Roar on the Other Side

Roar on the Other Side

A Guide for Student Poets

by Suzanne U. Rhodes
Publisher: Canon Press
2nd Edition, ©2000, Publisher Catalog #Q-103
Trade Paperback, 190 pages
Price: $16.99

The Roar on the Other Side is a guide for middle and high school poets. Its focus is composition rather than analysis, particularly on viewing the world through the eyes of a poet. The author—a teacher, Suzanne Rhodes—uses nature and human experience as platforms for students to examine and describe the world as it appears to them.

There is necessarily some discussion of poetic forms and structure, but the emphasis is on the wonder of the world rather than the specific form a student uses to describe it. The real emphasis is on metaphors, both in nature and in poetry. If you're looking for a thorough introduction to poetry study, look elsewhere.

A number of chapters walk students through the writing process, from inspiration to finding a subject to editing and revising. Things aren't spelled out in linear fashion and the exercises aren't precise. The author's hope is for students to fall in love with God's world and have an overwhelming desire to sing the praises of both Creator and creation.

Formal verse is discussed, but not in-depth. Students won't learn to scan lines, identify long lists of tropes, or formal rhyme scheme. This book is intended to breed a poetic attitude, not a scholarly approach.

Some of the writing is cliché. For instance, the title is taken from a phrase of the author's: "The poet sees the world in a grain of sand—the roar on the other side of silence." While this is an echo of William Blake, it distills what could be a beautiful thought into a Hallmark ditty and cheapens the idea it attempts to ennoble. While this sort of thing doesn't negate the whole book, it is something to be aware of when the whole purpose of the book is to encourage students to write poetry.

If you're wanting a book to teach your students to analyze poetry you should probably look elsewhere. Some basic material is covered, but by no means sufficiently. For middle school students we recommend The Art of Poetry; for high school students, How to Read a Poem. This little volume is good for students who want to write poems of their own and don't really know how or where to start.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Tends to sentimentalize the writing of poetry
Summary: A handbook for beginning writers aimed at helping them to harness the poetic temperament rather than to equip them with the tools of the trade.

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