Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Fishtailing February 15, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,Literature,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:06 am
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Wendy Phillip’s YA novel Fishtailing is a collection of poems that tell a painful narrative about teen life. The inner turmoil expressed in the poetry paints the undercurrents that the adults either ignore, misunderstand, or are overwhelmed by. The needs are so great, and the students are so many, the adults’  insensitivity is understandable (survival instinct more than anything) but it’s frustrating as well. You want to shout, “Can’t you tell what’s going on here?”

Wendy is a graduate of the UBC MFA in Creative Writing, and I see their interdisciplinary approach echoed in the way poetry and story have combined in a way that is more profound than a strict narrative would have been.  The masterful way  each persona is crafted delineates a clear voice for each character as the woeful tale unfolds.

Wendy’s years working in high schools is very apparent. This feels real. These kids feel like the complexly burdened teens that stare across their desks at me.

It’s a book that offers a challenge to teachers of teens. The challenge may be too difficult for them to cope with though. Ignorance is bliss.


A poem by Wendy Phillips January 20, 2011

From Fishtailing by Wendy Phillips. This novel by UBC Creative Writing alumnus Wendy Philips is crafted in a series of poems in persona of several characters. There are students, teachers and administrators represented.


Teacher staples my motorcycle dream
to the display board
Tricia wanders over
reads it
I watch
She turns
raises an eyebrow
drifts to my table
Told you Farr would like it she says
Not bad.

I swallow a lump
Wanna ride sometime?
She lifts her chin
narrows her eyes
I look away from the glare
Yeah she says, today
walks away.

poems are good
for something.

I like this poem because it captures something that I see often.  Suddenly the communication options open when people master a new medium.  Finding new media opens up an audience they would not have reached otherwise.  I often set up a “Poet-tree” in my class.  It fills a wall.  A trunk and branches are on the wall.  Students can take green leaves and leave a poem on a wall.  It’s a non-credit thing, and some years it gets very little interest, but other years it is a hot-bed of creative communication.  Students from other classes will come in to read the poems, because hearts are bare on the wall, and voyeurs watch developments with avid interest.

A young man who has poetry in his arsenal has a powerful tool to capture the hearts of the ladies he admires!  If he can set his poetry to music, he has even more power.  The ladies will be virtually powerless from his charm!

Yes Kyle, poetry is good for something.  In Grace Awakening Ben takes full advantage of the fact!  😉


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