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Inside Out by Marjorie Maddox

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Inside Out: Poems on Writing And Reading Poems by Marjorie Maddox

Review by Tasslyn Magnusson

How’s your COVID-19 writing going? Mine has been less than productive. Between Zoom meetings, elections, navigating online therapy and kid stuff, my mind feels as if its in a hundred places all at the same time. And those moments of silence I had reserved for my poems, well I have no idea where they went.

Inside Out: Poems on Writing And Reading Poems by Marjorie Maddox came at the perfect time for my practice. While it is geared for younger readers, nobody ever should miss an opportunity to learn about their craft. And Marjorie Maddox gives us a friendly, clear, and funny poems that will teach or refresh the basics of any poet.

I can’t tell you how often, when I write a villanelle, I have to look up the rhyme and line scheme. My brain gets trapped in that analytical space of counting and matching and it’s like my creativity slides out the window. Next time I have my answer. There’s nothing better than a demonstration – and this shows me a villanelle while it reveals what is so special about a villanelle – it’s musicality. “Next time you want to fly away on words, / remember what we talked about this day,” (41). “How to Write a Villanelle,” is my favorite of Maddox’s poem/lessons because she reminds me not only how to do write a villanelle but what I love about a villanelle.

Sometimes when we do poetry – or teach poetry – we forget to exemplify the joyful nature of words. Each of these poems and the exercises Maddox provides allows the reader to play with words. She shakes off the seriousness of a enjambment with a touch of personification, “sweet little Enjambment trips / into the next row, but still she keeps right on / going; never mind the cliff of a line,” (30). Each poem in this collection is bursting with poetic tools that invite the reader to relax into trying it all.

I’m not a teacher, but I wouldn’t hesitate to offer this book to any teacher for their classroom. But more important, I want to send it to all my poet friends. Because here’s the thing. We all get stuck. We all take ourselves just a little bit too seriously, sometimes. We need a basket of tools ready for when the muse is late or a deadline looming. Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems – Insider Exercises needs to be one of your tools. Marjorie Maddox invites us to try “poeting” as a “hands-on operation – / the more finger prints, the better,” (19). While that is from her poem, “How to Touch a Poem,” I think what Maddox truly did was remind me of what my true calling has always been – to have fun with words.

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems
by Marjorie Maddox
Kelsay Books, 2020.
Paper, 62 pages.

Tasslyn Magnusson received her MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline University in Saint Paul, MN. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Broad River Review, Room Magazine, Mom Egg Review, The Raw Art Review: A Journal of Storm and Urge, and Red Weather Online. Her chapbook, “defining,” from dancing girl press was published in January 2019. She lives in Prescott, WI with her husband and two kids and two dogs.


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