Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Unlocking the Poem: by Ottone M. Riccio and Ellen Beth Siegel

Unlocking the Poem: by Ottone M. Riccio and Ellen Beth Siegel (iUniverse Inc., New York) $29.

I remember, some years ago, reviewing an anthology of poetry by the students of Ottone Riccio “Do Not Give Me Things Unbroken.” for Spare Change News. Riccio, who taught at the Boston Center for Adult Education for many years, was the author of the noted book: “The Intimate Act of Writing Poetry.” Riccio or “Ricky” as he is affectionately known is like a cult figure. The students spoke of him with a reverent hush, as if he was the deity of poetry. Now, I have been around the block, and I often find things like this have a lot of sizzle but no steak, but judging by the accomplished work by his “cult” members, I saw the meat in the matter.

My friend Steve Glines and I had spoken with the coauthor of “Unlocking the Poem”, Ellen Beth Siegel. A few years ago she was interested in publishing this book with the Ibbetson Street Press. As fate would have it she took her manuscript elsewhere. But I knew this was a woman on a mission. When she talked about getting the book out you could feel her passion, and conviction.

And I can see why. This book offers the goods. As Riccio writes:

“In putting together our poems, we discover ourselves, in discovering ourselves, we discover our poems.”

And indeed this book gives you a wide poetic swath to discover yourself and thusly that poem hidden deep in the heart of you. There are exercises and assignments that deal with Rhythm, Rhyme, Traditional forms, Haiku, Free Verse, etc… Do you want to write a ballad?—you found the right place. Does blank verse, catch your fancy? You won’t draw a blank with this book. Is a poem taking shape in your imagination? You can literally shape that poem in a section concerning shaped poetry.

Included in this book are sample poems by many of the master’s students, including: Judith W. Steinbergh, Lana Hechtman, Mary R. Collins, Ellen Steinbaum, Shelia Mullen Twyman, Ruth Kramer Baden, Louisa Clerci, Beatriz Alba del Rio, and many others.

Highly Recommended.

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