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A Writer’s Place to Start

by Kathi Appelt

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-8050-6978-X
Publisher: Henry Holt

Appelt, best known for her books for younger readers (Bubba and Beau, Best Friends, p. 328, etc.), has also taught poetry to children and adults. Her own poems here describe the lives and longings of high-school students. From the boy who secretly washes the name of the girl he has a crush on from the boy’s room stall to the girl who can’t get over getting her driver’s license, Appelt focuses on the large and minute dramas of teenage life, giving readers a springboard for their own writing. The 26 poems in the first section are followed by a page about each poem—describing Appelt’s inspiration and techniques, and suggesting starting points for poems about a similar longing. Though most of the poems are free verse, there are a few in standard forms, or which employ some device. There is a villanelle, a sestina, and haiku, as well as a series of acrostics, and a “poem in five acts,” with a voice and imagery evocative of Shakespeare, about the two teenagers who are playing Romeo and Juliet in the school play. Occasionally, Appelt’s adult sensibility comes through too strongly (in a poem about what a boy takes with him when he leaves home, in which the nostalgia feels like the mother’s; or in a series of elegies for “those we lost too soon”: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain . . . ; but most of her poems will speak directly to her readers, who will also appreciate her suggestions, and her excellent bibliography of adult books on writing. (Nonfiction. YA)