Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Poems of Stacy Gnall

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Round-up! 

The Drift Record is proud to play host to Poetry Friday this week, and we'll cross our fingers & hope that those of us who use Blogger sites don't lose our access as we did last week! If you're looking to share a link, do so in the Comments field.  Have a good time browsing and reading!

[Added note: though I originally said I would list links in the main body of this post, it seemed redundant, so if you're looking to read this week's posts, just go to the Comments field and link directly or cut & paste the provided URL. Hope everyone is okay with that!]

Stacy Gnall's debut book of poetry: Heart First Into the Forest

For my own contribution this week, I'd like to point people toward the website of ALICE JAMES BOOKS, where the publishers are currently promoting the work of a new poet I've never read before but want very much to read now. Her name is Stacy Gnall , she's Los-Angeles based, and her debut book of poetry is titled Heart First Into the Forest.

Though Alice James Books does not publish children's books, I'd like to recommend Gnall's work to people working with young adult readers or writing for a YA audience, based on the huge interest among kids that age  in fantasy and fairy tale revisions. Gnall, I think is doing something that bright young adults might be interested in: She recreates the mood of the classic tales, less Disney and hauntingly Grimm. And she doesn't just write prose and divide it into arbitrary lines - she isn't just hoping the "white space" will make readers think it's easy, as some people writing "novels in verse" do now. She is really going for poetry, for the compression of it, and for the mysterious power and music of language. She stranges it up, she doesn't mind exploring the dark side, she touches on the sensuality and awakening sexuality which YA readers long to explore, and her work is excitingly different. 

It isn't easy, true, but I think we honor YA readers when we credit them with being able to linger in the unexplained and challenging. And we honor poetry when we acknowledge the fact that it's not prose. I look for poets who handlethe particular shaping of poetry with elegance, power, wit, and a good understanding of the tools available.  It might take some time floating in the middle of a good poem - reading and re-reading - to get not only the mood but the meaning. But that's okay. In fact, it's more than okay - it's what poetry is really all about. Slowing down, listening to the music of both the words and the world. 

In my work at Vermont College of Fine Arts, students are often eager to learn how to write rhymed and metered poetry for young children. But the interest in poetry wanes when they move over into work for young adults. Then their writing focuses exclusively on fiction. Why is that? I'd love to see more of my students thinking about the power of poetry in the lives of teenagers. And this fairy-tale fascination might be a way in. It seems to me some of Gnall's poems would be a perfect way into more sophisticated adult poetry for teachers working in a high school setting.

Here's the poem Alice James Books sent out in its pre-publication publicity:

Bella in the Wych Elm

She through the rootlets.
She murked by moss.
She in its whelm.

She the owl in the tree
trunk’s mouth stretched
to canvas a scream.

She the taffeta still
in her teeth.

She slight in the night’s dark
peignoir, eyes on the sky
so long stars disappear.

She flesh left
for the air to edit.
She year after year. 

First, she gold rush of hair
as she collapse, light
avalanche from the hands
that ferried her there.

She slung on his arm
and set—an epaulette.

She first dragged
down the woods’ brusque
tangent, first taken
from the tousled ground.

She a splurge—scarved
and sexed. She slim consent.
She the throat’s spangled
cackle and choke.

She first in the trysted park.
She in his arms his lips the grass.
Through the rootlets.
Murked by moss.
In its whelm.                                   
She our sleep
thrashed and thrummed.

She spurns our nerves,
she trips our veins.
She missing reel,
we scratch the blanks.

She for his mantel.
She for your mantel.
She my trinket too.

I don't think there's anything more explicit there than in many YA books now. To me, this poem stands alongside something like  Margo Lanagan's extraordinary YA novel Tender Morsels (marketed to both YA and adults in Lanagan's home turf, Australia - and why do we have to choose between these designations in the U.S.?) which also dwells in the world of the fairy tale.

You can read more about Stacy Gnall and Heart First Into the Forest here (Alice James Books....)

POETRY FRIDAY ROUND-UP: To see what other people are posting at The Drift Record today, just go to the Comments field here - links are provided by individual bloggers. You can click on some of them for the direct link, or cut & paste the URL's for others. Have a great time reading through them.


  1. Julie, you're right about needing to float around in the middle of that poem for mood and sense. Not sure I got a full measure of either before I needed to float away and leave my link. I'll come back tomorrow and look again.

    Speaking of floating, I've got an original poem today about our incessant rain.

  2. I just loved running my brainfingers through the words in this Breathless almost.

    Today (Blogger working!) I have a poem about dandelion grandmothers.

    Thank you for hosting...

  3. Thanks for hosting, Julie. I love this stanza: She the owl in the tree/
    trunk’s mouth stretched/ to canvas a scream.

    My poem today is spoken poetry from a teen on sickle cell anemia.

  4. Oh my oh my oh--I think we should introduce Stacy to Alice! As my daughter finds her way deeper into the dark thicket of YA (is how it feels to me), I'd like to think she might be caught in a whelm like this.

    Thanks for the intro and the thoughtful commentary of poetry [vs] novel-in-verse. Let white space be genuine.

    I'm in today with relish at honeysuckle ahead of schedule.

  5. Hello, I have some musings about the connections between a Mary Oliver poem and a novel by Tove Jansson at

  6. At Random Noodling I have a review of last weekend's Mass Poetry Festival.

    Kurious Kitty has a poem by Mark Doty, "A Display of Mackerel." A quote by Monica Wood is featured at Kurious K's Kwotes.

    Janet of The Write Sisters has a reflection on graveyards and shares "Bone" by Claudia Emerson.

  7. What an extraordinary poem, Julie! Definitely want to read more of Stacy's work.

    Coincidentally, today I'm sharing Jane Yolen's "Fat is Not a Fairy Tale":

    Thanks so much for hosting today!

  8. I'm in with "A New Poet" by Linda Pastan, which somehow fits perfectly with Stac Gnall's new-to-me work. .Can't wait to tramp through her woods and discover new wildflowers. Thanks for having us over today!

  9. Hi Julie--Thanks for hosting! Back later to read your entire post.

    I'm in with "The Summer I Was 16," by Geraldine Connolly at

    And 15 Words or Less poems at

  10. I have a poem this morning from new children's poet laureate J. Patrick Lewis titled Library Lady. Enjoy!

  11. On the Stenhouse Blog this morning we have Books Discover Children by J. Patrick Lewis. Have a happy Poetry Friday!

  12. Good morning, thanks for hosting!

    My Poetry Friday contribution is a review of Summerhouse Time, a children's novel in verse by Eileen Spinelli. Here's the link:

  13. Thank you for hosting us today! I have shared one of our new Children's Poet Laureate's books of poetry, having a good time exploring his poetry!

  14. Thank you for sharing this, Julie. So many of my sphisticated readers (for 6th. grade, that is) love fantasy - this poem is something I can share and discuss with them. I'll have to investigate this poet as well. My Poetry Friday contributions are two by Naomi Shihab Nye. Thanks for hosting today!

  15. Thanks for doing the round-up! I'm in with an original poem about Snow White by my 14 year old daughter, over at Simply Put

  16. Thank you for a peek into this poet's new work, Julie, and for hosting today! I've added the rest of a batch of haiku by fourth graders after our "Haiku Hike" this spring.

  17. I'm in with an excerpt from a Kate Messner poem.

  18. For some reason, the link thingy isn't showing up for me! But I want to share my post:

    A poem by Kim Addonizio.



  19. Hi Julie,
    Thanks for hosting. I am in with a Giovanni's poem about librarians.
    Love the phrase "murked by moss"

  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  21. Thanks for hosting, Julie!

    Here's a little tribute to Claude Monet at
    The BALD EGO Blog

  22. Julie, it was fascinating to hear your thoughts on the connections between fairy tales and verse, and this new collection on poems. I think the fairy tales themes, and angst, is partly what make Alice Hoffman’s novels such a good crossover to teens. I wasn’t even going to blog today, but your post inspired me. So I wrote about Revising Poetry at Thank you!

    (I hope I'm not repeating here. My first try seemed to disappear.)

  23. wow I need to spend more time reading that poem. It really grabs me.

    I am experimenting with Tweeting poetry this week. Here's where I blog about it.

  24. Julie,

    Thanks so much for doing the roundup this week. I'm running late this Friday. I've been busy with shopping and preparations for a very special occasion (which must remain a secret for now) on Sunday.

    At Wild Rose Reader, I have two original lollipop poems.

  25. Julie... Thanks for that poem and for hosting today...
    I've got a little piece by Wendy Videlock, who's new to me today...

  26. I'm in this week with the angsty "Afraid So" by Jeanne Marie Beaumont (which is a nice complement to my angsty writing self this week), and it's here.

    Thanks for hosting, Julie.

  27. I'm back! At Blue Rose Girls, I have an original poem titled "Lilacs."

  28. "I think we honor YA readers when we credit them with being able to linger in the unexplained and challenging." Wow. Thank you for this.

    I reflect on allusion (Cupid, Wayne Newton, Godzilla...) in the 21st century.

    Thank you for hosting!

  29. I posted a poem from Shirley Hughes, Seaside. It's one my son memorized for first grade and fun for this time of year.

  30. Ooh! I love the poem--thank you! I've got an original tulip poem at
    JoAnn Early Macken

  31. i still feel that one of the problems with presenting poetry to a YA audience is getting past their gag reflex that poetry is work. not to suggest that poetry should be easy or fluf, but when freshman are slogging through homer nightly, answering worksheet questions for every five lines or so (as i'm watching my daughter do), the last thing they want is to read poetry for leisure. in the same way they eschew classics because those are books that are "taught" (as opposed to being read for narrative fun) i think the issue may be how we present poetry to YA readers.

    meanwhile, i wrote some sijo this week pondering the ignored inner lives of those who work at amusement parks. wow, that sounds darker than i meant it to. eh, maybe they are a little dark.

    and thanks for hosting, julie.

  32. I agree, David - the trick is always in how poetry is presented, which is true of all subjects in school: algebra, chemistry, geography, history, whatever. Poetry needs a good teacher, no doubt about it. But the critical analysis in class of something like The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't make students turn away from all fiction, so why does analyzing Home make them turn away from all poetry? It's still a puzzle to me, and I can't help but think that contemporary poetry aimed at the YA audience is maybe TOO DULL....? It is trying to do what fiction does (tell a story) and that's not what poetry is best at. So why not let poetry come at them the Gnall delivers it - a completey new, weird way of using language? Good teachers yes (and they should love poetry) but poetry like Gnall is producing would make a good teacher's job that much easier. At least it would help students understand that poetry isn't prose.

  33. Typo! I mean "analyzing Homer," not "analyzing Home" - though analyzing Home might pjavascript:void(0)eak some YA interest!

  34. Hi! I think I posted already, but I don't see it. Forgive my repetitiveness if it's there already:

  35. Hi Julie, thanks for hosting.

    Poems of family in time of crisis:

  36. Tabatha - So sorry you had to repost - I don't seen your original in my Inbox. Note: Tabatha's got a great Poetry Friday post about Poem/Song match-ups - be sure to visit her blog and read it. Lots of fun.

  37. What a breathy, beautiful poem....will have to read more of Gnall. Also, Amy LV made me smile with her comment about "brain fingers." Lovely people.

    I have an original poem about estate saling today:

  38. Thanks for hosting.
    My selection is "The Fastest Game on Two Feet: and other poems about how sports began" written by Alice Low with illustrations by John O'Brien.

  39. I shared The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders today:

  40. Thanks for hosting poetry Julie! I have been enjoying cruising the blogs for poetry all weekend. I know it's a ton of work to re-poet the links in your main text, but for the record I find it makes a difference in how many I can get to. Clicking on the links in a list just goes so much better for me. Hope you don't mind my saying that here.

  41. Sorry not to have made a list, Andromeda. Could have used "Mr. Linky" as an alternative, too. I guess the world is going faster than I can keep up with - so the difference in time spent linking directly or cutting and pasting a URL didn't actually occur to me. Next time I'll remember that.

  42. Thanks Julie! I really don't mean to be a pain or a downer. It's a big job just being the host and I appreciate your willingness to give your time!! I am working my way through these comments and finding a lot of really great poetry.

  43. Hello! Thank you for hosting. This is our contribution to Poetry Friday over at GatheringBooks:
    Variations on the Word Sleep by Margaret Atwood -

    Thanks again!