Courtesy Penguin Random House

Awkward Teen Poetry as a Force for Good

Lily Myers’ YA novel ‘This Impossible Light’ examines one young woman’s eating disorder through verse.

We’ve all got those notebook pages crammed full of bad poetry skulking somewhere around in our pasts, don’t we? I know I tried to communicate the wretched angst and hormonal discomfort of my teen years in poetry. I filled page after page of three-hole-punched notebook paper with awful, unrhymed poems in a desperate attempt to communicate the hell of my perfectly safe and privileged adolescence to the world. Thankfully, I destroyed all those papers many years ago, but sometimes I can still summon a line to mind, and it invariably makes me cringe.

The ubiquity of those bad poems—the fact that everyone, including those who’d never picked up a book of poetry in their lives, writes poetry in their youth—leads me to conclude that bad poetry must serve some higher biological function. Maybe there’s something to the teenage years that can be communicated only through poetry. Perhaps those skinny columns bedecked with too many adjectives and heavy from way too much emotion are the best way to share the intensity of adolescence. Maybe complete sentences and rigorous formatting aren’t the right tool for the job.

Ravenna author Lily Myers understands that poetry is the right medium for talking about teenage years. Her new young-adult novel, This Impossible Light, is written entirely in verse. And it’s not even one book-length narrative; it’s broken up into a series of small poems, many just one page each. The atmosphere is like stumbling across some teenager’s secret journal, the hidden volume where she keeps all her dankest poetry, then reading it from front to back. The narrative, plain and clear, reads more like a diary than a collection of poetry.

Read the rest of this review in Seattle Weekly’s print edition or online here at Seattle Review of Books. Paul Constant is co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read books coverage at seattlereviewofbooks.com.

More in Arts & Culture

Seattle Asian American Film Festival 2019 Picks

Make the most of the cultural cinematic event with these four selections.

Britney Barber (center) and Samantha Demboski (left) perform in ‘Empty Orchestra.’ Photo courtesy Jet City Improv
Making It Up As They Go Along

Jet City Improv’s retributive actions towards a former player raise issues of the comedy institution’s staff culture.

‘Roma’ projects to be the big winner at the 91st Academy Awards this Sunday. Photo by Carlos Somonte
And The Winner Is: 2019 Oscars Preditions

Who will take home the awards on cinema’s biggest night?

TacocaT got you a new song for Valentine’s Day. Photo by Helen Moga
TacocaT Returns to Dance With Its Seattle Drag Pals in the “Grains of Salt” Video

The Seattle rock quartet’s new album ‘This Mess Is a Place’ comes out May 3 on Sub Pop.

Mads Mikkelsen stars in Seattle’s current weather… I mean, ‘Arctic.’ Photo by Helen Sloan/Bleecker Street
Mads Mikkelsen Delivers a Tour de Force in ‘Arctic’

The near-silent performance makes this survival film transcend the genre.

After winning the Album of the Year Grammy for ‘Golden Hour,’ Kacey Musgraves yee-haws into town.
Pick List: Kacey Musgraves, Jen Kirkman, ‘The Passage’

The week’s best entertainment options.

Cherdonna Shinatra has a laugh during ‘<em>Ditch</em>.’ Photo by Jenny May Peterson
Clowning Around at the Frye with Cherdonna Shinatra’s ‘Ditch’

The colorful daily dance performance examines performative femininity and people-pleasing.

Brandi Carlile needs more mantel space after taking winning three Grammys on Sunday night.
Seattle Cleans Up at the Grammys

Brandi Carlile, the Seattle Symphony, and Chris Cornell combine to take home six awards.

The upbeat everyman Emmet remains cheerful even in post-apocalyptic settings. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Everything’s Still Awesome

‘The Lego Movie 2’ builds on the success of the original with more humorous pop culture-drenched adventure.

Susan Lieu performs a version of 140 LBS at Northwest New Works in 2018. Photo by Joe Iano
Susan Lieu Feels The Weight of Death and Beauty

Her one-woman show ‘140 LBS’ confronts her mother’s death via plastic surgery malpractice.