Sunday, June 22, 2014

Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

Another book with a reality show in it. I swear I'm not looking for them - I just keep coming across them and thinking they sound interesting. In this case, four students are frustrated by how much the show has invaded their school.

Luke is fed up with For Art's Sake, a show that a pits a select few Selwyn Academy (a prestigious arts school) students against each other for the prize of a scholarship. Each week, the show ends with a competition where the contestants perform in their chosen medium (dance, drama, music).

Jackson, Elizabeth and Ethan (our narrator) follow their friend Luke into a plot to discredit the show and demonstrate how it has nothing to do with creating art and everything to do with making money. They suspect the school administration is benefiting financially at the cost of school's prestigious reputation.

In addition to the financial issues, they hope to bring to light other problems with the show. Luke decides to write a satirical, biting long poem that the group distributes in an underground publication (called the Contracantos) designed by Elizabeth that also includes Ethan's drawings. They also investigate the possibility that the show is scripted. Hopefully, someone will listen to them.

On top of the fact that their plans seem to get them nowhere, Ethan has a crush on Maura, the star of the show. As part of their scheme, he does get to talk to her, and in the process discovers she is being used by the show's producers. They are taking advantage of the fact that she is willing to do whatever it takes to be a successful professional dancer. How do you take down a show without killing the dreams of your classmates?

Poet Ezra Pound is a central part of this story. Introduced in their English class, his work inspires them. I mention this because within the pages of this story you will find a poem that perplexed me when I read it in high school. I mean no disrespect to poetry lovers, but this one was just not for me. I include it here in its entirety:
                        The apparations of these faces in the crowd;
                        Petals on a wet, black bough. 

Imagine my shock when I saw this poem after all these years. I was mostly confused by its brevity, but I will say I have never forgotten it.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

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