Recommended Reads: Verse Novels

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(Post includes affiliate links. I get nothing for my opinion, but might get a little something if it leads to a sale. )

It’s National Poetry Month so you should be reading poetry. My obsession with verse novels has continued and expanded to memoirs and biographies written in verse. I’ll be working my way through a few of those this month. Meanwhile, here a few books I have read and highly recommend, even to people that aren’t big poetry fans.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds–On his way to avenge his older brother, 15-year-old Will is confronted and forced to face the cycle of violence he’ll be contributing to. The whole book takes place on an elevator, a ride that seems to stretch time and pass too quickly. It’s a quick read but it will stay with you for long after you’re finished.

Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow–Criminals, lawyers, and feral dogs that also happen to be werewolves plotting world domination. Throw in a romance between a werewolf and dogcatcher and this is the most interesting verse novel I’ve read so far. It’s such a great story, you almost forget it’s written in verse.

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill–Peek inside the minds of the young girls who sparked panicked witch-hunts in their community. Through shifting points of view, we see how a game has deadly consequences. High recommended for anyone interested in the Salem witch trials.

The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined by Stephanie Hemphill–I jumped into this without really knowing much about Joan of Arc. I didn’t just learn her story but felt like I was a part of it. It was equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking.

Check out my Bookshop list for more verse novels and other narrative verse suggestions.

Book vs Movie: Beowulf translation by Seamus Heaney

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In honor of National Poetry Month, I decided see if I could find a movie adapted from a poem. I found more than I expected, although some were more inspired by the poet or their collected works as opposed to actual adaptations. Then there are the epics, which in some cases seem to have spawned their own genres. I decided to go with Beowulf because I knew pretty much nothing about it. I thought this would be an interesting experience and it was. A little different, kind of odd, but interesting.

I’ll start off saying I enjoyed Beowulf. The basic story is pretty cool. Beowulf is a bad ass hero. He fights some sea monsters, kills a demon and it’s mother. He becomes a great king because of his reputation as a great warrior and the alliances he formed. With that said, it was a difficult read. It’s not exactly hard to follow, but it does need your full attention. It’s also best to read it in small chunks. There are a lot of digressions that can be draining. Usually it’s the praising of former kings and heroes, or background information, and even a minstrel’s song performed during a feast. It’s especially frustrating because its usually just before or in the middle of climatic scenes. Overall, it was an interesting read and had some engaging parts but I don’t think I would of finished it if I wasn’t doing this post.

There have been a couple different adaptations of Beowulf, I chose the major movie released in 2007. The movie uses real actors for motion capture animation, I’m not a fan of the style. Something about the way the actors look like overly edited photos irks me, however it works well for the fantasy elements. In general the movie seems a lot like the book, it uses a lot of the same elements, but it ends up telling a very different story. The poem is essentially a way to sing the praises of Beowulf and other great kings and warriors. The movie presents a story of flawed, easily corruptible men whose misfortune is a result of their own actions. It’s a modern, or some would say more realistic interpretation of the poem. However, it makes for very few, if any, likable or sympathetic characters. In fact I wonder if the point wasn’t that men are the real monsters.

If not for this post, I wouldn’t of even been interested in watching this movie. I didn’t think it was horrible, there were bad parts, but it wasn’t really good either. I’m not even going to attempt to say which I thought was better. They were both kind of meh. Plus they were very different and made for different audiences. I’d say if you’re into scholarly reading have a go at the poem. You’ll probably enjoy studying it and different interpretations. (But don’t watch the movie if it’s for a class.) If you’re looking for a fantasy action adventure, the movie is entertaining enough. While the poem has some moments, it’s not exactly thrilling reading.

Celebrate National Poetry Month

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OctPoWriMo Day 30 – Celebrate

Come join the gathering party

Cares thrown to the wind

Caused by strong libations

Caressing intimate places

Consumed by the spirits

Careless and uninhibited reveler

Cautions bring nobody joy

Visit my poetry blog to read more.