April 13, 2007

Amazing Teen Poetry

In discussing craft, the question sometimes comes up of what is kitschy in a work, and what is cool. Added features like the ones Markus Zusak used in I Am the Messenger were playing cards, a mysterious way to begin chapters, and a definite tie-in to the storyline. Other additional pieces have been puzzle pieces, a sketch in stages, and an item of food being devoured as the novel progresses. Another cool and National Poetry Month related novel element is Ellen Wittlinger's poetry in the novel Sandpiper. The poems conclude each chapter, and are fresh and original pieces of poetry which give us a deeper glimpse into the character's heart. I was amazed by some of it -- it's not as if it's not work enough to write a novel, but poetry! Ms. Wittlinger was a playwright and poet before she became a novelist, and it gives a further depth and strength to her work.

And the type of poetry written is the type of poetry that seems drawn wholly from the brain of a journaling teen. Some of them have such a ring of personal truth that it was scary to read them. Here I include one of my favorites:

(with apologies to Sylvia Plath)

You do not do, you do not do,
Anymore, what you used to do.
We were such a pair, we two,
Until my poor white breasts debuted
And grew between us.

Daddy, sometimes it kills me
that I've outgrown you.
I didn't know there'd be no
Follow-through for me and you,
My pa, my pooh.

I have never been scared of you,
But this slow losing of you tears
at my heart and hurts clear through.
I can't even talk to you - you
Who once knew all my secrets.

Funny, you think the glue between us
Loosens as my almost adult self
Begins to act like you. You think
I'm screwing, and I'm screwed.
You think I need a talking-to.

Oh, Daddy, Daddy, it's the end
of our duet, the curtain
on our pas de deux.
You're mad, I'm blue.
You're sick of me; me too.

Excerpted from the novel, Sandpiper, Copyright ©2005. By Ellen Wittlinger.

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