and easily understood while still packing a punch due to Singer's brilliant, carefully calibrated use of language. Kids will already know the stories; these poems will make them see those stories in a new light.

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