Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Nonfiction Poetry


Heidi E.Y. Stemple


Jane and Heidi
When I sat down to write this blog post, I heard a crash. I mean a huge crash. I jumped up and ran towards the noise. My mom had tripped over the tea cart in her pantry and took an epic tumble. There was much excitement after that, too many details to name here, including an ambulance, x-rays, then CT scan, MRI, a diagnosis of a broken hip and surgery.

Also, amazing nurses, doctors, and physical therapists (and one anesthesiologist who was a real jerk). Needless to say, I was late to write this.

But, you know what is amazing about writing? Most of us do it in the small spaces—the coffee shop while our child is at dance class or soccer practice, the wee hours of morning while our family is asleep, and even in the room next to where a parent is recovering from hip surgery. This got me thinking, story consumption can be like that. We may not have time to read a novel, or even a short book, but poetry can be enjoyed in those small spaces—in the interstices.

A Nonfiction Poem Explaining My Week

My mom lost a battle  
of foot vs. cart.
It busted the top of her
hip bone apart.

Images showed,
and doctors confirmed,
this would be keeping her
(for a while) infirmed.

Three pins now attach
Her long bone and ball.
It’s much stronger now
than before the fall.

She’s home now and healing,
I’m hovering nearby.
I’m not a great nursemaid.
(I can’t tell a lie.)

But, I’m here within earshot,
computer on lap,
writing this blog
while she takes a nap.


OK—that is a (not particularly good) first draft. It needs a ton of revision, but, sometimes writing a poem can help me focus on what I am preparing to write—in this case, this blog post.  So, here goes.

Nonfiction poetry can be a fun or poignant or thought-provoking way to tell a story or impart information. It’s a language puzzle—what to put in, what to leave out, how can you say a lot in the fewest lines or words or syllables. What words can you use that are most evocative or have several meanings? How can you play with that language while keeping the facts intact? I love nonfiction poetry—both writing it and reading it.

These days, more nonfiction poetry is being published. Conventional wisdom is often “poetry doesn’t sell.” But, I don’t believe that. It’s obviously not the biggest part of the market, but it does, in fact, sell.  So, if you are looking into a nonfiction project, why not give it a try?

There are two ways to write your nonfiction project in poetry: either as a collection of poems, or as one long poem. Let’s look quickly at the latter, first. Much of nonfiction is written in straightforward text. But, there are some really special books that move away from that and tell the same story with more rhythm and lyrical meters. One of my favorites is Before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Sean Qualls. In reality, this entire post could just say “read anything by Weatherford, since she is masterful in lyrical nonfiction.”

But, let’s jump into this text in particular. It makes the most of sound words—each page is packed with them--evoking the world as young John Coltrain experienced it. If you read this text without page turns, you can see that it is a poem. Look, though, at how much information is there, in those 164 words. Yes—164 words. Here are some of the verbs: crooning, whistling, giggling, strumming, cranking, warbling. So much information in those words—so much emotion, and movement, and sensation.

One thing I do when I’m preparing to write a nonfiction poem is to brainstorm words. As I research the subject, I jot down any interesting word or phrase I find. Recently, while writing a poem about a stingray, my word/phrase list included: prey, shark’s cousin, teeth underneath, mollusk, x-ray. Sometimes a word or phrase will send me off in a direction I hadn’t intended. Not all words on my list make it into the poem, but they often inform how a poem takes shape.

Let’s move on to collections. Poetry collections (both fiction and nonfiction) are all about the subject/theme, and balance/organization. Are you writing a science collection? Or one about a single moment in history, or one subject across different locations or times? A person? A group of people? How will you organize the poems and the page? Many nonfiction poetry collections include supplemental information either in back matter or marginalia. Will your poems all be silly, rhymed, lyrical, or cover many different classical types of poems?

Here are some anthologies and some collections—the difference being a collection is by a single author, an anthology is chosen from various authors--that I think are shining examples of nonfiction poetry:

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange

Opening with a diamante, this science-based collection has supplemental information right on the page with the poem. The poems are as varied as the subjects (scarab, lichen, grass, coyote) and are filled with information.

Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Bob Hansman & Jovan Hansman

This anthology (many poets) takes on the subject of sea travel throughout the ages. Look at the way it is grouped around one subject but looks from different angles and perspectives throughout history.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Homes

This collection moves through time as the reader follows Fannie Lou Hamer’s life. The poems are powerful and, though lyrical, more of a straight line, arc-wise.

Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian

This collection is all about those things floating around in space (including us, in our own “space”). I love the fun word play that makes this collection a perfect introduction to astronomy as opposed to deeper information poems like many others on this list.

Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López 

This collection about ordinary (and amazing) Hispanic people shows the diversity of experience across their culture. The language is open, accessible, and focused.

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood, illustrated by 13 Extraordinary Women

I desperately wish I wrote this book. I love the poetry, each about a woman, some famous, others forgotten, who did amazing things. The poems, the art, the language, and the subjects are diverse and wonderful. Read it with an eye to the different forms and structures of the poems themselves.

Finally, I offer up Eek You Reek: Poems About Animals That Stink, Stank, Stunk by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple (that’s me!), illustrated by Eugenia Nobati. We tried to make sure this book was balanced in terms of animals as well as the reasons they stink. From birds, to insects, to mammals and marsupials, they use odors for protection, attraction, and digestion. The language, from opening poem to the back matter, is tongue in cheek. So we had our subject/theme: stinky animals and humor/rhyme and we were careful to have a good balance and organization throughout.

Start there! Once you’ve read through some of these mentor texts, find a subject and start researching. Can your story be told in poetry? What will you gain and how will you work to not lose any important information? Can you be silly or lyrical? Or break your lines for the read aloud but still keep in the full story? Make a list of words and follow threads that you might have missed if you were writing straight prose. Play. I’m excited to see what you come up with.

OK. You go write. I’ve got to go check on my mom.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Heidi didn’t want to be a writer when she grew up. In fact, after she graduated from college, she became a probation officer in Florida. It wasn’t until she was 28 years old that she gave in and joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. She writes mostly for children and her books include Counting Birds, Fly With Me, Bad Girls, You Nest Here With Me, and Eek, You Reek! She has just sold her 29th book.

Heidi lives and writes on a big old farm in Massachusetts that she shares with a couple of cats who live inside, and a dozen deer, a family of bears, three coyotes, two bobcats, a gray fox, tons of birds, and some very fat groundhogs who live outside.

In case you are worried, her mother is recovering quite well.




 ABOUT THE PRIZE


One NF Festive will win an autographed copy of Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends.

Leave one comment below about what struck you in the post.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered NF Fest participant and you have contributed one comment below.  



203 comments:

  1. Well I never. Non-fiction as poetry. What a brilliant idea. I will definitely be giving it a go. Thanks so much for the tips and leads for books to look at for examples. And I hope your mum's hip knits together fast and strong.

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  2. I love NF poetry! Thanks for sharing all of your wisdom. My favorite part is the "language puzzle" part. :) So much fun getting the right words.

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  3. Thank you, Heidi. I can’t wait to dig into these books!
    Gail Hartman

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing Heidi! I am very excited to read the examples you provided as mentor texts. Poetry is now an option for writing nonfiction for me!

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  5. Love the idea of brainstorming a list of words to start! Thanks!

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  6. Thank you, Heidi. I love nonfiction poetry, especially about nature. I'm in awe of authors who write it and am trying to dabble with it myself. Thanks for sharing the mentor texts and process ideas. Best wishes to your mother for a speedy recovery.

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  7. Loved your post. Lots of useful stuff, especially the list of words when we first start to write. Glad your mom is doing good now and actually loved your first draft of the poem. Very creative. 🙂

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  8. I agree--the combination of poetry with nonfiction works. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this and the many mentor texts, Heidi! I also appreciate the acknowledgement to use inspiration when we can. I hope your mom recovers smoothly and quickly.

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  9. Thanks for these tips and texts. I always enjoy the combination of poetry and nonfiction and had not heard of some of these examples!

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  10. Brainstorming a word list is an idea that I'm starting to pay attention to. Thanks for all your inspiration. My mom broke her hip a year and a half ago, and while she was mending, I spent hours with her, reading and writing the draft for my debut PB. It was a special time to spend with her! Speedy recovery to your mom!

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  11. I love finding the "just right" words for a text! I haven't seen a couple of the above texts so must request from the library. Thank you!

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  12. Thanks for the food for thought and mentor texts. Will check them out!

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  13. Heidi, ty for taking time out of your very busy schedule to share this post chockfull of great mentor tests. I am researching jellies right now and writing down word lists, too. YES, anything Carole Boston Weatherford writes is amazing. Make sure mom rests!!!

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  14. Personally, I think your "first draft" is terrific. (I guess that makes it clear that I'm a reader, not a writer of poetry). Thanks for the terrific book suggestions.

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  15. Fantastic! Thanks for all the mentor texts to check out. And glad your mom is doing better.

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  16. I'm glad your mom is recovering. Nonfiction written as poetry is a fun and interesting way to present factual information. A great way to hook the reader. Thanks for sharing.
    -Ashley Congdon

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  17. Great post, Heidi. Poetry and non fiction...I love that concept. And, thanks for mentor suggestions.And, and, hope your mom is doing well. Mona Pease

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  18. What a fun post! I never thought of writing nf poetry before. Will have to try it!

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  19. I don't normally think of this format for nonfiction, but I love poetry. For the right topic...

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  20. How timely! I just received a copy of Water Music! (I had listened to your webinar in 12x12.) As a teacher/writer I use poetry infused with my lessons. Science and History are such wonderful classroom subjects to explore in poetic form. (Nope, I'm not a math fan, but yes, there are some great math-poetry books out there too!) Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!

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  21. Cheers and a pot of tea to your mom! Now I'm adding all of these amazing poetic NF books to my list....

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  22. Thank you for helping me with your fabulous list of mentor texts for my collection of NF poems. Even more though, thanks for being helpful to your amazing mother. I follow her blog of daily poems and am praying for a fast and complete recovery.

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  23. I love your idea of brainstorming lists of words and that they sometimes lead you where you didn't expect to wind up.

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  24. I have been afraid of poetry since junior high, when my father shamed me about a poem I’d written (it wasn’t iambic anything). I’ve just started writing poetry again. So happy to have comps now for poetic non-fiction. Thank you!!

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  25. I love nonfiction poetry and this reading list is a great accompaniment to a wonderful blog. Thank you!

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  26. I had written one NF poetry ms several years back...thanks to Heidi for giving me some hope that it might still sell. :)

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  27. Hi Heidi! Thanks for the great post on nonfiction poetry. You certainly are a master at it. Looking forward to reading through some of these great mentor texts.

    Sending love and hugs to your mom. Hope she continues to recover well.

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  28. Thanks for your post Heidi! First, glad to hear your mom is recovering well with your care.
    My mind flows like a stream into river with little poems and ideas nonstop. I am currently sending out several NF and dummies ,
    Your helpful message to grab our ideas everywhere, anytime is spot on!
    Thank you Heidi for your work!

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  29. Thanks for sharing these great examples! And thanks for the update on your mom—that must have been a very scary day!

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  30. I love writing nonfiction poems, too! I have two such books being submitted currently by my agent. Fingers crossed! Best wishes for your mother's quick recovery.

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  31. Oh, this was excellent! I wrote down the recommended reading and am heading to the library today! I have a NF piece that I've been searching for hook (yesterday's post!) and have thought from very early on that the story needs to be told through a poem (either one longer one or an arrangement of shorter ones). The timing of this post makes me excited to revisit the drafts in verse and see how I can change it up. Thank you!!

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  32. Thanks for sharing this information on poetry nonfiction. I'm adding these titles to my list to read.

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  33. I am looking forward to readng everything by Carol Boston Weatherford. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  34. I had never thought about tackling nonfiction through poetry before. I'm not sure I could pull it off, but what an inspiring post! Thanks for the tips and the recommended reading list. And all the best to your mom in her recovery!

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  35. I love the idea of brainstorming words. I will definitely try this soon. I think it could let lose a lot of ideas, and help you make connections that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

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  36. I haven't written poetry since middle school, but this post made me want to experiment — and I started by looking up "diamante" since I had no clue what it was! The books suggestions have made it to my library list. Thanks so much, and healing wishes to your mom.

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  37. I start with brainstorming words, too. 😊
    Kelly

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  38. What struck me most was the brainstorming of words matching my topic. That is really a great advice! And your whole blog post was just the encouragement I needed so badly! :-)
    I hope your mom will be healthy again as soon as possible!

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  39. While my nonfiction topic doesn't seem to want to be a poem, I do have an informational fiction story that will benefit from this reading list. Thanks for sharing (and glad your mom is recovering!).

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  40. Definitely have some books to get from the library! Give your mom my best.

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  41. This post reminded me of a poem my mother did to commemorate my grandmother tipping down the front staircase and landing under our Christmas tree on Christmas morning. She inspired me to write, create art and music, and although she's gone now, I'm still creating and working on taking it to the next level from what she was able to do. She was a first grade teacher for many years and used a lot of techniques to teach many children. Writing a nonfiction poem is something I should work on. Thank you.

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  42. Great story (although not a great situation - best wishes to mom). Poetry is hard. Poetry with the added goal of imparting information without seeming to is doubly hard. But, oh, such a creative challenge!!!

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  43. Never thought about NF poetry. Going to find some of the books you suggested. Thanks.

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  44. Great post, Heidi! I am very interested in this genre and have 2 in submission. Sorry about your Mom and best wishes for quick healing. I used to live in MA but now live in FL, a switcheroo from you! :)

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  45. Sorry about your mom's fall, and wishing her a speedy recovery. I dabble at poetry, but have never tried doing it for a non-fiction story. I admire those who do. Thanks, Heidi, for the great post.

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  46. Thank you for these wonderful mentor text suggestions. Off to the library I go!

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  47. Thanks for a great post, Heidi! Sending my best to Jane. I appreciate how you categorized the types of NF poetry books and collections, and I'll be reading them as mentor texts. And, I'll give NF poetry a try!

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  48. What a great way to find focus with using words about subject. I could see this working for prose or a lyrical story.

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  49. Oh no! Here's to a speedy recovery. Thanks for demonstrating how to squeeze in writing time when life overwhelms and sending this writing in poetry blog to us with great mentor texts. P. S. I also loved your recent presentation on back matter and why it matters. Best Wishes Always!

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  50. Thank you for this post. I appreciate the specific examples given. THE SUPERLATIVE A. LINCOLN: POEMS ABOUT OUR 16th PRESIDENT by Eileen R. Meyer opened my eyes to the concept of a nonfiction poetry book. Thanks for the inspiration! Hope your mom feels better ASAP.

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  51. Thanks, Heidi. I will look for Carole Boston Weatherford's work. Love the line about what will you gain (or lose) by writing your story in poetry. Sending healing thoughts to your mom!

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  52. An inspiring post, which makes me want to try my hand at some nonfiction poetry--and also gives me a whole new list of books to look for at the library.

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  53. Oh, I have this book but I had to comment 'cause I want Eek You Reek and I want it signed by you, Heidi! Looking forward to seeing you and your hopefully mobile mom at wik in March!

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  54. Wishes for a speedy recovery! And thanks for the mentor text suggestions.

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  55. I've recently tried writing a PB bio in lyrical verse, but I can't imagine how tough it must be to write non-fiction as a rhyme, with perfect meter! I'm so impressed. I hope your mom's hip heals quickly.

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  56. I just read Before John was a Jazz Giant before opening this post. Now I have more poetic nonfiction to add to my reading list. Thanks … and I hope your mom heals quickly!

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  57. I was struck by the brainstorming of words before writing the actual project. I started doing that with some poetry projects this past summer and I found it did help illuminate the path for my work. Not all my brainstorming made it into the drafts either but they did help - for sure. Thanks for this wonderful mentor list too! And, a swift recovery to your mom as well.

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  58. Healing thoughts for your mom! I happen to be sitting in the library right now, so I will head over to the children's section to check out your suggestions. Love the suggestion of making word lists. I have done that in the past but somehow it's a practice that got away from me. Time to rekindle it.

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  59. I hope your mom has a swift recovery! This was a very interesting turn. I honestly hadn't considered writing a NF this way, but now I might have to try it! I especially love the idea of brainstorming words. Thanks for the post!

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  60. Sending healing thoughts to your mom! Thanks for sharing your writing experience. I love brainstorming words too.

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  61. I love this idea of brainstorming words associated with my topic and seeing where they lead me! I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’ve never thought of trying that. Great mentor texts list as well...most I’ve read but not all!

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  62. Egads! I hope your mom recovers quickly! Thank you for this thoughtful post about using poetry to create nonfiction. It's such a lovely marriage, and, when done well, can captivate reluctant readers (and everyone else). Joyce Sidman's intro to her book The Girl Who Drew Butterflies is so lovely. I love her work. And I love CBW's work, too. You and your mom cut a fine phrase as well. Thanks for this great list of mentor texts!

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  63. Wow! I love the mentor texts and the enthusiasm for poetry. I'm going to check out several of these books. Thanks for the advice and ideas. We wish your mom a speedy and full recovery!

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  64. Thanks for the great list of mentor texts and for the acknowledgment that writing happens everywhere and anytime. Healing wishes for your mom and for you. Being a nurse is hard work.

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  65. Thank you for the book recommendations. I love the idea of making a word cloud while researching as a jumping off point for writing a poem. I hope you mom has a swift recovery!

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  66. Thanks, Heidi. You got me thinking about choosing those perfect words, even when I'm describing scientific information.

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  67. Great post, Heidi. What resonated with me was: "Make a list of words and follow threads that you might have missed if you were writing straight prose."

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  68. "Language puzzle"—I love it. Thank you!

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  69. Enjoyed reading this post! Thank-you so much. What resonated with me was the idea of approaching nonfiction poetry as a language puzzle. Searching for those precious words that will evoke an emotional response in the reader. I love reading these kinds of books because they are wonderful mentor texts in terms of what they teach us about language -- being precise and economical in our use of them.

    And I love Shaking Things Up! Such a fabulous book. Thanks for including this in your list.
    Best wishes for your mother's speedy recovery.

    Celia Viramontes

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  70. Heidi, what a privilege you have to be so close to Jane, icon and mentor to so many of us. Great post. Juicy words are the key.
    Wishing you both well.

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  71. Glad your mom is recovering well! Nonfiction poetry is rare but fun.

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  72. Heidi, the writing-wisdom in your post was spot on, and yes, encouraging, but I have to say that part of what I'll take away from it is the reminder - indeed the reality - that our writing doesn't always fit smoothly into our days. We search for and grab moments in a host of places. Then we get to work and find our joy, our sadness, or whatever is inspiring us on that day. In our nonfiction I think we aim to make sense of our world and inspire others with its magnificence. That said, thank you for sharing, and may your (amazing!) mom have a speedy recovery.

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  73. I love this. I don't think I'm going to write my whole PB bio in poetry, but because of this post, I just wrote a short poem that is helping me focus on what to include in my subject's story. THANK YOU!

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  74. I need to look up Carole Boston Weatherford's books!

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  75. Technically I was a poet before becoming a writer but never considered writing nonfiction poems until I ran across one I really liked in an old issue of Highlights. Now, I'm planning to dip my toe into the nonfiction poetry writing pool! Thanks for your tips and this great post.

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  76. I love this post so much. I have an idea I've been dying to write, and NF poetry is definitely the way it needs to be told. I will devour the books you listed. I've read a few of them, not all.

    Also, I'm so excited to meet you this weekend at the NYC conference. I'm in your Sunday session Picture Book Beginnings and Endings. So sorry to hear about your Mom, though. :-(

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  77. There are so many outstanding nonfiction titles written by amazing authors that tell stories in interesting and meaningful ways without just listing facts.

    Thank you, Heidi, for your words of wisdom.

    Sending two hugs--one for you and one for your sweet Mom, Jane.

    Suzy Leopold

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  78. I love the idea of poems that are true, but really good poetry is quite hard to do.
    Rhyming and rhythm enhance nonfiction. It's freeing and fun, not a constriction.

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  79. Excellent post Heidi. Thank you for the great examples and encouragement to give it a try! Hope Jane's recovery is quick. Hugs to you both.

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  80. Great post, Heidi! Thanks for sharing the mentor texts, and I think your poem about your and your mom is delightful!

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  81. I never thought of creating non-fiction poetry--what a dazzling idea! Thank you :)

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  82. Heidi, loved your post. Thanks so much, I've been dreaming of scanning my poetry pieces to find some theme that would fit into a book, and this encourages me. Printed your list for my next trip to the library.

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  83. Love this! Thank you, Heidi!

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  84. Heidi-Happy to hear your Mom is doing better. Your post gives me hope to try writing NF poetry. "What words can you use that are most evocative or have several meanings?" Words are golden and I love the challenge of finding the right words for my storytelling. Thank you for your insight and examples to study!

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  85. Thanks for the encouragement. Going to give NF poetry a try after reading the wonderful suggested texts.

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  86. Love the idea of doing poetry for nonfiction writing. Thanks for your post.

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  87. Twice as many shelves for a poetry NF book to be shelved at the library or book shop. Delughtful!

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  88. Should be a lot of fun to take research notes and use poetry forms to share them! Thanks Heidi and wishing your mother a speedy recovery.

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  89. So admire authors who can rhyme ❤️

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  90. Thanks for the mentor texts. Spectacular!

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  91. Thanks for the post appreciate another great list of NF books to check out and I hope your mom is feeling better.

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  92. great post, Heidi. So glad your mom is doing better. I love the idea of using poetry - and need to learn more about different forms of poetry.

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  93. Praying for Jane's complete recovery! Thanks for taking time from your nursing duties to share your thoughts and some great book titles with us. I am definitely going to try the word list idea - makes so much sense! Why didn't I think of it before??

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  94. I recently began writing a MG novel in verse. Interestingly enough, I have found myself writing in the margins of my life just as my character is writing in the margins of her life. Lots of life is happening in those margins -- often its very hectic, but capturing so many emotions in a few simple words makes both of our lives sing!

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  95. Please tell your Mom to get better soon! She's an amazing lady! And thank you for pushing forward to send words to us that move us forward on our journey! NFFest is a challenge whose time has come. So glad for such great support from the writing community. Thank you, Heidi!

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  96. Thanks for sharing and for all the book recommendations. I hope your mom heals fast so you can both get back to what you love.

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  97. I hadn’t really thought about non fiction poetry before, great post!

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  98. Hope your mom recovers quickly! Thanks for this post, Heidi. I am excited to read the mentor texts you suggested.

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  99. I love the idea of writing a poem to help you focus. I also love the idea of making a list of interesting vocab. It's nice to have that bank to draw from when it comes time to write. -Sara Ackerman

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  100. Thank you for an intriguing article. I'm not a huge fan of poetry though as an English major I've both read and written my share. But what I think any writer can take away from your process is the idea of brainstorming words. I can see that both creating new possibilities for approaching the material as well as some fresh language to help the prose sing. Thank you...and hope mom heals quickly and well.

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  101. Heidi, thank you for the great post. As always I will be sure to check out the books you shared.

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  102. Thank you for the helpful post and the great recommendations for mentor texts!

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  103. Thank you so much. I love writing poetry. Glad to hear your mom is on the mend.

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  104. Thanks so much for sharing! I love writing nonfiction poetry with a focus on endangered animals. I just read and enjoyed "Superlative Birds" by Leslie Bulion.

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  105. Thanks! Good idea to take a fresh look at some NF poetry.

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  106. Thanks for such an impressive post, especially under the circumstances. I appreciated your encouragement to give nonfiction poetry a try and the excellent recommendations for mentor texts. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for your mom. (Wonder what story she will write, based on this experience??)

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  107. Thank you for the introduction to nonfiction poetry (new to me). Your list of mentor texts and reviews of nonfiction poets will be very useful to read and study. It would be fun to actually link together the little word snippets I write while I wait...! Priscilla

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  108. I can't wait to order the books you mentioned in your post. Thanks Heidi. (Tell Jane I'm sure glad she's doing so well!)

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  109. Thank you for your brilliant post,
    Your words inspire verse,
    Hope your mother gets well soon,
    She has an awesome nurse!

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  110. It's quite an amazing thing to mix NF with poetry! Lovely post...

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  111. Heidi, I've already written a nf free verse poem. How do you recommend I get it published?

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  112. I love nonfiction poetry and I'm in the middle of grappling with such a project myself! Thanks for all the ideas and the mentor texts--I know they'll be a big help. All my best to you and your mom during her recovery period!

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  113. I have never thought about writing non-fiction poetry. Interesting idea. I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks.

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  114. Such a wonderful post! First of all, I never even realized nonfiction poetry was a thing! And what a bio note: "Heidi didn't want to be a writer when she grew up" -- I LOVE IT! Partly because her mom is Jane Yolen??? Talk about a plot twist!

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  115. This whole post is so poetic- to read to the end to find out the connection between the author and Jane Yolen! Kids love poetry, their souls crave it and they are so liberated as writers when told that poetry can set their pens free! Just finished our poetry unit in my fourth grade class and so many gems were discovered in some unlikely places.

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  116. Thinking about why you want to write about a subject in poetry has to be a thoughtful engagement. When I began to write everything came out in this rhythmic, rhyme time way. The meter sucked. But my joy for writing this way never left me. But it was so har-ar-ar-duh! And I stopped. Now it's calling to me again, so I am so glad I stopped by to read this post. Thank you most kindly for the recs. I had Miss Weatherford as a mentor. Love me some Carole Weatherford, too.

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  117. Hope your mom has a speedy recovery!
    Thanks for this great post about nonfiction poetry filled with so much advice and mentor texts, Heidi!! 🙂

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  118. My 7th grade ELA students are writing non fiction "two voices" poems this week. My objective was to have them think of their science fair research (the science that makes their project work) from a different perspective while they are writing their research papers. Each partner contributes facts from their individual research topic, with the unison parts being where the research intersects with their joint project. This is the first time I've tried this assignment and some things didn't work as well as I hoped, such as sharing Google docs between class hours. Also, it is flu and strep season, and some kids don't have computers/internet at home. Presentations, the whole point of two voices poems, had to be postponed a bit.

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  119. I love brainstorming for words to write a piece I'm working on - gets the juices flowing for sure! Great mentor text suggestions too - thank you!

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  120. I love poetry and to create nonfiction through it is intriguing. I look forward to the mentor texts you've suggested.

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  121. This was exciting to read. I have a couple poetic non-fiction drafts, buy I wasn't feeling confident in their marketability, even if I personally love it.

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  122. I've never considered writing nonfiction poetry, but I'm going to experiment this weekend. I have a project that needs...something. Maybe poetry is just the thing!

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  123. Thank you for this. I’ll add experimenting with poetry to my ever growing list of things to do in the next few days.

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  124. Thank you. It was interesting to hear about the range of options available to try out in children's books featuring nonfiction poetry.

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  125. I am totally intimidated...It is hard enough to write a good story but to add rhyme or poetic form seems impossible. One day I will try now that you have inspired me.
    P.S. I hope your mom heals well and quickly.

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  126. I know it has been done before, but I had never thought of writing nonfiction poetry. Thank you for the interesting post!

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  127. I love the play of brainstorming words and collecting words from research. I love the challenge and play of poetry.

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  128. Eek, You Reek! is pure genius. Animal odor is such a great hook! And telling their story in rhyme is very clever.

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  129. NF poetry and poem picture books are my FAVORITE things. The most recent NF poetry books that have me drooling are A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS by Alice Faye Duncan, ON WINGS OF WORDS: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF EMILY DICKINSON by Jennifer Berne, and ON A SNOW-MELTING DAY: SEEKING SIGNS OF SPRING by Buffy Silverman. But there are so so so many I could list. Viva poetry!

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  130. Such a good overview of nonfiction poetry, and some great books to check out. Thank goodness our dear Jane has you nearby! Hip, hip, hooray!

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  131. What a thought provoking post! I like brainstorming words when researching a topic and I love writing in rhyme. Thanks for the insight and enthusiasm. It’s an art form for sure! Wishing mom a speedy recovery!

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  132. Heidi, So happy to read that your mother is recovering well. I hope you're holding up ok, too. Remember that caregivers need care, too! Love your poem, your explanation of how to use poetry with non-fiction, and the mentor texts. Another one I'd add to this list is Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph (Candlewick, 2016). Read & reviewed it years ago, but it still stays with me - the power of poetry!

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  133. Nonfiction poetry is wonderful for kids who are learning to read because they can guess the words based on the rhyming pattern.
    Glad to hear your mom is recovering well. What an ordeal.

    Best,
    Roberta Gibson

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  134. Yikes! Your post was so engaging I forgot about the fall at the beginning - I was so engrossed in the fabulous mentor texts you shared. Glad your mom is recovering well and thank you for your post.

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  135. Heidi, I'm so glad JY is feeling better. I know she's feeling the love from her many fans ... And I hope that you are too, in your "nursemaid" role! YES to NF poetry. I love it. I LOVE "Voice of Freedom." And "EEK, YOU REEK!" I use also poetry when I need to cut to the heart of a complex idea, using few words. (In my picture book about the First Amendment [coming next month] -- I created poems about free speech, etc., to introduce kids to some important constitutional concepts that some adults don't always remember ...) Thanks so much for the wisdom and excellent recommendations.

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  136. Thank you for all of the mentor text suggestions. What a great post! Sending healing vibes to Jane!

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  137. Thank you so much for the idea to write down unique words or phrases while you are doing your research. I bought three of the books since I don't have much poetry in the house!

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  138. I love reading NF poetry. Eek, You Reek looks like so much fun. Hope your mom recovers quickly!

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  139. Hope your mom is doing well land isn't in much pain. I love how some topics cry out to be poems, like musical subjects. Form meets function in nonfiction poetry.

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  140. Thank you for the awesome list of mentor texts! Heading to my library catalog now to reserve them!

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  141. So much inspiration- thank you for the mentor texts! Having fun experimenting with NF poems. Off to the library!

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  142. Thank you for sharing your insights into NF poetry. I look forward to studying the mentor texts you suggested. Hope your mom is up and around soon!

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  143. Thank you! I think all the time about collections of non-fiction poetry, but for some reason I hadn't thought as much about one long non-fiction poem. Thanks for putting that on my radar and for the reading list.

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  144. Love the suggestion of brainstorming words and threads...and then playing!

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  145. Hi Nicky in New Zealand here. Wow love your poetry! Reads like rap! Going to add to my file to go over again as found this very useful and a wee bit of excitement is bubbling on the inside i do confess. Will share with the local library too so they can add some of the books mentioned to their wish list.

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  146. Your Mother's injuries sound extremely painful btw. Glad you were right there! Hope she has a smooth recovery xx

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  147. Thank you, love the word list idea. Glad your mom is okay.

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  148. Great post, Heidi! Thank you for sharing your ideas on writing Nonfiction Poetry. I can’t wait to read the books you provided to use as mentor texts. Love the idea of keeping a list of words as you research the subject of your biography.

    Glad to hear that your mom is doing better and am sending healing vibes her way.

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  149. Thank you so much for this informative post, Heidi. What a gift this Fest is!

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  150. I love the idea of writing down key words while doing research for nonfiction poetry. I'm goig to try this. I'm currently working on a rhyming nonfiction picture book manuscript and you've given me lots of mentor texts to read. Thank you! Best of luck with caring for your mom and I hope she heals quickly.

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  151. Sending your mom healing wishes.
    Thanks for the idea of writing down phrases while researching your topic. What a great way to key into the topic.
    I've put your mentor text suggestions on hold at the library, thank you!
    Susan Latta

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  152. I love this! Something more to stretch me outside of my comfort zone and see what happens. I will try this with some of my nf ideas. Thanks for the list of examples.
    -Rebecca Blankinship

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  153. Nonfiction poetry rocks. Love the list of examples that I can’t wait to explore.

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  154. Thank you for collecting these great examples to remind us poetry DOES get published.

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  155. I hope your mom is doing well!
    I do love poetry, but I’ve never really written any for kids, let alone NF. I do have one in my class, Martin Rising: Requiem for a King that I love and have read some of them to my class (3rd grade). Thanks for listing some examples for further study!

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  156. I love the suggestion to brainstorm words when writing poetry. Candace Fleming advocates the same thing for pb's and longer works. I find it really helps set the mood - even if some of the words on the list never get used. Thanks for this piece. Here's hoping Mom's recovery is swift!

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  157. Thanks for the advice. I'm not a poet and I know it. Love Counting Birds! Good wishes for your mom's full and fast recovery.

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  158. I love rhyme, and I love your nonfiction poem, even in draft form. Thank you for this reminder about nonfiction poetry and all of the wonderful books out there to read as examples.

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  159. Wonderful post! I can't wait to check out all of the mentor texts.

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  160. Healing wishes to your mom. Thanks for this post!

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  161. I've been blessed to meet and hear your mom speak at Austin SCBWI and TLA conferences, and am now so grateful to meet and learn from you as well, Heidi! Thanks for the guidance. I have spent many nights sleeping on the floor of my mom's small apartment at her retirement community, joining her for slumber parties to watch My Fair Lady or Mark Harmon on NCIS reruns. Now, I'm inspired to play and jot down some words and follow and spin some of my own threads after Mom turns in and I listen to her fall asleep. She celebrates her 92nd birthday on Feb. 14. Thank you for sharing this touching and fun post, and best to your mom.

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  162. Nonfiction poetry is a new term for me. I'm sure I've read some, but I was caught up in the imagery and did not realize it was nonfiction. I will look more closely now. Thank you Heidi. And to your Mom, "Get well quickly!"

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  163. Oh Heidi, so glad your mom is alright! I also write about emotional events In poetry. I’ve never shared them though like you did in the post. I love the mentor texts you shared. And learned more about collections. Thank you for the honest post. 💕

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  164. Heidi, I'm happy your mom is on the mend. Congratulations on Eeek, You Reek. Thank you for wonderful examples of how poetry and howing how it adds another layer to nonfiction.

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  165. Thanks!
    Becky Hall

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  166. Thank you for reminding me that poetry is a great way to play with nonfiction ideas.

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  167. I really appreciate you taking time out from caregiving to share this post with us. I will have to give it a try, and I can tell I need to expand my reading list to include these titles. Thanks again!

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  168. When I first started writing, I wrote a lot of poetry drafts. But, I've gotten away from that in the last few years. This is making me think I should give it another go. Thanks, Heidi!

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  169. Nonfiction poetry is my jam. So glad you included a post on this genre. I totally agree that it is a "language puzzle!"

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  170. I also love playing with these 'language puzzles" and making a word bank. Thank you for the post and I hope your mom is feeling better.

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  171. So many great examples to check out. Thanks for the advice!

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  172. WOW such food for thought, Heidi! Thank you so much for sharing. And so glad your Mom won the battle ultimately! All the best, Lynne

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  173. Thanks, Heidi, for this post! I love reading and writing non-fiction poetry!
    I write creative nonfiction picture books and biographies-in-verse. A question I often get is "Why is this story best told in poetry?" What is the response you would give?

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  174. Writing poetry has definitely tightened up my prose!

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  175. Love the brainstorming of words as you start . . .I do that mid-way, but love your take on it. And my best to your mama.

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  176. Love the idea of trying poetry both as a warm-up and to tighten my prose, to get at the "nugget" of the idea. And so glad JY is healing!! You could probably do a whole book on the adventure!

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  177. Love this post and all of the examples. I especially loved this—"Not all words on my list make it into the poem, but they often inform how a poem takes shape."

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  178. Love the bits on brainstorming, action verbs. I'm not a poet but this is inspiring. Thanks, Heidi.

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  179. Love this post, Heidi! A couple of weeks ago, I decided I wanted to try writing a poem for a picture book, and I began just as you do -with a word list. I became obsessed with words and pairings. I have a first draft! I've always been afraid to try poetry, because so many say, "don't bother," as it must be done well. Well, yes, it does, but maybe I can do it well. Took me a while to figure that out. :) Gotta try.

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  180. What a wonderful post--I love poetry so much and am excited to experiment even more. I hope your mom is healing well!

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  181. I absolutely love the idea of gathering related words before you start. This is an incredible idea for all writing, not just NF. Thanks for an enlightening post, and best wishes to your mother for a quick recovery.

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  182. I can't wait to play with words;) Thank you! Be Inspired, Nicki Jacobsmeyer

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  183. Hope your mom is on the mend. Yikes. Scary fall. Thank you for all the great mentor texts to check out. Love the term sound words, something I've been playing with. Maria Johnson

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  184. I love how you cleared your mind for writing this post by sharing what you were dealing with at the same time. (Best wishes for Mom's speedy recovery!). Thanks for all the nonfiction poetry mentor texts - great inspiration!

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  185. I like writing free verse but rhyming really intimidates me. You have given me much to think about.

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  186. Thanks for introducing me to Carole Boston Weatherford :) Looking forward to diving into to her poetry.

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  187. Thanks for all the mentor text suggestions. As soon as I finish here I am going to my library website to put them on hold.

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  188. Making my list of holds now. Can't wait to read about all the stinky animals!

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  189. Nothing is better than reading rhyming books. I've never been brave enough, but I always seem to wind up doing the things I say I'll never do.

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  190. Whether fiction or nonfiction, I love poetry.
    Thanks for the advice and for the book suggestions. I will put those on my reading list.

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  191. That was a great post, Heidi. You have given me some ideas on how to combine my love of writing poetry with my love of non fiction. Thanks for a great post.

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  192. Thank you, Heidi, for your expert insights into combining nonfiction and poetry. I loved the idea of brainstorming words as you research the topic!

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  193. So many books I need to add to my library list! Thank you for the tips.

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  194. Just read Eek, You Reek! so I'm excited to check out some of these others poetry books.

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  195. Thank you for the wonderfully curated selection of poetic non-fiction titles. So exciting to think of all the possibilities for telling non-fiction stories.

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  196. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I often read and write in snippets of time, as well. I love your brainstorming words idea before starting to write. Makes so much sense! Thank you also for your mentor texts -- and I can't wait to read Eek, You Reek!

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  197. Thank you so much for the recommendations. I once pitched a book of poetry on poisonous plants. I bet the editor is still laughing about that one. But I’m going to try it again, if only for myself.

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