Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises

Kelsay Books, 2020

Paperback: 62 pages, $16.00

Learning from Inside the Poem: A Review of Inside Out by Marjorie Maddox

by Jessica Gigot


Poetry is for everybody. However, it can often be hard to teach students how to write and understand poetry. Sitting in front of an empty page is daunting!

In her new book Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises, Marjorie Maddox offers an inventive and practical tool for teaching poetry—the body of the poem itself. This new “how-to,” which includes concrete lessons on poetry as well a healthy dose of whimsy, will put your MG and YA students on a fast track towards creating their own work. As she writes in the introduction, “Inside Out teaches writing (and reading) from inside the poem, with plenty of tips and tricks for everyone in and out of the classroom.”

The first part of the book includes demonstrative poems like “How to Smell a Poem” and “Enjambment.” Instead of talking about elements of craft, students can jump in head first and see them at work in an actual poem. Laced with humor and Maddox’s masterful grasp of this genre, these poems are entertaining, easily digestible, and instructive. As an example in “The Short and the Long of It,” a helpful deliberation of line length, she writes:

The bigger inhale is a stanza,
a crisp paragraph of words,
thoughts stacked as neatly as laundry, folded, ready to wear,
just waiting for you
to say them.

The second section offers specific exercises that go deeper into some of the examples provided. The background information and prompts are conversational and accessible. In “Exercise 1: Befriending a Poem” she asks, “So, where’s a place you’d like to invite a poem? What would you like to do together? What would you talk about?” These exercises ignite introspection for all poetry levels and Maddox’s enthusiasm for and appreciation of poetry is co