Friday, March 05, 2010

Poetry Friday

Today's Poetry Friday is an offering of a verse novel review

On Pointe Lorie Ann Grover

By now you have all probably figured out that I have a weakness for ballet novels. Someday I'd like to do some research into the changing world of ballet novels-- when they started actively talking about permanent foot damage and eating disorders. When the heroine wasn't always guaranteed to grow up to be the world's biggest ballet star.

This one follows a more modern ballet novel plot and as a frequent reader of such things, the ballet plot was pretty predictable and wrapped up a little too quickly.

Clare is living with her grandfather for the summer, taking intensive ballet classes, preparing for an audition for the City Ballet Company. Failure, for her, is not an option, but she doesn't have control over everything and may have to face the unfaceable.

As a verse novel, this one is a bit different in that it is one long poem instead of a series of poems. As a poem, it falls into the trap of many verse novels and doesn't really work on the level of poetry. The moments of poetry come when Clare is dancing, but when it's general plot and dialogue, it doesn't work as well.

But, it is obvious that Grover is a dancer and danced at the intense level that Clare does. She's gone through the auditions and competitiveness of that level of dance and writes about it in completely authentic voice. And this is why the poetry works best when it's about the dancing.

Steamy sweat,
like a pot
of chicken soup.
Oak floors.
Pine rosin.
Sour breath
from deep inside.
We breathe it all
in rhythm.

Here is the moment
when the music flows into my bones,
and I don't have to
think of the steps,
and I don't have to count the movements,
and it really feels
like I might actually be
for a few seconds.

I'm a pale dust mote
swirling on a warm
I leap and float,
land deep and rise
to step and spin in the shaft of light,
showing everyone
who I really am.
It's like
I'm turned
inside out.

(pages 11-12)

Round up is over at Teaching Books.

Book Provided by... my local library

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laurasalas said...

I really like On Pointe--it's been several years since I read it. I think in most novels in verse, which I love, the poems don't really work as standalone poems. Even the ones written as individual poems rather than one long poem. I guess the reason is that for a poem to work on an individual, standalone basis, it would have to not depend on the reader having prior knowledge about the ongoing plot and the character. And I think to do that, the poems would have to stay very shallow. Instead, they usually go very deep and emotional, but they wouldn't work (for the most part) to just pluck a poem out and consider it on its own.

I really think novels in verse are a unique form that is a cross between prose and poetry. I hate calling them poetic prose, because that brings to mind long, lyrical, flowery prose, which is the opposite of most novels in verse.

Anyway, I enjoyed your thoughts--you made me think more about what works and doesn't work in a novel in verse!

Jennie said...

I agree that a lot of verse novels don't really work on the level of poetry, which is why I'm very excited when I find one that does. It brings into question, if a book isn't going to work on the level of poetry-- if you're not going to play with form and rhythm and rhyme, then why write in poetry instead of prose?