Poems in Books

April is National Poetry Month! This month we’re highlighting 2014 debut novels with a strong tie to poetry and asking those authors for a taste of what to expect in their books. Here’s what they offered up:


Tracy Holczer Secret Hum of a Daisy



a middle grade novel – available May 1st


With Mama,

the closest I’d ever been

to falling snow

was the farm trucks going by on the interstate

leaving behind a flurry

of snow white onion skins.

As we’d lie in the fields

they’d drift over,

making it easy to pretend

we were somewhere else.

This was the first poem I’d written for the story. It was a snapshot of the life my main character, Grace, had lived with her mama before she died. It told a lot, I thought. But as revision took over, another sort of poem had to take the place of this one, one that showed less of the yearning in Grace’s life and more of how normal things were Back Then. And even though this poem was edited out, I always kept it close in case I lost sight of Grace, which can happen when revision is focusing on things like plot and tension. This poem goes to the heart of the story and I’m glad I got to share it.


Robin HerreraHopeIs


Amulet Books

a middle grade novel – available now


I read a lot of Emily Dickinson poems while writing HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL that I thought it’d be fun for my main character, Star, to write one of her own. Inspired, of course, by her favorite poet.

The poem has been through four drafts! And it’s now in the finished book, so clearly I did something right:

In the Winter!

We get Snow –

But – in the Trailer!

We Don’t Know –

Where Autumn Ends!

And Winter Starts –

‘Cause Winter’s There!

Inside Our Hearts!

(Winter here is the name of Star’s older sister.)


Skila Brown  caminar


Candlewick Press

a novel in verse – available now

He Had a Gun

A rifle rattled
on his shoulder,

his thumb tucked
under the strap,

a shadow where
a mustache planned to grow, above his lip.

He tapped his fingers
on the bullets around his waist

as he winked
at some girls.

Roberto dropped his Pepsi,
ducked inside.

My feet stuck
right to the ground.

I did not move.
Except my eyes.

The main character of Caminar is at that difficult point in childhood where he’s caught between boy and man. In this scene, he’s meeting a boy his own age, a boy who happens to be a soldier. I had a lot of fun playing with the juxtaposition of images in this poem. Rattle and thumb bring baby images to mind, making the bullets and winking all the more jarring.


Linda Phillips  Crazy


Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 

a novel in verse – available in October 2014


First thing inside the door
I smell turpentine.
I nearly trip over a wet canvas
propped against the door frame.
I follow a trail of smudgy rags
and scattered paint tubes
into the living room
where I find Mama,
her back to me,
crossing herself
before a dripping canvas.
She’s been painting again!

“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . . ”

A sickening sense of panic begins
crawling up my spine.
“What’s going on, Mama?” I ask.

“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . .”

I’m not sure she heard me
so I move toward her,
bending down to look into her face
and I say it slower
trying to connect with her eyes.
“Mama, what’s going on?”

“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . .

I reach out to shake her,
maybe even slap her,
do something to snap her out of it
and get her attention
when she stops
faces me,
looking past me
signaling me
to be silent.
“Mary’s my sister,
She’s coming,
coming for a visit. . . and I,
I must finish getting the house
ready for her visit.
Be a good girl now,
won’t you?
Go clean your room
so you will be ready
when she comes,
ready when she comes,
when Mary comes to our house
see, when Mary—
Oh, I can’t find my alizarin
and I need it—
I have to have it NOW,
have to paint, now, NOW!
Do you see it here
So I can paint Mary
before she comes,
see. . .”



Madeleine Kuderick   Kiss of Broken Glass
Harper Teen

a YA novel – coming September 2014


In the last post, I mentioned how I didn’t consciously choose to write a novel in verse. Instead, that voice chose me. From the very first sentence Kenna’s words were raw, choked off and close to the bone. Today I’d like to share a sample of that voice from my book jacket.

My name is Kenna.
No one ever told me the truth
about cutting –
How scars multiply like freaking rabbits.
How cutting turns you into a pathological liar.
How getting caught lands you in a psych ward
with no way out
for 72 hours.
But that’s exactly what happens.
To me anyway.
And I bet you wonder
how anyone could ever change –
in just three days,
in a place like this,
where everybody’s broken.

Trust me.
I wonder that myself.



Do you have a favorite poem? Link it up in the comments – we’d love to know what it is. And Happy National Poetry Month from all of the OneFour group!

Skila Brown has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her family in Indiana. Her debut novel, CAMINAR, is available now from Candlewick Press.

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