Monday, March 8, 2010

Poetry Lite

I had dinner with a bunch of poets (A gaggle? A murder? A pod? A pride? A pentameter?) last night and while I was shuttling between the Academy Awards and the living room I was thinking about Marsha's YA/Not YA dilemma.

It's barely a question in poetry. Verse can be light, but nobody I asked thought of poetry for, say, high school students vs. poetry for adults. Billy Collins did "Poetry 180" and literally everybody in the book was a poet-for-adults who'd written poems that a kid would like. You know that's true for most of my poems, and it's just as true for a lot of my friends. People like Barbara Hamby and David Kirby.

Really dense and difficult poetry isn't so much for adults only as it is for people who like puzzles. A smart kid would get a kick out of someone like John Ashberry who has an enormous wingspan that casts a giant shadow but is also very playful.

The funny thing about YA fiction vs. poetry is that I'll usually give a generic kids' novel set mostly in a mall frequented by vampires a few pages to get going but when I read a line of poetry like this -- "Even if the gust that undoes us/is dimmed in oblivion" -- that's it for me.

Having said that, now I'm wondering if patience separates Fiction/YA fiction. I tend to be patient with Fiction, less so with YA novels. I have a feeling that the former could go anywhere but I usually know right where the latter is headed.



  1. Like with poetry, I believe the line isn't as clear with nonfiction either. As many have commented on with Marsha's post, the wisdom in the voice of the narrator is my first clue that it is YA - the time between the events of the story and the telling of them. With nonfiction we don't usually have a young narrator. I yearn for some of that wisdom, some of that patience in my own life.

  2. A voice that rings true--especially in poetry, but also in fiction--speaks to readers across the YA/Adult line. Christine Hepperman's verse that she shared with us at the residency was so honest and funny and REAL that it struck a chord inside us all. I'm still working on it...

  3. Bet y'all didn't know I pay Deb to say nice things about me on blogs. (I'll have the next check to you by the fifteenth, I swear!)

    Seriously, thanks.