Thursday, May 10, 2012

Two for moms

It's almost Mother's Day. When I look through my piles, I see that I've written scads of poems about mothers—having one, being one. But today I feel like sharing a couple by others. Both are a peek into mothering.

The first one is this week's American Life in Poetry Column, reproduced below in its entirety.

American Life in Poetry: Column 372


We’ve published a number of engaging poems about parenthood in this column, and we keep finding more. Here’s Wendy Videlock, who lives in Colorado, taking a look into a child’s room.


I should be diligent and firm,
I know I should, and frowning, too;
again you’ve failed to clean your room.
Not only that, the evidence
of midnight theft is in your bed—
cracked peanut shells and m&m’s
are crumbled where you rest your head,
and just above, the windowsill
is crowded with a green giraffe
(who’s peering through your telescope),
some dominoes, and half a glass
of orange juice. You hungry child,

how could I be uncharmed by this,
your secret world, your happy mess?

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2003 by Wendy Videlock from her most recent book of poems, Nevertheless, Able Muse Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Wendy Videlock and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

The second poem is a wonderful Ann E. Michael imitation of the famous "For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry (excerpt Jubilate Agno)" by Christopher Smart, published this February in the Imitation edition of  quarrtsiluni.

JUBILATE PUERIS (Christopher Smart gratias)

by Ann E. Michael

For I will consider my Boy Michael.
For he is the servant of no one, although we do request his assistance.

For when it comes to food, he worships in his own way.

For this is done by opening the peanut butter jar and swirling a knife seven times round with 

For then he spreads the peanut butter upon the bread, and closes up the jar, and leaves the
 dirty knife upon the counter.

For he layers jelly upon the sandwich.

For having thus made his own lunch he does pride himself.

For this is the minimum of what is expected of him, that he make his lunch and put his 
own clothes upon his body and occasionally wash his ears.

Happy Mother's Day!

This post is submitted to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Fascinating story—in verse!

Title: One Night

Author: Margaret Wild

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up - "Angry at his mother for deserting him, hunky Gabe treats the many girls he meets with a "love them and leave them" attitude. He and his buddies function as a well-oiled machine when it comes to throwing parties, hiding the dysfunction in their families and their personalities behind a smooth facade. Helen, who was born with a disfigured face, hopes to become a plastic surgeon someday. After a one-night stand with Gabe, her world is shattered when she finds that she is pregnant. Written in verse, the book details each small failure and success along the journey toward Gabe and Helen feeling comfortable in the world again.The book takes a sensitive and thoughtful look at a number of other characters as well, each of whom has been betrayed in some way and is dealing, or refusing to deal, with the grief of the situation. Teen readers will love this story and will appreciate its hopeful ending."

I took One Night by Margaret Wild with me on my morning walk Monday, planning to read  while I waited for the library to open. Fifteen minutes into the book, with the library now open, I was so engrossed all I felt like doing was reading on. 

This book is different than Stop Pretending in several ways.

Author Wild goes into several heads/points of view. She clears up any confusion about where we are by putting the POV person's name in the title of first-person poems. She uses titles to share important information in other poems as well.

There are four main characters in this book and quite a cast of minor ones. The author shows us the mixture of good and bad qualities that each one possesses so we come to care for most of them. We also get some understanding of how their upbringing and background helped shape them into who they are.  In this way it's a compassionate story even though the three main boy characters do some nasty things.

This story is rawer/edgier than Stop Pretending too, with party scenes, sex and teen language (not gratuitous but realistic—I hear the same words used by the kids in my town).

Everything ties up neatly at the end and Wild makes her point (about the power of love and the importance of caring for each other) without being preachy.

The poetry in One Night is looser and less formal than the poetry in Stop Pretending without the forms and counted syllable-style poems of that book. Individual poems didn't stand out for me in this collection. In fact, I didn't even notice that they were poems, I was that preoccupied with what I was piecing together.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Verse Novels and a review of one of them

I am new to the verse novel genre. However, I have bumped into several verse novelists since hanging around the Poetry Friday crowd, I personally love writing poetry, have a story idea that just might be right for one, and so I have decided to do a little research into this tributary of Kid/YA Lit.

I started by putting together a list of verse novels and novelists, and yesterday picked up my first batch of requests from my local library.

I read Stop Pretending: What happened when my big sister went crazy by Sonya Sones in—what, an hour, 90 minutes? It's a short read (I counted 106 poems, 145 pages), but powerful. Here's the jacket copy, followed by my impressions.

"In the blink of an eye it happens. A teenage girls suffers a mental breakdown and lands in a psychiatric ward, haunted by voices, out of control, seeming transformed into a stranger.
For the younger sister left behind, nothing will ever be the same. Fearful about her own sanity, her fragile friendships, and her unraveling world, she embarks on a fierce emotional journey. A succession of powerful poems stirs up a cyclone of emotion that sweeps the chilling landscape of mental illness."

My thought after reading the first few poems: This is way too real and true-to-life to be made up solely from someone's imagination. I flipped to the back and found out, yes, this book is autobiographical. One of Sonya Sones' older sisters had a nervous breakdown at 19 when Ms. Sones was 13—the ages of the two girls in Stop Pretending

I expected breathy, maudlin teenage verse. But Sones gives us controlled emotion. These poems with their focus and spareness become the perfect vehicle for the deeply felt subject matter. Thirteen-year-old Cookie's voice has a diary-like tell-all quality to it when she expresses her mixed up feelings (fear, rage, sadness, confusion, weariness, shame etc.) about her sister's illness and all the changes it brings to her life.

I love the way this book gives just enough information so we know what's happening, yet still leaves room for us to do a little figuring out on our own. The U.S. urban setting (where family, friends and school loom large) make it easy for modern tweens and teens to relate.

The poems themselves range from very short (like the four-line "The Truth Is" - p. 64) to several pages long ("I'm Tired" pp. 92-94). Mostly they are in free verse but presented with an underlying sense of control. Several poems use syllable-counted forms. For example, the second poem, the powerful "My Sister's Christmas Eve Breakdown" is eight cinquains (five line stanzas containing, successively, 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 syllables, used in other places too). There is a prose poem ("English Homework" p. 42), and lots of poems made up of tercets (three-line-stanzas, unrhymed).

She uses repetition a lot and with good effect. "Maybe..." begins each stanza in "My Supper Theories as to Why" p. 37, "I'm tired..." is the mantra of "Tired p. 92-94, and "Will they..." or "Will she..." begin the six stanzas of "Shock" p. 133.

If I could quote my favorites, I'd share "My Sister's Christmas Eve Breakdown," "Three A.M. the same night," "Paper Doll" (I all but lost it on this one), and "Last July, when sister and I got lost on the Cape" for starters. (Actually Ms. Sones has published three poems from the book online, including the Christmas eve one here)

I'm looking forward to reading more verse novels to see how other storytellers are using this interesting form.

If you're keen too, here is a page with a list of them from Sonia Sones' should keep us reading for a while.

The informative article "Thoughts On VERSE NOVELS" posted on the Dryden Books Facebook page, also gives a good introduction to this genre.

This post is submitted to Poetry Friday, hosted this week at Wild Rose Reader.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Get an editor

Hi! It's May and I'm back from Poem-ville! How did National Poetry Month treat you? Did you read lots of poems? Did you write some? I wrote 18 (three short of my goal of 21) and many of them were tiny (haiku, shadorma, so it doesn't feel as if they should count!) But I had a great month.

Now it's back to regular programming (if you can call anything as sporadic as my postings on LUL 'regular').

During April I went through the first round of edits of my someday-to-be-released novel. Thus when I saw the post, "Why You Need an Editor: A Demonstration" I clicked right on over, read, and watched the accompanying video. All I can say is YEP! Been there done that. Good advice. Take it!!

Hat Tip: N. J. Lindquist