Lynn: If you are looking for some engaging word play to inspire kids, look no further than Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems (2016) by the inventive Bob Raczka. Inside the pages of this slim book is a delightful mix of playful concrete poems that are guaranteed to get kids itching to create their own.
In the book’s introduction, Raczka spells out his inpsiration for readers: “I like to think of poems as word paintings. A poet uses words like colors to paint pictures inside your head. In concrete poems or shape poems, the words also paint pictures on the page.”
Each of his poems pairs a single word with a related shape poem using a wonderful variety of subjects, from tunnels to fireflies to hopscotch. Sometimes, in order to read the poem, you have to turn the book upside down, or read from bottom to top; each page brings a delightful “a-ha” moment of solving a new puzzle. This little book is sure to start an epidemic of concrete poetry wherever it is read.
Cindy: The book starts off with a good foundation (ha ha): cover art that cements (sorry) the idea of concrete poetry. The title pours out from a paper collage cement mixer, words layered over a smear of wet concrete. The inside of the book is attractive as well, largely consisting of black text on solid white background that allows the words to create the art. For nighttime poems like “Dipper,” “Firefly,” and “Lightning,” the colors reverse, and white text appears on black pages. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I must admit I’m partial to “Dipper”:
Way down there on earth you hold firefly jars,
filled to their lids with light.
Up here in the sky, I’m a vessel of stars,
my brim overflowing with night.
These poems would be great to share with a class using a visual presenter, a move sure to make students think differently about words and images. Like initials carved in a new sidewalk, this collection will leave a permanent impression.