105 Ways to Give a Book

Poetry Friday: Things Left Unsaid

Things Left UnsaidToday’s post is a two-fer — a Poetry Friday and an Under the Radar book. Published in 2005, Stephanie Hemphill’s Things Left Unsaid came out in paperback in April 2007. The first poem of the book caught me right away:
Windless afternoons, slow
oppressive heat before thunderstorm,
the rapidity and eternity
of the week before
the new school year begins.

I scratch mosquito bites,
soak up available rays like a squirrel
preparing for winter famine,
and try to look forward
to whatever comes next.
Sarah is tired of being the good girl, the great student, and the quiet friend. She feels ready for a change, but unsure what that change should be. Along comes bad girl Robin, and the two become friends as Sarah slips herself into Robin’s world. But when Robin does something drastic, Sarah has to sift through the wreckage to find out who she really is on her own.

The book is powerfully and beautifully written. Sensitive and strong, it doesn’t veer toward being preachy with its message about being yourself. In fact, my sense was that the message was more about finding yourself, which takes changes and mistakes. It will resonate with many teenage girls — and some adults — who have to “try on” personal changes like clothes to find what fits. Oh, and did I mention that the poetry is really something? This isn’t a prose book where the sentences are divided to feel more poetic. This is your top-notch poetry we’re talking about here. Another poem I enjoyed:
Denial is the longest river
in the world
easiest to navigate
via the mouth,
but I don’t utter a word.

I stand silent
jeans rolled above knee
my sneakers caked in silt
and wade into murky water
eyes closed, alone.
I’ll add one thing about Things Left Unsaid, that could be seen as either a positive or a negative. At the beginning, in tone and plot, it felt a little My So-Called Life. Now I liked that show, and it’s not an uncommon theme to pair up the good girl with the bad girl, but it really reminded me of the show. I’m just sayin’.

Look for more poems at today’s Poetry Friday Round-up, hosted by Mentor Texts & More. I missed her school-themed picture book carnival by about nine hours, so I was very sure I wouldn’t miss inclusion today.

(It was interesting that Amazon paired this title with Kirsten Smith’s The Geography of Girlhood, which is another verse book that I loved and found was a little overlooked that year. You can read my post about it here.)


Sara said...

Oh, wow. I completely missed this one. Thanks!

And on a side note: your post from yesterday is making me twitch. I've been TRYING to get that book from the library. The last two times, the computer said it was there on the shelf, and I ran lickety-split, but NOPE. Not there.

Jackie Parker said...

See, now, I wasn't in love with Geography of Girlhood. I didn't believe some of her choices or reactions.