This is an invaluable handbook for readers, writers and teachers of poetry. Its unintimidating cover, large print, and sparse, jokey illustrations belie the well-devised content, which supports UK National Curriculum English at Key Stages 2 and 3 (children aged 7-14).
The title poses an impossible question – to answer it Rosen examines all the things that poetry can do: poetry can give an impression, it can express a belief or culture, play with words, be symbolic, be personal, borrow voices, capture a moment, be ironic, make new sense, make familiar things feel unfamiliar and vice versa. All of these attributes are discussed using examples of poems from the canon. With this groundwork done, Rosen goes on to examine what you can DO with a poem – read it, question it, look for connections, use it with the other arts, even (and liberatingly) ignore it, forget it, decide you don’t like it, rediscover it in fifty years’ time.
In the third section he discusses his own process in writing some of his well-known poems. The rest of the book gives simple and well thought out information about how to write your own poetry. The closing sections include a glossary (‘Some technical points about poems’), appendix of resources, and an index. This book makes an enormous contribution to removing the fear that we can develop of poetry during the school years, and is such is an essential tool for engendering a love of poetry in students of any age.