*The Roar on the Other Side by Suzanne Underwood Rhodes

Is poetry writing obsolete? It doesn’t have to be, especially for Christians.

*The Roar on the Other Side: A Guide for Student Poets by Suzanne Underwood Rhodes. Canon Press, 2000. 192 pages.

Reading Level: Teens, ages 12 and up

Recommended For: Teens, ages 12 and up

Poetry starts with silence–not silence in the world but silence of mind.

Introduction, p. 11
cover image for Roar on the Other Side

“Silence of mind” sounds more essential than ever in our current era of frenetic news headlines about a pandemic, violence in cities, racism, economic fallout, upcoming elections, ….

Perhaps this is the year to tackle some poetry in order to counteract the “news noise.” The Roar on the Other Side is just the guide to help you and your teens do that.

Rhodes has written this guide for students, but it is not overly academic. Chapter titles include such interesting names as “White Whales and Swimming Hats” as well as more traditional topics like “Genres.” The first 10 chapters work systematically through various elements of poetry (figurative language, form, meter, and more) and include “Stepping Stone” activities in which students apply the material in the chapter. The 11th chapter is a guide to reading and revising poetry; the 12th is a lovely mini poetry anthology.

But there are other poetry-writing guides out there. What really sets this one apart? Rhodes is writing from a firmly Christian perspective, constantly encouraging the reader to look both to God and Scripture. She urges students to pay attention to the world God made, keeping a notebook throughout the course. Activities include playing with language as well as writing more formal poetry. She reminds readers that God transforms our offerings; we write for God’s glory, not our own, and leave the rest up to him.

“There are, of course, boundaries, which exist as holy truth. To write a poem that approves a racist point of view or blasphemes God degrades and defiles the creative act….

Christ redeemed the whole man or woman, including the individual’s imagination. But the terrain is not without dangers. There are jackals and lions, two-legged hunters, storms, drought. Writers face temptations great and small: discouragement, pride, laziness, self-pity. We see through a glass darkly, and our knowing is small compared to God’s infinite mind. But mostly, you are free….

You start with words, beautiful words, ‘small shapes in the gorgeous chaos of the world,’ as poet Diane Ackerman calls them.”

~from chapter 2

Whether you have been homeschooling all along or are suddenly doing school-at-home (virtual schooling or some other hybrid related to COVID precautions), consider adding in some poetry this year for your teenagers.

Note: While this guide might look accessible to younger middle school students, it will serve 8th graders on up best. See the “related reading” below for a middle school option.

*indicates a starred review

Cautions: none

Overall Rating: 5/5

  • Artistic/Literary Rating: 4.75/5
  • Worldview Rating: 5/5

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.


  1. Katie on August 17, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    My OCD and proofreader tendencies are showing here, but maybe you can catch your typo in the title before too many readers see this: Wide instead of Side!
    Appreciate your work, not intending to be critical, but rather helpful.

    • Our Team Betsy on August 18, 2020 at 6:54 am

      Thank you!

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