On the new YA “novel in verse” industry…

I don’t get it.

I’m not opposed to writers who happen to prefer a shorter (or  more irregular) line, or who like to avoid the use of traditional paragraphs. More power to ‘em.  But I do not see why on earth these books are considered “poetry.”

Poetry is when every word counts. Poetry has many levels, pays careful attention to language, to sound and rhythm. Poetry places language before narrative, character, the “about.”

I overheard someone, recently, saying that they were trying out their novel “in verse”.  Because it was “shorter” that way and might sell to reluctant readers in such a format.

“It will be easier than writing a whole novel” they said.

And I was reminded of the poet James Tate, explaining that when he works, he sits down at a piece of paper. And if, after an hour, he hasn’t got a first line, he lets himself leave the desk.  If he does have a first line, he gives himself an hour… for the second.

Now, I don’t do that. I’m not that serious about anything.  But it’s a good story, and it says something about time, attention, care.

There are plenty of novelists who write (in my opinion) poetry.  But it isn’t line-breaks, or the “appearance of poetry” that makes them poets.

It’s their care.

2 Responses to “On the new YA “novel in verse” industry…”

  1. Susan Marie Swanson Says:

    Lauren, I thought you might be interested in how Virginia Euwer Wolf talks about this:

    “Reviewers have called my books “novels in verse.” I think of them as written in prose, but I do use stanzas. Stanza means “room” in Latin, and I wanted there to be “room”—breathing opportunities to receive thoughts and have time to come out of them before starting again at the left margin. I thought of young mothers reading my books, and I wanted to give them lots of white space, so they could read entire chapters at a time and feel a sense of accomplishment.”


    Interesting, yes?

  2. Jade123 Says:

    hey “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains” ROCKS!!!

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