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A Novel in Verse to Study Craft

I recently read my first Ellen Hopkin’s novel in verse — all 666 pages. I’d often wondered why some of my most reluctant readers, girls mostly, would stick with and finish Hopkin’s books. Now I know.

While the thickness of the book is intimidating, the number of words on each page is not. The poems are short and beautifully worded, using language that makes the storyline pop like a 3D movie.

Impulse is the story of three characters, all with distinct voices, portrayed in their own series of poems. The point of view shifts from character to character, which I love because that adds to the complex thinking students must do to understand what is happening in the story.

All three characters suffer from some of the worst abuses that can happen in the lives of individuals. All are in a facility trying to figure out themselves and their horrid lives — primarily as result of the actions of adults.

This morning while checking my Twitter feed I was reminded of the need to introduce students to books as mirrors and windows. Students should be able to see themselves within the characters they read about, and they should be able to see into the lives of others that they may never know. Sometimes books allow students to do both. Impulse is one of those books.

I think it would be interesting to use this poem from page 2 as an exercise in imitation. What four verbs might students choose to write into their four sentence poem?

The Thread

Wish

you could turn off

the questions, turn

the voices,

turn off all sound.

Yearn

to close out

the ugliness, close

out the filthiness,

close out all light.

Long

to cast away

yesterday, cast

away memory,

cast away all jeopardy.

Pray

you could somehow stop

the uncertainty, somehow

stop the loathing,

somehow stop the pain.

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