…happened to me this Saturday.
I got an email from a friend, asking me if I might write a post or two about creating verse novels. Though I’m no expert, I jotted down a few things that have worked for me and planned to devote this week to writing stories through poetry.
Then the second thing:
I read Stephanie Hemphill’s YOUR OWN, SYLVIA: A VERSE PORTRAIT OF SYLVIA PLATH
and promptly felt like a fraud.
Stephanie is a master craftsman, a scholar, a poet, a writer extraordinaire. I had a high school English class knowledge of Sylvia before reading this book and have walked away with a real sense of her style, her drive, and her heartache. For me this book was a combination of THE DIARY OF EMILY DICKINSON, a novel I read in one sitting and wanted desperately to be real, and SAVAGE BEAUTY, the fascinating, bizarre biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay.
I have really had no training in poetry. Outside of my own meager reading for pleasure, I read even less in college (and my degree is in middle school English education). What I’m trying to say is I don’t know much at all about this whole poetry business, and reading a book like Stephanie’s firmly reminds me of this.
Last fall, when I attended a revision retreat led by Darcy Pattison, we had a brief conversation about our writing. I shared with her I had, up to that point, sold two poems to children’s magazines and had a verse novel out with a few agents. “So you’re a poet,” she said, and I panicked. Because I’m not a well-studied, well-read mind. I’m a person who likes to play with language. I’m a person fortunate enough to have written a novel that clicked with a few people who could make something of it. That’s it.
So, if you can keep that in mind, I’d be happy to talk verse novels with all of you this week.