Drug abuse. Mental illness. Alcoholism. Teen prostitution. These are just a sample of the difficult subjects Ellen Hopkins undertakes in her verse novels. With her string of bestselling books, which include Crank, Burned, and Tricks, Hopkins hooks readers with riveting stories told in gritty yet emotional free verse. Crank, Hopkins’ first verse novel, tackles drug addiction and is based on Hopkins’ own daughter’s struggle with crystal meth. Crank deeply resonated with young adult readers and led to two sequels, Glass and Fallout. Her most recently released verse novel Smoke, is a sequel to Burned, the latter of which was nominated for ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults. Her upcoming standalone book Rumble will be released in the fall. Hopkins’ critical acclaim, creative output, and large fanbase has made her one of today’s most popular YA authors.
How does a single blade
of grass catch the eye?
Is it a blink
of light, mirrored in the wet
orbs of morning?
Is it how the sedge
beneath the weighted flight
of a bumblebee or a grasshopper’s
Perhaps it is a shadow
of tomorrow, something
forewarned in green
silhouette, or a slice
of memory, thin as a paper
cut, yet haunting.
You are that singular strand
in a billion, the one that pulls
the eye to a sliver
in the otherwise unblemished skin
of an ordinary meadow.
You arrive early, watch
them file into the room,
twenty-three boys, sunk
into manhood, weighted
by histories too heavy to lift
onto page or screen.
But that’s why you’re there,
and as they slouch into chairs,
shoulders tilting to accept the cross
of over-built arms, forty-six
eyes dare you to reach inside,
pry loose their stories.
Instinct whispers to look
away, don’t sound those hungry
depths, don’t witch the river
raging skin-deep, don’t quarry
the stone worried silent,
smooth of hope.
Still, something compels you
to meet those eyes and beg
them to draw you down
to the place where the fallen
seek redemption. You step lightly,
stumble upon communion.
your song, your pewter
dirge against my windows.
My patience for puddles
has long since gone,
melted into the ether
of childhood, like contrails
into a bite of blue.
My desert holds no place
for you, your incessant
at impressionable sand,
evening breath thick
with spirits of sage.
Lift your gray skirts,
reveal your star-embroidered
slip, a flash of platinum
moon in velveteen
sky. Silence your song.
Whisper a wet goodbye.
He’s been with women clear around the world.
Can you believe it? He’s just a . . . poet.
I turn to look at the poet. Attractive, yes,
but not exactly your leading man type.
Slender. Average height. Light
brown hair, thinning slightly.
I think I’ll never find him in my library
of classics. He is no Gable, commanding
Tara’s sweeping staircase, no Redford,
raindrops falling on his head, no
Beatty, splendor burning in the grass.
All mine to adore with three clicks of the remote.
Women, clear around the world . . .
I open the poet’s book, meet some
of them: the redhead, whose hair
still nests in the brush on his nightstand,
the girl whose father tended tiger lilies
beneath her bedroom window,
the woman whose dress slips off
like a flutter of birds.
His words float from the paper, thistledown.
Weightless, but not without importance,
spores, lifting into the breeze
to carry their codes of life across time.
My eyes capture them, and I understand.
Oh, to be cherished, again and again,
painted like a watercolor in an easy flow
of syntax, eternalized in a soft wash of verse.
This poet is, indeed, a leading man.
And he’s mine to adore, with every turn of the page.
Ellen Hopkins is a poet and the award-winning author of ten NY Times bestselling young adult novels-in-verse, plus two adult novels. She lives with her husband and several kids near Carson City, where she has recently founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit that helps youth-in-need into safe housing and working toward career goals through higher education and the arts.