Friday, May 22, 2020

Getting Inside Out with Marjorie Maddox (and a summer RED poem, too)

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink for Roundup.

I'm neck-deep in revision with Charles Waters on our historical verse novel coming in 2022, but I did manage to squeak out another ArtSpeak: RED poem for you... and I'm delighted to welcome Marjorie Maddox to Live Your Poem, to share about her book Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises.

This book is full of inspiration, and fun stuff to add to your poetry arsenal... Welcome, Marjorie!

The delicious:

MM: Poetry and play, poetry and prompts—it’s all delicious, isn’t it? In Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises, we begin by stepping inside the poem and using every one of our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. A heaping plate of ideas for tweens, teens, teachers, parents, and poets of any age, Inside Out invites you to play and ponder using poetry’s most scrumptious ingredients.

Here’s one to get both your taste buds and your thinking cap tingling!

How to Taste a Poem

The table’s well set, but please
come as you are. No need for white gloves
or black tuxedos. Pass the appetizer plate
to your left and try a lightly fried haiku
or lemon-peppered limerick. Nibble away
as you would a jumbo shrimp stuffed with oxymorons.
For an entrée, may we suggest a well-done ode
or an Italian sonnet smothered with marinara sauce?
Now, sit back and savor the syllables
until your taste buds plump with flavor,
but leave room for dessert—
aged alliteration topped with assonance and consonance:
a sugary smorgasbord of simply scrumptious sounds.

- Marjorie Maddox

Follow this up with a linked writing exercise, and get ready to create your own mouth-watering poems. Or stinky-smelling poems. Or itchy-scratchy feeling poems.

If you’re ready for sounds and more sounds, give this one a try:

Alliteration Acrostic

Always repeat the initial sound.
Listen to what the letters say, then
Let your ears do the talking.
If sound and sense dance, dance with them.
Turn up the volume,
Enter into the rhythm,
Relish the repetitions.
Answer S with S,
T with T,
Increasing your skill with patient practice.
Only avoid the often annoying avenue of
Not adding additional apt alliterative and assonant options to an acrostic.

- Marjorie Maddox

Or this one:


Bash, crash, smash—
Onomatopoeia makes his splash of sound
with each squishy step or booming pound
Margie with Gizmo
of movement. He moans, hisses, murmurs, swishes
his way across the poem.

Boisterous, he usually forgets to whisper.
Instead, he shakes, rattles, and rolls his bellowing voice
until each letter shivers with anticipation
at what soon will be darting, soaring, or swooping
noisily toward the ear.

- Marjorie Maddox

There’s plenty to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch inside Inside Out. Come on in!

The difficult:

MM: But maybe you’re someone who only feels so-so about poetry. Maybe you even HATE IT! That’s Ok. This book is ALSO for you, maybe even especially so! Why, you ask?

After more than thirty years of teaching poetry at the university, secondary, and primary levels, I’ve got a few things to say about that. In fact, that’s one of the big reasons I wrote Inside Out! For one, poetry shouldn’t be about finding some secret key to unlock some hidden meaning—especially for young or new writers. It should be fun, plain and simple.

And it should be exciting. And challenging, but in a way that motivates you to climb faster and higher, to get the best-ever possible view—or, alternatively, in a way that inspires you to slow down, stare a while longer at the world around (or within) you.

Talk about invigorating! Inside the poem, there’s a lot to see and discover. Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal. As I say in “How to Touch a Poem,” “This is a hands-on operation—/the more fingerprints, the better.”

What else? Inside Out makes easy what some might label “difficult”— iambic pentameter, sonnets, villanelles, clerihews, triolets, sestinas, and more. Don’t let these formal sounding words scare you off! Stripped of their fancy names, they’re just word puzzles and silly riddles. They’re more ways for you and your friends to have fun! Here’s what I mean.

Getting Ready with Iambic

Iambic likes to clack un-stressed, then stressed.
He taps it like a drum when he gets dressed.
He chomps it when he eats his toast and jam,
then struts to class like he’s a marching band.
To walk with him you need to keep his beat.
Five times unstressed, then stressed equals five feet.
Get ready for a marching metered day—
Pentameter’s his favorite game to play.

- Marjorie Maddox

So if marching to iambic, texting a triolet, or fishing with sestinas, sounds like fun, you’re right. They are!

The unexpected:

MM: Sometimes when you throw out that fishing line of words, you catch a whole lot of unexpected ideas! As I say in “Fishing with Sestinas”

...Let’s dream
this water together, this lake of dreams
brimming full of rainbow, rhyming fish/
that glitter as they leap...

To me, one of the greatest joys of writing is what you discover along the way. Inside Out is a way to share that joy with you. To help in the discovery process, I’ve included 9 interactive exercises that you can do on your own or with others. It’s a bag of word tricks to get you rocking, writing, and, of course, discovering the unexpected. Can’t wait to see how you’ll surprise yourself with some new-found poetic acrobatics!

Anything else:

MM: I write poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature. My first poem was published in Campfire Girl Magazine when I was eight, and I am the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball. I am a university professor, who gives workshops and readings around the country, including at elementary, middle, and high schools. I have published over seventeen books, including 4 for children or teens. 

Some additional links of interest:

Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children blog
Jama's Alphabet Soup

Thank you, Marjorie, for livening up this post with your enthusiasm for poetry! I know many will enjoy this new book.

And now... my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem, after "Castle and Sun" by Paul Klee. I guess I've got summer on my mind... wishing everyone a beautiful first-weekend-of-summer Memorial Day!

Geometry of Summer

each day
a red circle

each night
safe inside a square

each dream
a triangle reaching for rain

- Irene Latham


  1. Good morning, Irene. Oh, Marjory's book looks wonderful. I simply must get it. My TBR pile just grows and grows in this pandemic.
    One correction....Carol Varsalona is actually hosting the round-up today. Waaaaaaay back in the olden days, before the pandemic, I asked for someone to take today's hosting duties as I have a college & HS graduate. Wow, that was a different world.

    1. Thank you, Linda! I'm so glad Inside Out will soon be part of your book pile. :)

  2. What a rich post! Thanks for these inspiring poems and interview with Marjorie. Your poem Inspires me, too. I love the way you find a new and different way to express ordinary things. A circle of day, a square of night, and a triangle of rain.

  3. I’ve gotta get this book. Thank you!

  4. Fantastic post Irene, I enormously enjoyed Marjorie sharing about her book, and loved “Getting Ready with Iambic!” Definitely a book I’d Like to have!
    Gorgeous “Geometry of Summer” poem! Especially the triangles, thanks, xo

    1. Michelle, so glad to hear! Enjoy. I'd love to hear what poems are birthed.

  5. Nice to hear more from Marjorie about her book! Love your red poem -- the geometry angle is brilliant. :)

  6. I loved hearing more about Inside Out, Irene & Marjorie, still love "Getting Ready with Iambic". I've said it before, am sorry I didn't have this in the classroom. And I love your creative use of those three shapes, our lives! Have a nice weekend, Irene!

  7. Sounds wonderful! All the poems in this post are great. Happy beginning of summer to you, too, Irene!

  8. Congratulations to Marjorie--I hope it will excite and invite poets far and wide! I'm loving your red summer because I love Paul Klee so much: "a dream...reaching for rain." <3

  9. Irene, "Inside Out" sounds like it is filled with poetic goodness. I truly enjoyed the interview and the addition of Marjorie's poems. Your new red poem is such a different type of poem that introduces Math into Lit. I have been encouraging teachers to integrate poetry into their content areas. May I include this poem into my summer gallery collection?

    1. Thanks so much, Carol. Irene, you continue to inspire with every poem/book!

  10. I especially enjoyed the rowdy "Onomatopoeia." Thanks for sharing Marjorie's book, Irene, and for the shapely poem!

    1. Tabitha, "rowdy" is right! I just had fun recording that one.

  11. This IS a delicious post! So much goodness in the interview and book... I think it will have to go on my Wish List. And your poem is... as always... red gold! Thanks, Irene... have a great weekend.

  12. So many invitations to write in this post!

  13. Something about that triangle reaching for rain...I agree with Mary Lee above me...About 7 things in this post made me want to reach out and write.


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