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
“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
Overall Rating: 5/5
- Artistic/Literary Rating: 4.75/5
- Worldview Rating: 5/5
Related Reading at Redeemed Reader:
- A Resource: the Wordsmith Series by our own Janie Cheaney; the middle school level (Wordsmith) is a great set-up to The Roar on the Other Side. You can download a Wordsmith sample lesson on poetry here. The Roar on the Other Side could easily be used alongside Wordsmith Craftsman in a high school composition course. We do not usually review curriculum, but we do love to encourage the next generation of Christian writers!
- A Review: Soul-Shaping Poetry: 2 Books for Teens and Adults. Either of these would make a terrific accompaniment to The Roar on the Other Side.
- A Resource: An interview with David Harrison, a contemporary poet
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