Does anyone read the poems and excerpts at the start of books?

Jo Zebedee

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I love them. The Great Gatsby has a fabulous one about a gold hatted lover who should jump high. Marian Keyes has a freaky one about red riding hood being defiled at the start of one. Better than the book, almost.

I take a bit of time choosing mine. I have used Louis MacNeice's Sunlight on the Garden, which I love, and an extract from his Autumn Journal for the sequel. My current WIP has one by a war poet called E. A. mackintosh, (in memoriam) and my next planned WIP is going to be called The Waters and the Wild. (I am wondering how many people will get that reference, and therefore the theme of the book from that, just out of interest.)

Am I the only one who enjoys these? Any particlar favourites, or those we use ourselves?
 

Kylara

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Hahaa oh Mouse! All those hours spent agonising over chapter titles wasted! :wink:

I enjoy reading them springs, often, if I have the work I'll go and find it for the whole piece, then continue with the book :)
 

HareBrain

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When I first come across them I'll usually look at where they came from, like author or book title, and if that interests me I'll read them, but usually I skip, unless it's only a line or so.

Yet another "it depends" answer.
 

allmywires

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I like using them in my work but conversely I hardly read them in a book I pick up.
 

Warren_Paul

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Not likely, unless something about it catches my attention immediately. Steven Erikson had short expositions into the history of his book's world at the beginning of each chapter. I'm afraid I skipped every single one. A poem might be different, but can't guarantee it.
 

Jo Zebedee

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Okay, so sad me on a friday night, i went and dug out the Marain one. I have the gatsby up on another thread, so won't put that one up. This, for me, made me wonder what on earth the book was about, and drew me in.

Once upon a time
I was you
Keeping secret
Being True

What happened child
Of golden hair
What happened then
I wasn't there

Running wild
Laughing free
Bursting sun
You reached for me

But another won your heart
That day
A smiling lie
Danced your way

You followed him
Into a wood
No one saw
The wolf in hood

And now you stand
And stare at me
Your frock is stained
Your knees are green

How do I hold your hand and stay
How do I heal
That death
In May

This day
This night
This hour
Long due

This ink
This page
This prayer
For you

'Little red riding hood' by Christina Reihill from 'Diving for a white rose'

I am afraid I was hooked, right then, and had to know...
 

Abernovo

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If it's a poem quoted by the author then I'll usually read it. I like poetry, and occasionally such poems might make me go and look up the poet, if I don't alread know them.

However, if it's a 'poem' by some fictional poet, put in to create world-building, I'll pass - that's a pet dislike. Apologies to anyone I might have offended - I didn't like Tolkien's attempts at created historical poems either, if it's any consolation. :eek:

Springs, I like the Christina Reihill poem.
 

alchemist

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The chances are, I'll read the first verse and move on. Much the same as how I deal with all that drunken singing in Fantasy epics.
 

TheDustyZebra

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I usually read short quotes and one-liners, and generally skim the rest. I couldn't even take the whole poem posted above, so I know I wouldn't read it at the start of a book.
 

Ursa major

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Each of the six Parts of my main story** in WiP1 begins with a verse of a German poem*** (in German) just after the Part's title. There is a frame-story-ish reason for this.

Wanting to be published, I omitted these from the version I submitted to Harper Voyager.




** - The seventh, and final, verse comes right at the end of the main story, so immediately precedes beginning of the frame story.

*** - The poet's work is long out of copyright; just as well I'm using the original****, as I'm not sure the translation would be.

**** - Probably (but this is getting too complicated to explain, and the explanation isn't really needed, even in the books).
 

Colbey Frost

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I too tend to read everything in the book. Sometimes it really bores me, but I feel like I'm going to miss out on something if I don't.
 

hopewrites

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I tend to be lyrical when thinking to myself so I never mind a bit of poetry, be it verse or song or omen or what have you. The only time I have hated it was in a book that had a page and a half song every 50 pages or so, it droned after the 5th time and I took to skimming it for variances.
For the love of ink! if you use the same bit of verse over and over, throw in variations for those of us who cant not read!

I dont read everything in the book. I'm sorry to say I dont care about the authors love of cats or their latest move to someplace unexotic. I dont read the teasers for the next bit thing the publishers want to make a quick buck on. I rarely read the back unless i'm looking for an excuse to buy it or put it back when really its the amount of cash in my pocket and space on my shelves that will decide me (the only exception being manga which I buy after getting hooked on the anime). And unless the acknowledgement is worded cryptically it wont catch my attention.


if its put in as a song i do try to let melody form around it naturally so that I can sing it to myself on rereads.
 

Lucky_Lola

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I love quotations or excerpts before books/chapters (even if they're from fictional works, as long as they're short and to the point). I kind of look at them in the same way as some look at maps - they're an added extra for those readers who want it, an extra layer of context or emphasis that is not necessary, but hints at something. They can put a certain mood or theme into the back of one's mind. The good ones make me think of Shakespeare's prologues.

As to verse... I was badly, badly guilty of this in my early drafts, having written a lot of terrible adolescent poetry. It's tough going, but I'm slowly cutting them all from my WiP, replacing lyrics in indented italics with descriptions of the songs instead. I skipped Tolkien's songs, why should I think mine would be better? (heh, except mine were much MUCH shorter)
 

thaddeus6th

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Now Rann the Kite
Brings home the night
That Mang the Bat set free

The herds are shut
In byre and hut
For loosed till dawn are we

Now is the hour
Of pride and power
Talon, tush and claw
O hear the call,
Good hunting all
That keep the Jungle Law

Must say, however, that that is very much the exception to the rule. Poems and songs (even in the main text) I very often skip over. I tend to find them tedious.

I do often read acknowledgements and about the author segments and so forth. They can be interesting and sometimes useful.
 
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Hex

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I'm another who skips them unless they're very short or they grab my attention (like The Jungle Book).

I particularly dislike quotations from supposedly religious texts (ones the author made up, not real ones). I also tend not to read chapter headings.

I love poetry when I'm not trying to read fiction, but when it's quoted I rarely see how it connects to the story (it feels like something the author's added in because they like it) and I'm not terribly interested in working it out -- I just want the story, dammit!
 

Karn Maeshalanadae

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Well, if you're obscure enough, you should be able to derive something out of said poems and excerpts.


I also like Author's Notes, but I have to say, as much as I like Piers Anthony's, when he started them he just went overboard. They were less notes and more autobiographies. :p Interesting insight into the author, sure'n it's true, but maybe he figures he won't live long enough to actually put a full one together. :p And at his age, I'd be surprised if he ever got around to it.
 

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