Poetry in Fiction – The Abattoir of Dreams.

I used poetry in The Abattoir of Dreams to explore one of the character’s feelings about the situation he was in and the abusive experiences he’d been through. The poem is written by 14 year-old Liam, who shares it with the main character, Mikey, when they run away from Woodside Children’s Home. The poem was also the inspiration for the title of the book.

Here is the poem in full:

How I wish I could feel,
The hot sun on my back,
Fresh cut grass,
Beneath my feet,
My father’s hand,
Strong upon mine,
His aftershave,
Bottled nostalgia,
Promises of tomorrow,
Safe within his smile,
But the night stalker comes,
Cloaked in shadows,
The sound of his heels,
Marking time on the floor,
His stinking breath,
Whispering threats,
You’d better not tell,
You’d better not scream,
No one can hear you,
In the Abattoir of Dreams.

I felt the poem helped to explain exactly how Liam saw Woodside, and how it made him feel. His poetry also acted as inspiration for Mikey.

When used in the right way/place, poetry can work really well in fiction. Other novels that have used poetry successfully are:

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Tolkien gives some of the characters verses of poetry to say throughout the story. These verses are part of the story, and written instead of continuous prose.

Beneath the Watery Moon by Betsy Reavley
Main character, Annabelle, uses poetry in the earlier parts of the book to explore her feelings and reactions to the circumstances she finds herself in. The poems fit in very well with the story. One of my favourites from the book is called This House:

through the belly
of our house;
a prison
for unhappy souls.
I could hang
from the beams
above my head.
I hear spiders skip
across the floor
for cracks to haunt
under the floorboards.
The undead are here,
their naked feet
Curtains closed
locking out stars
veiling me
from myself.
Dead furniture
scattered around me
in no particular order.
This place
does not resemble
and splinters bite
at my bleeding feet
forever pacing.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Poetry is used regularly by the fantastical characters in this children’s story. It is used to describe what happens to Alice during her travels and by some of the animals to tell their own stories. In chapter 2 Alice recites, How Doth the Little Crocodile:

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spreads his claws
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

One Swift Summer by R. J. Askew.
Main character, Tom, tells the story from his POV. He has lived a difficult life, and the story is interspersed with his poems which explain what has happened to him and how he has learned to cope.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling.
When Harry first arrives at Hogwarts he is ‘sorted’ by the singing Sorting Hat into one of the 4 school houses. The hat works on a new song/poem for each new intake of pupils, and in The Philosopher’s Stone it recites it’s newest one in full. This is how the hat introduces itself:

“Oh, you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.”


What do you think about authors including poetry in novels? Do you know of any other novels that use poetry? If so, let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

All the best,



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