As reviewer Marnie Colton points out in her blog post at BookBrowse, biographies in poetry form allow for freedom of expression that a more constraining non-fiction prose form might not. Marnie calls the biography-in-verse "a dynamic form that allows poets to revisit the lives of their subjects through imagery, rhythm, and metaphor instead of the more rigid bounds of chronology that biographers must follow. Considering that biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs usually make a strong showing on bestseller lists, the poetic analogues to these forms deserve a wider audience and also provide an ideal introduction to newcomers wishing to dip a tentative toe into the rushing waters of poetry."
It is not just Darwin who has been the subject of this specialized genre. A member of the Lewis and Clark expedition received a similar treatment in Shannon: A Poem of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, while author Margaret Atwood experimented with the form in her look at Susanna Moodie, the frontierswoman who migrated to Canada from England.
Arguably no other subject is a better match for a biography-in-verse than poet Slyvia Plath. Through a series of short poems culled from the defining incidents of Plath's life, poet Stephanie Hemphill carved a biography of the tortured poet who eventually committed suicide in 1963.
This article is from the October 17, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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