I Am A Poem – mixing genres – Lauren Bird Horowitz

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By Lauren Bird Horowitz

I am a poem
I am a beast
These words are my skin
These vowels my teeth
These lines are my spine
Pen-sweat slicks inky fur
Hear me growl
Now howl
Kiss a hiss
Feel me purr.

I am a poem
I am a beast
Hair-in-heart, two full spleens, knob-bone ridges and peaks
Get drunk in my eyes
Spinning white down coral shoals
Under anemone nails
Blackest algae-mind grows.

I am a poem,
A girl-beast that calls
My ink tastes salt-blood
Paints my canines and caws–
Your blood is here too
Tacky-stuck in my jaws
You are me,
I am you,
My ink-prints are your paws.

I am a young adult novelist… and I am also a poet. I say ‘and’ — not ‘but’ — because I cannot be one without the other. My books cannot exist without poems within them. They are prose and poetry both; in The Light Trilogy, you encounter full-formed poem-beasts, like the one above, set into the prose of the story. Noa, the heroine of the series, is a poet herself, and much like me, processes the world through her poem-creatures. They are her id, they are her soul, they are her innermost primal spirit-force. They growl and howl the words she cannot say. They scour and devour the problems she cannot parse. They preen oily fur-scale-armor when she feels most unsafe. They are her army, one from deep inside her primordial roots. Unlike prose — formless, reflowable — poems have a shape, a body, a form. Syllable-structured in flesh, they have weight. They have claws.

Poems are this to me, too, because of course, Noa is me. Poems are the rawest, fiercest form of something vulnerable and secret — my innermost voice. For so long, I kept my true self, my writer self, hidden and swathed inside, afraid to share, to let it be seen. It wasn’t until I got to college and met the right teachers that I dared let it out. Poems were the first to rip through that veil, spitting and hissing with wonderful, wet wild. Prose came next, flowing around them, channeling their language and imagery. But prose does not live so compact and explosive. Poems are grenades. They set the soul free.

For me, story always starts with that explosion. That pulsing, beating force, which is then woven carefully, thread by thread, into a prose-tapestry of plot, setting, character. One type of writing cannot exist without the other, any more than a forest can grow without a seed. The forest in the end is gorgeous, expansive, sprawling, complex — but the seed birthed the world. The tiny, dense poem-seed, with its shell, with its hide, blew the novel-galaxy forth.

My prose, as a result, tends to read a lot like a poem. It’s packed with imagery, and when it can break grammatical rules, it does (copyeditors just love that, as you can imagine). Aspiring writers sometimes ask me for advice on how to mix separate genres, as I mix poetry and prose, and I’m never quite sure how to answer because I don’t know them as separate genres. They are bound together: I feel and think in poems. I organize and untangle in prose. I think any writer who feels in words — and we all do, in our own wonderful ways — is probably a poet at his or her core, even if they haven’t ever tried to channel the raw growl of that voice. My advice would be to listen, listen deep: it’s roaring there, underneath your ribs.

Don’t think, don’t question — just answer the call.


Lauren Bird Horowitz, CW screenwriter and novelist, has won an enthusiastic following for her innovative, lyrical poetic voice. Her debut novel Shattered Blue: Book One of The Light Trilogy, won the 2016 Independent Publishers’ (IPPY) Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, as well as Finalist honors in the 2016 USA Book Awards for Best New Fiction and Best New Fantasy, the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Best Young Adult Fiction, and the 2016 International Book Award for Best Fantasy. It was also listed as one of USA Today’s top romances of 2015, and selected as a notable book by Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Hypable, San Francisco Book Review, Glitter, Culturalist, Teen Reads, Maria Shriver.com, Bustle and others. The second novel in the series, Renegade Red, is available now.

LaurenBirdHorowitz.com

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