Sunday, March 16, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #37

This week I wish to introduce you to the verse-novels of Ellen Hopkins which my then 13 year old niece introduced me to last summer. Who could have predicted that long stories in verse format would become huge best sellers in our time? And among young adults at that.

Each of the stories deal candidly with real life and death issues teens and young adults confront in our modern culture:

crank and its sequel Glass with drug addiction.

burned with domestic violence and intolerance.

impulse with suicidal despair and the impulse to self-harm.

identical, due for release this August, is about a father's twisted obsession with one of his twin daughters --according to a blurb on Ellen Hopkins' homepage.

What I find fascinating is the way Hopkins weaves dozens of one or two page poems that in many cases can stand alone into an intricately plotted, emotionally cathartic and psychologically complex story. The poems are sometimes rhyming and sometimes free verse and often carved out of space as well as molded with words as Hopkins uses placement of whitespace around lines and verses to indicate mood, theme or pace.

I can't in good conscience reproduce any here to illustrate exactly what I mean. But the links to the graphics above take you to the page on Ellen Hopkins' site for that book where there is an excerpt. All that is except the last one which hasn't been released yet and I've linked that to Hopkins' homepage.

And I've just followed a link off Hopkins' homepage to Simon and Schuster where there are more excerpts. I'm going to drop the one for burned here. I strongly encourage a visit to one or more of these as my description just can't do justice to the effect of seeing the shapes of the poems on the page and feeling the shapes of the words on the tongue or experiencing the frolicking of the images in the mind.

Dare we hope the groundswell of interest in Ellen Hopkins' verse-novels will continue and the youth making them bestsellers today will continue to demand more long story-poems thus creating a climate in which poets who can tell stories can hope to compete on an even field with novelists and screenplay writers? Or that the generation cutting its literary teeth on these verse-novels will produce a Chaucer, a Dante, a Milton or a Shakespeare for the 21st century?

4 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  3/17/2008 6:13 AM  

Thanks for the info. I think this genre needs to be explored. A lot of older poets did write long stories in verse. So why not a novel?


numbing nirvana

Julia Phillips Smith 3/17/2008 8:01 AM  

I love these lines from 'burned':

'and consider inserting some metal
object into an electrical outlet?

Did you wonder if for once
you might light up the room?'

Fantastic. Thanks for introducing this story poet to us - I hadn't heard of her before. It is very exciting to think of her popularity.

Ann 3/17/2008 7:33 PM  

Thanks for the info, I'll be sure to order her books for the dayjob. :)
Always looking for books to interest the teens (and pry them away from MySpace).

Elizabeth Bauterfly 4/25/2008 10:23 PM  

Hey Joy
I was interested when you said that you did a post on Ellen Hopkins books so I came and checked it out I really like what you said and Thank You for including me. See you soon.

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