Robert Beveridge's Reviews > Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems

Blue Lipstick by John Grandits
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's review
Jan 08, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: 2010-goal-list, cuy-co-pub-lib, finished

John Grandits, Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems (Clarion, 2007)

I might have ended up liking this book better had I known from the outset it's the sequel to another Grandits book (which I haven't read), but I don't know about that. I have a tendency to be very touchy when it comes to the subject of poetry (after all, I wrote the stuff for more years than I care to count), and the plethora of young-adult-oriented “verse novels” in recent years has in general, when I have encountered them, made me want to boil my head in acid rather than have to read another page of the stuff. So, the second strike against the press release that alerted me to this book: it didn't inform me that this was anything other than a single-author collection of poetry. I didn't know it had a plot, however loose that plot may be. Still, I tried to put my prejudices aside and give this a fair shake. I must have, because I didn't end up giving it zero stars—and it's the first “verse novel” that hasn't gotten such.

Jessie is fifteen, the older sister of Robert, from Grandits' earlier book Technically, It's Not My Fault. Blue Lipstick is supposed to be a glimpse into Jessie's journal, a look at the ups and downs of being a teen. And it is that. Whether it is poetry is an entirely different story, but it's much less of a story than it is in the work of Ellen Hopkins or Tonya Lee Stone (neither of whom would know a good poem if it bit either in the face). Grandits at least has a handle on Apollinaire, the originator of the calligramme (which has morphed over the past century into the concrete poem), and it shows. Not constantly, and not well, but it does show, and there are a few pieces in here that surprise and please with plays on words (obviously intentional by Grandits, but not always intentional on the part of Jessie, and this is also impressive). It's not a book of consistently high quality, else I'd be giving it a far higher rating, but it does have its moments. As a way to draw kids into the idea of poetry, it may well work if you hit them with a copy of Apollinaire's Alcools right afterwards to show them what the real thing should be like (“Il Pleut” is still, to this day, the finest example of the calligramme in existence). On its own, though, it may reinforce the kind of negative traits that made a thriving site for so many years. **

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