Poetry-Doofs Unite!

I'm always looking for good reads in the YA/MG department--something I can sink my literary teeth into. So when I heard about Reaching for Sun on three different blogs and saw it displayed at the library, I decided to check it out.

I settled down on the couch, adjusted my reading glasses, opened the book, and *GASP* —a novel in verse. I, the poetry-illiterate, had checked out a novel in verse. I'm embarrassed to say that I considered returning it.

*hangs head*

I suck at poetry. I love the way it sounds, but the art form itself—writing or comprehending it—is beyond me. As a poetry doofus, I always thought that a novel in verse would be page after page (of fabulous imagery) without a central plot or conflict. If there was a main character, it would be someone I could neither understand nor relate to. Maybe my misperceptions come from adolescent confusion over Beowulf and King Lear. I blame my English teacher. (That was a joke. I taught school for ten years; please don't send me hate mail.)

Regardless, I decided to be a big girl and give it a shot. And the book was awesome! Its main character had a clearly unique voice, conflict any teenager would sympathize with, and was someone I felt for and wanted to succeed. It was a beautiful book and I'm so glad I read it.

Pat me on the back, someone: I'm growing.

So if any of you, like me, are or have ever been a poetry-phobe, cut your teeth on Reaching for Sun, by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. And for you poetry-lovers out there: any other YA/MG novels in verse you can recommend?

Thought for the day: Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic. ~Unknown


Susan Sandmore said...

Great quote, Becca!

I confess, I'm a poetry doofus, as well. I thought I enjoyed poetry. I thought I could even write poetry! Then I took a poetry writing class in grad school and it seemed that everything I thought about my classmates' poems was wrong. And what was worse, they and the teacher read them in that Poetry Voice. Do you know they one? It's where you read devoid of emotion and put the emphasis on all the wrong words. I went to poetry readings and the pros I saw did it that way, as well. It seemed so wrong and unnatural.

And when I tried to write poems--stuff I was really proud of--the class reaction wasn't great. Apparently my meter was all wonky and nobody got what I meant, or if they got it, they wanted to give it back.

And then they told me I sounded a lot like Dr. Seuss. I think it was supposed to be a compliment. Now I love Dr. Seuss, but I'm a firm believer that there was only need for one of him and he was it. So me sounding "just like him" was bad news.

I put away the poems I'd written and poetry became one of those things that were just "not for me." It took me a long while to get over that. But I think I'm over it. I even have a couple of manuscripts in verse.

Anyway, thanks for the book recommendation--I'll check it out!

Becca said...

Well, kudos to you for trying. I wonder if you joined a different group, would they have the same response to your poems? As I mentioned, I love the imagery of poetry, how poets are able to describe things in a completely unique way that lends itself to the mood of the piece. I'd love to learn that technique and infuse it into my own writing.

courtney said...

Sonya Sones writes YA verse novels! Lisa Schroeder just released I Heart You, You Haunt Me (YA), also in verse. And Susan Taylor Brown's Hugging the Rock (MG), to start. :)

I think Ellen Hopkins novels (gritty YA) are in verse too--can't remember for sure.

Anonymous said...


I'm so glad you liked the book. I tried to balance the need for poetic elements with accessibility for people who are not hot on poetry.

I appreciate it!



Becca said...

Thanks so much for those recommendations, Susan. They're on my list.

And Tracie, again, beautiful job. I'm glad you found our little blog :).

Becca said...

Ack! Thanks COURTNEY, for the suggestions :).

Donna said...

I used to write poetry but stopped because I felt my voice was better utilized in prose. There seems to be a fine line between what is good poetry and what isn't and only the "right" people seem to know what it is. I actually like novels in verse. It's a different style that relays what novelists are used to. Actually, when I wrote poetry, that's what I wrote, simply because I felt that not too much could be portrayed in so few lines.

I like the standard, anyone with two eyes can decipher type of poetry, and Emily Dickinson. She's just demented. I don't like the pretenious type of poetry, the type with four lines that people fawn over as if it's just given the meaning of life yet I'm left cross-eyed and wondering what I missed. What makes one poem better than the other? Why is the one filled purely with descriptive words worthy of a prize over something that's straight-forward yet equally as eloquent? It just boggles my mind.


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