Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Heard, Georgia. Falling Down The Page: A Book of List Poems. New York: Square Fish, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59643-666-4. $8.99

Edited by Georgia Heard, Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems is a refreshingly unique poetry anthology for young readers. Heard unites these poems by form allowing the book to explore a variety of subjects while simultaneously highlighting the range and depth of the list form of poetry. Falling Down the Page highlights themes young readers can relate to, touching on everything from test anxiety to the beauty of nature. While the overall arc of the book follows a school day and a school year, the poems themselves grapple with issues and ideas far more diverse.

The best poems in Falling Down the Page come to life in the specificity of the objects or observations being catalogued. In “In My Desk” Jane Yolen’s list of absurd objects “one/ holey/ sock, […]a pair of moldy/ old pincecones, […] my braces that were much too tight,/ a lunch box/ with a great big/ hunk/ of rotting cheese” drives the voice of this loveably eccentric speaker (16). The details draw the reader in heightening the emotional impact. Similarly, Kathy Applet’s “Test Day” uses specific details to enliven the voice of the poem. The poem opens, “It is never about the things I know:”(30). Then it continues with a list of weighty points of knowledge, “That my great-great-aunt learned to drive when she was 68 […] How the thunder scares my ginger-striped cat” each item enriches the speaker’s voice (30). Applet’s “Test Day” is one of the many skillful voice driven poems that run through Falling Down the Page.

Moreover, the poems in Falling Down the Page are richly musical in a variety of ways. Many of the poems, such as the opening poem, “Good-byes,” use a short meter and overt rhyme scheme to create a whimsical music. Lines such as, “It’s really hard/ to say good-bye/ to twinkling beach,/ and golden sky,/ to castles rising/ from the sand, to Annie’s caramel/ popcorn stand,” evoke nursery rhymes establishing a familiar poetic music. In “Things to Do if You are the Sun” Bobbi Katz employs a more subtle soft tone of music. Relying on assonance and internal rhyme, allow the stark images of the poem to not be overpowered by a heavy rhyme scheme. Katz writes, “Keep things cool enough for penguins./ Slip away to end the day./ Light the moon at night./ Let people and animals sleep./ And at the crack of dawn,/ wake up the world!” foregrounding the speaker’s views of the sun thereby letting the music work as a soft underscore (33). On the opposite end of the musical spectrum, David Harrison’s “Chorus of Four Frogs” is one-hundred percent music. The poem is made up of four voices repeating onomatopoeic words in a variety of sequences. The words “Greedeep,” “Ribbet?” “Peep-peep” and “Ker-plum!” are repeated to create, as the title suggests, a frog chorus crescendo. “Chorus of Four Frogs” provides a unique perspective of the list poem (39). Young readers will love reading this poem aloud.

While one might worry an entire book of list poems may grow tedious, each poem in Falling Down The Page is unique and engaging. Readers will be captivated by the diverse voices and music singing from the page and inspired to try to create a list poem of their own.

Francine Rockey

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