Volume II Number 1
October 20, 1995

For the Poet Novitiate

The Crafted Poem.

Susan Ioannou.
Toronto: Wordwrights Canada, 1994. 58pp, paper, $8.95.
ISBN 0-92083S-02-3.

Writing Reader-Friendly Poetry

Susan loannou.
Toronto: Wordwrights Canada, 1995. 24pp, paper, $5 95.
ISBN 0-920835-15-5.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Liam C. Rodrigues.


Reader-friendly poetry is writing that communicates. It reaches beyond confession, shrugs off literary fashion, and bypasses the esoteric and avant-garde, to put the reader first. No matter where a poem springs from, spilling thoughts onto paper in private shorthand is not enough. Reader friendly poetry is a public art. Its authors must select, expand, arrange, and edit their raw inspiration to create a new whole -- one that is open and accessible, one that engages the reader through five senses as well as the mind and emotions. Reader-friendly poetry aims not to puzzle, not to preach, but to share.

from Writing Reader-Friendly Poems

Collected from a series of columns that appeared in the Arts Scarborough Newsletter between September 1980 and June 1985, The Crafted Poem is Susan loannou's third book on writing. A poet herself, Ioannou's sensitivity to the material originates from a practical relationship with it. It is appropriate then that The Crafted Poem reflects on the construction of poetry.

Directed towards aspiring poets, and presumably teachers (not only of creative writing, but also of literature), The Crafted Poem is a "writer's" handbook -- the transportable wisdoms, as it were, passed down from master to initiate. As such, its strengths lie in its compact and accessible prose, treating each trope and scheme, structural and formal element that it broaches with a concision and clarity foreign to many discussions of poetry.

Unfortunately, though it aspires to pedagogy, The Crafted Poem is limited in its complexity, illustrating its points admirably, but sketching out only what is the most familiar landscape. It concerns itself almost exclusively with the workings, and then only the most fundamental, of a poetic practice that is conspicuously absent as a rule from the craft of the John Ashberrys, the Czeslaw Miloszs, the Marilyn Hackers, the Marie Kinzies. For whom is this book then? For the high-school junior or would-be love sonneteer? In effect, yes!

That audience will find this more than helpful, but for the more ambitious, Ioannou's guide -- however well organized and well illustrated -- is little more than a glance at the back of one's own hand.

Published subsequently, Writing Reader-Friendly Poetry is something of a follow-up to The Crafted Poem. Less romantic and freer of the "vogue parlance" that infiltrates the 1994 publication (although one would never guess from the title), these fifty odd "Rules of Thumb for Clearer Communication" are to revision and editing what The Crafted Poem is to composition.

Except for the occasionally irksome heading like, "Create Team Players," and its -- I hope intentionally -- ironic predecessor, "Avoid Trendy Poetic Diction" (but not business jargon, apparently), Ioannou's 1995 poet's handbook is a valuable companion -- an indifferent editor attempting to keep runaway language at bay.

Recommended with reservations.

Liam C. Rodrigues is a Toronto-area writer interested in art, archicture, poetry, and all that liberal arts stuff.

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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