a duet of clever poetry books for April…National Poetry Month


April is National Poetry Month and this year I’m posting one book of marvelous poems each week.

Except today, I have two. Two companion volumes of a very tricksy, utterly-delightful form of poetry called Reverso Poems, created by the word-magician, Marilyn Singer.

follow follow cover image

Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems, was published in 2013.

echo echo cover image

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths, was published in 2016

Both are gorgeously illustrated by Josée Masse and published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

So, what’s a reverso poem, you ask?

It’s a poem that conveys one meaning if you read the lines top to bottom, and a twist on that meaning when you read from bottom to top.

I am telling you, the patience required to invent just one of these pairs has got to be staggering.

Singer is, astonishingly, the inventor of this format. Her first volume of reversos, Mirror Mirror, I reviewed here. Her second volume, Follow Follow, likewise takes as its theme fairy tale characters. I will give you one example, so you can be as bewitched by this sleight of hand, word-spinning as I am:

Birthday Suit

Behold his glorious majesty:
Who dares say he drained the treasury
This emperor has
sublime taste in finery!
Only a fool could fail to see.

follow follow illustration josee masse

Now, with just some punctuation changes, we read the lines in a reversed order:

Only a fool could fail to see.
Sublime taste in finery?
This emperor has —
ha! —
Who dares say he drained the treasury?
Behold his glorious majesty!

Isn’t that amazing?!?!

Grab hold of all three volumes if you can, and enjoy the remarkable cleverness in pages and pages of these pairs, all illustrated in vibrant color and clever compositions by Masse. Singer’s third volume, Echo Echo, covers myths from Pandora to King Midas. Medusa and her snaky locks are here. Theseus and the Minotaur. I can’t think of a more engaging way to accompany an introduction to Greek Mythology.

Each of the poems in Echo Echo includes a tiny synopsis of its original myth so you can understand the poem’s references if you’re unfamiliar with the story. Short summaries of the tales referenced in Follow Follow are located at the end of the book.

follow follow interior singer and masse

Go ahead and dive into all three volumes, accessible to such a wide age-range. Young elementary children will enjoy them for sure, but readers in their teens and adults will also find them exceedingly clever and may be inspired to give their own set of reversos a try.