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Mark McDonnell 06-26-2018 04:14 PM

Novel into verse (Renamed ''Things That Scared You Shitless as a Child... or Since"
Brief explanation: Mark's brilliant "Novel into Verse", below, was impossible to match, so the thread swung into a new direction. Let's have some fun with it!

I teach secondary/high school English (11 - 16 year olds). We were reading bits of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' last year — didn't have time for the whole book because it unfortunately isn't actually on the syllabus. I wrote this for the students, as a little synopsis thing really, and I quite enjoyed writing it. Has anyone else done this sort of thing? As a drill? Or an amusement? (I realise mine isn't exactly funny...)

To Kill a Mockingbird

This tired old town of Southern grace
holds hidden secrets at its core.
You don't walk past the Radley place,
you run to reach your own front door.

Through eyes of childhood, worlds unfold,
Boo Radley's presence stalks the night.
His shadow makes your blood run cold.
Let's drag him blinking to the light!

So Scout and Jem and little Dill
conceive their schemes with wild surmise,
while Atticus observes them still,
through widowed heart and kindly eyes.

In summer evening sidewalk games
the children exorcise their fears.
A shadow of the truth remains
through pantomime of haunted years.

But greater crime infests the town,
exposes rotten heart and bone.
The girl grows up, a man's sent down,
condemned by race and skin alone.

She thinks of Tom, she thinks of Boo,
their innocence had beat them down.
And Atticus's words ring true,
she sees beyond the tired old town:

"In shooting bluejays take your part
But don't forget this thing you've heard.
Because they sing from purest heart
'Tis sin to kill a mockingbird".

Nigel Mace 06-26-2018 04:31 PM

Wow, Mark - not a lot short of brilliant. I hope they appreciated what a stonking teacher they've got. The idea is now just going to itch away in my, and I suspect other's, heads. What a neat way to promote interest in either a book too little appreciated by your audience - or one too little regarded by the general reading public. Tricky not to do a spoiler though.... there, perhaps, is the rub. However, respect for your (to me) pioneering effort.

Jayne Osborn 06-26-2018 05:41 PM

That is a tour de force, Mark!

I haven't turned a novel into verse, but I have done a film... the utterly creepy, disturbing short Spanish film from 1972 (35 minutes long) called La Cabina. You can watch it on Youtube here, ...if you dare!!!

It's about a phone box in a town square, in which a man gets trapped... I'm going to give myself nightmares tonight now, just by mentioning this :eek:
Has anyone seen it? My husband and a friend of his are the only two people I have ever come across (so far) who have!!

I wrote a poem relating the gory story, but a quick search of My Documents has failed to turn it up at the moment. It's not what you're after, anyway, but it's close. If there aren't many takers for novels into verse, ...if I can find it, ...if anyone else has a film poem... perhaps we can have some of those?


RCL 06-26-2018 07:42 PM

Remarkable, Mark! Though not on the syllabus, could you put the book on reserve or some such--maybe for "extra credit" ?

I summarized the life and adventures of Mary Fields first in a 120 page screenplay, summarized it for an article, and for this venue, summarized it into a sonnet. (Did half of the screenplay as a terza rima epic and burned out!). Here's the sonnet again:

Stagecoach Mary Fields

c. 1832-1914

Just like the storied cowboys of the plains,
Mary finds Montana wild and free.
A liberated slave from Tennessee,
she’s odd in white Cascade, where cigar stains
on six-foot girls are rare. And she retains
her modesty, a shotgun keeping louts at bay.
The liberal mayor lets her drink and play
at cards in his saloon. She masters reins
to beat out angry men for stagecoach routes,
a first for women, making rounds when sun
sears and wind chafes. She wins those bouts,
protects the mail. With laughs and whiskey breath,
she tells of facing wolves one nighttime run
through snow—her knife and shotgun beating death.

Mark McDonnell 06-27-2018 06:22 AM

Thanks you three! Oh, I'm glad it works! It was hard to tell from my students' reaction, Nigel. They didn't stand on the chairs or anything a la 'Dead Poet's Society'. They do sometimes stand on their chairs, but it's not in tribute to my stonkingness, unfortunately.

Cheers Ralph, I remember that tale from the first time. It's great.

Jayne!! Oh Wow! Not only have I seen it, but it absolutely haunted my childhood! For years I had images from that film stuck in my head until I wasn't sure if I even dreamed it. Didn't know its name, didn't even remember it was Spanish (there's hardly any dialogue is there, as I recall). When I finally got online in the early 00s one of the first things I did was to try to solve all these little mysterious itches from my childhood by researching them: scraps of playground rhymes, old comic books, TV shows. This film was one of my main itches. It turns out La Cabina was on BBC2 on the 25th July 1981, so I'd have been 9. Sounds about right. I have watched it again on youtube since. Still really good. Very Spanish surreal in that Bunuelesque way. Between that and 'Hammer House of Horror' I was warped before I was in double figures. I watched far too much telly as a child, and now hardly ever.

I'd love to read the poem!

Ann Drysdale 06-27-2018 06:32 AM

Yes, Jayne - let's see it, if you can find it. My first thought was "Oh, dear, what can the matter be..." (see my contribution to the "bad at" thread by way of an excuse - and apology). I will watch the film, as penance.

And Mark, I hope that poem can have a permanent place in front of a wider audience. It deserves one.

Andrew Szilvasy 06-27-2018 07:05 AM

Just finished watching La Cabina. What a great movie! The things we come across on the 'Sphere...

Sorry, no movies or novels into verse on my end, though I have a poem about a movie that gave me nightmares as a kid, the really bad Nostradamus "documentary" hosted by Orson Welles near the end of his life, The Man Who Saw Tomorrow.

Jayne Osborn 06-27-2018 08:38 AM

Hi Mark,
Wahey!! I'll soon have a whole load of other people who know what I'm on about when I mention La Cabina. I'm too nervous to watch it again though, as I know the ending will freak me out ...AGAIN!

If I've accidentally deleted the poem I think I might have a hard copy of it somewhere... among mountains of assorted paperwork, old teaching materials, course notes, exam papers... Heck, I'll have to start rummaging, and ruthlessly chucking stuff out!

I'm glad you enjoyed the film, Andrew. I'm just going to have a look at your link now (feeling brave).


Andrew Szilvasy 06-27-2018 09:15 AM


Originally Posted by Jayne Osborn (Post 419904)
I'm glad you enjoyed the film, Andrew. I'm just going to have a look at your link now (feeling brave).

It doesn't hold up nearly as well as 'La Cabrina.' In fact, it's just sad to see the state of Welles, though as a child the predictions terrified me beyond belief.

Mark McDonnell 06-27-2018 09:55 AM

Well, thanks for reminding me of it. Jayne. I just finished watching it with my Y10 English group as an alternative to doing any actual work in this heatwave. They loved it, once I explained what a telephone box was.

Reading the youtube comments now, its fascinating to see how many people had a 'saw it once/scarred my childhood' experience similar to mine.

Glad you enjoyed it too Andrew. What was this thread about again? ;)

Late edit: thanks Ann!

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