Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Poem Can Be Good for a Nonfiction Girl

Poetry is the sunny spot on the carpet. It is a sea salt caramel. It is a hermit crab tickling its way across my raspberry-punch-painted toes. It is an orchestra tuning before the curtain rise.

Poetry helps me breathe. It makes me consciously calm.

Poetry is voices.

When I started writing A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, the characters talked to me in whispers, pieces of sentences, snippets of thought. They visited me when I was half-awake, drifting between late night and early morning.

As someone who most often writes narrative nonfiction, I am regularly asked why I decided to write a YA novel in verse. The answer is: I didn’t.

What I did decide was to listen.

I listened to that first voice, that first day. Her name was Josie. An orchestra began tuning in my brain. It played Nicolette for me a different day. And then Aviva.

I listened. I wrote. I listened some more. I wrote some more. Poetry had come back to me.

Maybe it came back because I went looking for it.

Like the sunny spot on the carpet, and sea salt caramels.

It visits me still, dancing into my nonfiction, adding shadows to lines of prose.

There are poems that accompany Almost Astronauts, and poetic prose that describes some of the events in that true story.

The WWII black paratrooper heroes in Courage Has No Color risk their lives to jump out of airplanes and serve their country, at a time when their country is not serving them. Poetry is there to help me share their fall.

I will always be listening as the orchestra tunes.


Cynthia Levinson said...

Lovely, Tanya.

Cynthia Levinson said...

Lovely, Tanya. ("Unknown" was me.)

Cynthia Levinson said...

I'm really sorry to be clogging your comments, Tanya, when all I want to say is that your post is lovely. But now I'm trying to figure out why google won't recognize me. (This is Cynthia Levinson.)

Anonymous said...

Very good Tanya. your article makes me to stay in your blog.

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Anonymous said...

Great post, Tanya! I find poetry (writing it as well as just reading it) helps me get to the heart of my nonfiction writing, too. It's funny how our minds work. :)