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Review of Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

raczka_wet cementstar2 Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems
by Bob Raczka
Primary, Intermediate     Roaring Brook    44 pp.
3/16     978-1-62672-236-1     $17.99     g

Graphic design meets riddle meets visual wordplay in this collection of sturdy and joyful perspectives on the ordinary stuff of the world. Each of the twenty-one offerings consists of a one-word title and a more extended poem. The titles (which would make wonderful posters) make their wry points with an immediate impression. One l from the title “balloon” floats free and becomes the string of an escaping balloon. The is in the word icicles turn upside down, and one begins to melt. The poems themselves variously involve reading aloud, turning the page upside-down, reading bottom  to top, and, in one case, reading in a mirror. Most of all they take imaginative thinking. What are a clothes hanger’s thoughts on hanging out? In what way is a xylophone a phone? Following the many corners of a maze poem, we experience what it would be like to be a lab mouse. On every page we confront the relationship between the word and the thing, a relationship that surely underlies all poetry. In the final poem, an exercise in paring away, Raczka issues a graceful invitation. “Poetry is about taking away the words you don’t need / poetry is taking away words you don’t need / poetry is words you need / poetry is words / try.”

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sarah Ellis

Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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