Books, Reviews, Writing

Book Review: What is Poetry? by Michael Rosen

What is Poetry? Have you asked yourself that question anytime? Or asked someone else? Or maybe someone else asked that of you? My first thoughts were that poetry is poignant, fun, heartwarming, heart-wrenching, joyful, helps me play with words….. But this still does not really explain what is poetry to a young reader or a novice poet. Michael Rosen attempts to answer just that in his book.

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. – Carl Sandburg

From the Greek verb poiéo (meaning I make or create), were born three words: poiets (meaning the one who creates), poíesis (meaning the act of creation) and poíema (meaning the thing created). These led to the words we know more commonly as the : poet (the creator), poesy (the creation) and poem (the created). (h/t:

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The Book In Review: What Is Poetry?

What Is Poetry?: The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems
by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Jill Calder
Candlewick Press
Children’s Nonfiction


Celebrated poet and critic Michael Rosen takes readers on a whirlwind tour exploring what poems are, what they can do, and the joys of reading and writing them.

My Thoughts:

Michael Rosen starts with posing the question in the book’s title – ‘What is Poetry?’ and proceeds to explain what poetry can do to help answer that question. It has the power to suggest, to capture a moment forever, to play with words, make sense of nonsense and other-sense, and lots more.

‘A poem is a poem if the writer and the reader agree it’s a poem.’ – Michael Rosen

He moves to explain what readers can do with a poem, so much more than just reading it (and reading it in so many ways too!). I loved this fun chapter!

Using his own poems as examples, he explores the poet’s thoughts and goes behind the scenes of poems. This will definitely help a new poet of any age look at reading, and writing poetry with (renewed) confidence. He says – “Poems are a midway point between poets and readers. The poet pours in one set of meanings. The reader picks up the poem and puts in another set of meanings, and the two meet somewhere in the middle. That’s what reading a poem is all about. It’s a conversation between two sets of thoughts: the poet’s and the reader’s.”

The next two chapters introduce the reader to many ideas that will help get the creative juices flowing, and then writing the poem itself. He encourages the reader to find ideas in the familiar and in the nonsensical among other avenues to explore, letting us know that ideas are everywhere.

Teaching the technicalities of poetry, as well as tips and tricks to get the actual poem written is something Rosen does with the ease of an experienced poet-educator. What can you do once you have written a poem? Well, Rosen gives you ideas for that as well.

(I especially loved the idea of having a ‘volcano page’ – similar to having an earthquake kit in the Bay Area – one kit where you have all the essentials in case of disaster. So in addition to those things you would really want for survival – not just the practical things, put down also those most precious memories, hopes, fears, dreams, et al.)

Also included all across the book are a variety of poems by poets from Thomas Hardy to Lewis Carroll. Michael Rosen uses these poems as examples to illustate points he makes in each chapter. I was truly glad to read these poems as I have now discovered more wonderful poems and poets. Thomas Hardy was always a favorite writer but I had never read his poems until now:-(

In Summary:

This book is an excellent, accessible, fun introduction to reading, writing, and understanding poetry for all ages. It is a book for just about anyone who has asked themselves or someone else ‘What is Poetry?’

Disclaimer: Thanks to NetGalley for a digital review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

You can check out my previous posts for the month and for Ultimate Blog Challenge below. Yes, I know more than a few days are missing. This is day 19’s post. 

Day 18 Day 17Day 16Day 15Day 14Day 8Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 9
Day 10Day 11Day 12 Day 13

11 thoughts on “Book Review: What is Poetry? by Michael Rosen

  1. Great review, this book looks and sounds like a amazingly great book to introduce poems to children’s I am really glad you really enjoy reading this book. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome post.

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