Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Monday, April 19, 2010

National Poetry Month and a poem

April is National Poetry Month.

 This happens to be fitting because I happen to be writing a poetry novel--a story written almost entirely in verse.

Why would anyone do such a thing? Besides the fact that April is National Poetry Month? (Which is sort of irrelevant, actually, since I wrote the first draft before I'd ever heard of Na. Po. Mo).

First, because my agent thought I should.

Second, because it's fun.

Third, because I think a lot of teachers kill poetry for teenagers. I got lucky and had a teacher who showed me why I should love it. I'd like to pass that on, try to make poetry a little more accessible to kids.

But that begs the question: WHY on earth would anyone want to read a poetry novel?

I don't know.

Because it's a good story, I hope.

And it doesn't rhyme, mostly. And I've tried not to be obscure.

Because it deals with real-life teenage issues and is sometimes romantic.

And because I learned when I was seventeen that poetry speaks to the heart more any other kind of writing. It can make you laugh. It can make you bawl. It can rip your heart out. It can be powerful. I hope mine will be.

So, well, here's a poem for Na. Po. Mo. No, I didn't write it. Yes, I wish I had. Here's "Pied Beauty," by my favorite poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, a nineteenth-century Jesuit priest who, as you might expect, wrote a lot of religious poetry, though you don't have to religious to appreciate what he does with language (sound, rhythm, imagery):

Glory be to God for dappled things--
   For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;

       For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
       And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
       With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                                  Praise him.


  1. Elena,
    How did your teacher not kill poetry for you? As a teacher who barely finished a poetry unit, I would love your feedback.

  2. Pat: read my novel and you'll see. Just kidding. :) I'll email you or we could get together and talk.

  3. Of course I'll read your novel. I look forward to it.
    Did you sign up for SCBWI LA?

  4. "For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim"

    You're not kidding about this poet. "Stipple upon trout that swim." I need to raid your library, I think.


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