Sunday, April 25, 2010

National Poetry Month

When Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit asked me to participate in her National Poetry Month Blog Tour, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to take a look at THE LINEUP: POEMS ON CRIME books and to highlight a wonderful poet. Today I'll be looking at Issues 2 and 3 of THE LINEUP.

The introduction to Issue #2 was written by Patrick Shawn Bagley. And I thought his comments were especially powerful not only for crime poetry but for poetry in general:

"So why do we write crime fiction, let alone crime poetry? One may as well as why we write - or read - anything at all. We do it in an attempt to understand. We do it to find some kind of meaning in events that all too often leave victims, perpetrators and everyone around them damaged or destroyed."
Then Anthony Rainone wrote the introduction to Issue #3 and addresses the question why do we read crime poetry:

"It will tell you about life in astonishing ways. We all either know what it's like to put our hand to the flame, or have the desire to do so, or to understand the attraction better."
So these two collections look at victims and perpetrators and those around them. But they make use of the freedoms and creativity that aren't always as plentiful in prose. Sarah Cortez uses police radio speak to put a tone-setting twist on her "Tuesday A.M." poem in Issue 3. Henry Chang's "Takeout (as we roll)" rolls in its formatting, veering from the traditional left justified stanzas.

Some of the writers create effect by playing with punctuation or capitalization. Patricia Abbott's free form "Articulating Space" appears to be one long sentence. She's adjusted the symmetry of the poem like the quilt squares of her poem in Issue 3. And Michael Flanagan opts to write his poems, "more than enough nights like this" and "trick or treat", with no capital letters which works to reinforce the feeling of helplessness as a victim.

The poet has to make a lasting impression within a short framework. Every word counts, every literary device needs to be sharp and make an impact. Deshant Paul knows how to make that work in his Issue 2 poem "The Job."

"Red lips and glass rim met in a wet kiss"
The reader can see, hear, feel the effect of this single line in the poem. Reed Farrel Coleman creates effect through short, sharp sentences - every word counts in "The Dying Man":

"His chest heaves./He shudders."
The poems of THE LINEUP are powerful because the poets take our fears, our experiences, our prejudices, even our craving for justice and they blend them harshly with poetic devices. We might be watching from the outside or encountering through memory or new vicarious experience.

The poets in both issues of THE LINEUP construct windows that allow us to attempt to understand life in astonishing ways; through these windows we examine the victims, the perpetrators and everyone around them. And if we don't cloud those windows with our own condensation, we may understand the attraction much better.

All three issues of THE LINEUP are available at Lulu or Murder By the Book.

To see additional posts in the National Poetry Month blog tour. You can access Serena's introduction post at Savvy Verse and Wit. And make sure you stop back tomorrow because I have an exclusive and very special post highlighting one of my favorite poets. Don't miss it!


Serena April 26, 2010 at 7:45 AM  

I am so excited you highlighted these. The one you mentioned using "police radio speak" sounds fascinating. Thanks for participating.

Please remember to add your link to Mr. Linky and to email the permalink to Susan at Thanks again!

bermudaonion April 26, 2010 at 8:48 AM  

I didn't realize people write crime poetry, but I guess I really shouldn't be surprised. This sounds interesting and like poetry I could probably understand.

Valerie April 26, 2010 at 11:28 AM  

Well, it seems like there are poems about every single subject imaginable!

This reminds me of a volume of poetry I have (came across it years ago), "Who Killed Mr. Chippendale?" by Mel Glenn. I have no idea if it is still in print, though!

Susan Helene Gottfried April 26, 2010 at 1:50 PM  

Hi, Jen. Nice to meet you! I'm dropping in to let you know I've got this posted at Win a Book. Feel free to drop us links in the future!

darbyscloset April 26, 2010 at 10:31 PM  

Hi Jen,
How totally bizarre (!), I never would of guessed that there was crime poetry!!! Your write-up/post is a great intro to this subject and your examples are "spot on"!
Thanks for sharing,
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

estrella05azul April 27, 2010 at 4:43 AM  

This is just like the time I found a poem about bowling, didn't really think there would be crime poetry, how lovely to find out there is!

Thanks so much for highlighting this, sounds very interesting!

Allison April 27, 2010 at 9:48 PM  

Loved the poetry by Reed. I also didn't know there was crime poetry. I'm not surprised though. I thought I was an avid reader, but you have me beat by miles. Happy to have found your site because you read Crais and Connelly. I'm new to your blog so I wondered if you had ever read any George Pelecanos? LOVE HIM! I knew about him before Connelley...imagine that! I read that first book by your recommendation... forgot the first book title, but the second is Pretty in Ink. I have a few books to read before that one though. Thanks for your book offerings.

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