Poetry Outside of Collections and Music

April 18, 2022

Book pages folded into a heart. Blurry background of the outdoors. Photo by Rahul Pandit on Pexels.com.

Hey friends!

Short and sweet today. I’m going to tag onto the post I wrote a couple weeks ago about songs giving me poetry vibes, and look at other places you find poetry outside of poetry collections and music.

I enjoy finding things that have rhythm, or poems in places I’m not expecting 🙂

Children’s Books

Whether it’s simple rhyming, or incorporating meter and beats into the lines, children’s books are a great place to find poetry. Of course, there’s some that a bunch of us know (like Madeline), but there are many out there I’m sure I’ve never heard of. I’d love to hear some of your favourites, or your kids’ favourites!

Nursery Rhymes

Similar to children’s books, often veering more towards songs or short poems than stories with poetic qualities.

I mean, look at “Come, Let’s to Bed” (or “To Bed, To Bed,” depending on where you look):

“Come, let’s to bed,” says Sleepy-head;
“Sit up awhile,” says Slow;
“Bang on the pot,” says Greedy-gut,
“we’ll sup before we go.”

“To bed, to bed,” cried Sleepy-head,
But all the rest said “No!
It is morning now,
You must milk the cow,
And tomorrow to bed we go.”

(Also, side note, it took me forever to find the version I grew up with. Most places only talk about the first verse, and then Greedy-gut is sometimes Nan putting on a pan instead of a pot. I got this one off of Parenting on a Rollercoaster, which says this one comes from Nursery Treasury. Which version do you know?)

These things have always been little earworms for me. I’ll find myself saying them on loop sometimes like I would a song, since they’re usually pretty simple to memorise what with the rhyming and short, simple lines!

Novels

Sometimes we get little hints of poems in novels, like a prophecy or a children’s rhyme made up for that book. This might be something like the poem/song from the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake:

Three dark queens
are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends

Three dark sisters
all fair to be seen,
two to devour
and one to be Queen

I’m still so in love with this. I was drawn to the book immediately when I read that, and it still gives me chills, especially knowing the whole story now. A great way to envelop readers deeper into your story, or draw them in on the cover!

On the other end, with other books, you get known poems in the mix. This one I looked at a bit on Instagram a while ago, because I just love it so much. I’m sure a lot of authors have done it over the years, but I always think of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. Some of the books have quotes to start out the chapter or section – like Clockwork Angel – while others integrate a specific poem into the book – like Lady Midnight.

For example, Chapter 6 of Clockwork Angel, entitled “Strange Earth,” starts with a verse from Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market”:

We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?

And each chapter of Lady Midnight is named after part of (or a complete) line from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee”:

Chapter 7: The Sounding Sea
Chapter 11: A Maiden There Lived
Chapter 17: The Demons Down Under the Sea
Chapter 19: Chilling and Killing
Chapter 24: By the Name of Annabel Lee

I love hearing what poetry, if any, inspired her for a given book or series, and to see how she integrates it/other poems from the given time period into the writing.

(Was this post so I could specifically talk about poetry in Cassandra Clare books? No. But was it a big part? . . . Maybe.)

And of course, there’s novels that are entirely written in poetic form (I recommend checking out Hideous Love by Stephanie Hemphill). They kind of straddle the line between art forms in a way that fascinates me. Is it a book of poems or is it a novel? And to that I say, yes 😛

Where do you like finding poetry outside of poetry collections?

Published by Kaila Desjardins

Freelance poetry editor, fiction writer, proud nerd.

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