Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Recently I issued a challenge on this blog--to buy a book of poetry (or a magazine with poetry in it, or a verse novel). My own assignment for the challenge was to purchase and read John Grandits's book Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems.

I was taught in school that concrete poems are poems written in a shape that reflects their topic. A poem about a circle would be written in circular form, to give the simplest example. And I thought Grandits's concrete poems would be that simple.


If you read this book, get ready to turn it every which way in your hands. It starts with the poem on the cover, which is written around the edges of the book cover (mimicking the frame of a mirror. The background on the cover's center is a silver mirror finish, though you can't tell from the above picture). There's a poem about volleyball in which the poem's lines zoom back and forth across a net. There's a poem about going all over town that follows a meandering path reminiscent of Family Circus cartoons. There's a poem in the shape of tangled hair.

This book isn't just about being dazzled by the wild shapes Grandits comes  up with. The poems' narrator, Jessie, is a teen with a vivid voice--sometimes snarky, sometimes enthusiastic, and every emotion in between.

The unusual design, the shortness of the book, and the strength of Jessie's voice make this book a good candidate for reluctant readers.  It's also good for inspiration--even for us non-reluctant readers--because it's fun and different. Something about engaging with this collection made me want to try new things. Best of all, it reminded me of the bottom line about creative writing: It can be fun!

To play a bit more: the book contains a "name-your-rock-band chart." I figure it could apply to book titles too, right? Here are three I came up with, using the title generator:
Magic Coathangers of Death
Muscular Eyeballs in Love
Quiet Onions of Justice

Whatever else you do today, find a moment to play.


  1. Magic Coathangers of Death is pretty awesome. You've got to work that into a story sometime.

    Another interesting trend in concrete poems are multimedia Flash-animated pieces, in which the words rearrange themselves in a continuous flow of changing meanings. I'd recently read about a poet, Oni Buchanan, who has work like this on her website.

  2. I can only imagine the wild things that can be done now with digital effects. But I have to commend John Grandits--he did an awful lot with 2-D paper!