Like Marilyn Singer’s “Mirror, Mirror” before it, Bob Raczka’s “Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word” uses a special, somewhat gimmicky hook to interest reader in poetry.  Singer uses the form of the reverso (see my review here), while Raczka creates poems out of single words.  In each case, the poet’s self-imposed restrictions provide a special challenge to making meaning and art.

Raczka’s technique inherently limits the poem’s topic, length, and depth.  Sometimes that concision aids the poem, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Many of the poems are creative and engaging:  I particularly enjoyed “Constellation,” “Halloween,” and “Snowflakes.”  Perhaps not coincidentally, those titles are longer words which provide the writer with more material to work with.  Other poems, like “Minivan” and “Friends,” just seem silly and trite.  But then again, I am not really the targeted audience.

Initially, I worried that the page layout would prove too challenging for most students because the poet kept the letters in a column under the title spots and on separate lines.  (This description will make sense once you’ve seen one of the poems.)  Luckily, the book is set up so that a more straight-forward printing of each poem is on the back of the page.  This layout allows the reader to puzzle through the poem, but also to double-check the reading on the flip side.

I can very easily see students warming up to this construct for creating poems.  Historically the role of meter and rhyme were to provide shape and structure for the ideas that poets shared.  Singer’s reversos and Raczka’s single word poems similarly use formal constraints to shape their ideas.  I would certainly use some examples from this book in a poetry unit with this age group.  As a school librarian, though, I would feel some queasiness at spending $16.99 for such a slim volume.

Cross-posted at Camp Read-A-Lot 2012