This Week’s Top 10 Poetic Picks

Kimberlee Conway Ireton The best in poetry (and poetic things), this week with Kimberlee Conway Ireton.

Artful Girl by Claire Burge

1 Art

Let me be clear: this first item—Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style—has pretty much nothing to do with poetry. But it’s so flipping creative I just had to include it. Besides, what else are you going to do on a trans-Atlantic flight?

Since we’re going trans-Atlantic, we ought to bring a map or two, just in case our smart phones aren’t as smart as they think they are. Seriously, I love maps. We use them as decoration at our house: a world map in the hall outside the bathroom and a U.S. map behind my closet door (there wasn’t any other wall space large enough for it). So I was thrilled to find these gorgeous maps, including a map that is also a pictorial history of my beverage of choice. Any guesses what that might be?

News by Claire Burge

2 News

Poetry makes waves in Germany: when a poet with a Nazi past writes an anti-Israel poem in a country where Holocaust guilt and shame still linger, well, it’s hardly surprising that said poem creates a maelstrom of commentary and confusion.

Former U.S. poet laureate Reed Whittemore passed away last week. He was 92. The New York Times retrospective of Whittemore illuminated his urbane exterior that concealed, or perhaps allowed, a strong subversive streak:

Mr. Whittemore’s poetic style bespoke an artisanal attention to craftsmanship. Often described as spare and elegant, it combined the natural cadences of speech with precise metrical control, keen wit and the judicious use of both end-rhyme and internal rhyme. But beneath this composed surface his verse sounded notes that ranged from mordant to melancholy.

Publishing by Claire Burge

3 Publishing

I’m a babe in arms when it comes to social media. I still don’t really get the appeal, but I’m starting to: someone retweeted me! Someone else shared a link to my Tuesday blog post! I’m smart and funny and people like me! But wait, I only have 111 Facebook friends and an even paltrier 73 Twitter followers. Maybe I’m not smart or funny. Maybe no one likes me. Maybe they just followed or friended me out of pity. Craig Santos Perez isn’t quite as neurotic as I am, but he gets the ludicrous nature of social media. And he’s smart and funny, too. I just might like him.

For more on the Amazon vs. Everyone Else controversy that’s stirring the publishing waters, check out this fascinating (if long) look at Amazon’s grant-giving to the very people who love to hate them. Is this disinterested philanthropy or the ploy of an evil predator creating dependence in its prey? You decide.

In related news, more than a few someones at Amazon are probably dancing on Steve Jobs’s grave over the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Apple and the Big Six publishers.

Reviews by Claire Burge

4 Reviews

Poet and pick-up basketball player Catherine Woodard reviews a new book, From Fast Break to Line Break: Poets on the Art of Basketball, that may relieve the doldrums for basketball fans who languish in a wasteland between the end of March Madness and the beginning of the NBA/WNBA seasons. Perhaps April won’t be the cruelest month this year after all?

Or maybe it will be. If you like your poetry on the dark side, there’s possibility in Michael McGriff’s new collection, Home Burial. Jeff Gordinier lauds McGriff’s language as “simultaneously spare, cinematic and tactile.”


5 Creativity

Do you need a little pick-me-up to get you in the mood to write again? To hone your focus so you can face that blank page and tell procrastination to take a hike? Step on over to Colin Nissan’s inspiring article that will have you writing the best dang poem EVER before you’re even done reading it. Guaranteed. (Sort of.)

Inspired by the Sorted Books project, Maria Popova wrote her own book spine poetry in honor of National Poetry Month. What might your book spines say?

Write It by Claire Burge

6 Write-It

Haiku: the perfect form for busy writers?

Maybe, but even
if it’s not, at least you can
post it on Twitter!

Or if haiku’s not your thing, you could fixate on the color blue, say, or the word raven or whatever you like to fixate on. See how many times in a day that fixation recurs. Collect the incidents or images into a poem. Call it “A Message from the Universe.”

Poems by Claire Burge

7 Poems

Poetry lover that you are, you know that April is National Poetry Month, but did you know it’s also Math Awareness Month? Mary Cornish celebrates both in one fun poem.

Here in Seattle, we have poetry on our buses. Sometimes it’s even good. But even when it’s not, it sure beats reading the fine print in the ad for Intel…or Viagra.

Poet Anne Doe Overstreet lives in the Seattle area, too, though I don’t know if she’s ever written a poem for a bus. No matter. You can still read her poem about Icarus, in which she captures a brief moment of flight before falling:


As the horizon looms, flips over to present
an endless span of waves, I give up, surrender.
My fate’s the fate of falling. I guess I hoped for recognition,
that when I pushed my arms into the hostile sun
he would look up and see my face, the frame
of limb so like his lover, perhaps invoke my name.

Read the rest of “Immolation.”

People by Claire Burge

8 Business

Guy Kawsaki distills the vision behind the Apple Store, the most profitable retailer in the United States. Rule #1: Don’t sell stuff.

Kawasaki also promotes poetry as good business. At least, that’s how L.L. Barkat interprets his advice to make your message “swallowable” by using metaphor, simile, and brevity.


9 Education

The Irish really took their poets seriously: 12 years of training to become an Ollambh, the highest poetic post; 7 years for a mere Bard. And we think a three-year MFA is killer.

If you’re feeling ambivalent about vitamins and want to see an immunologist, you can thank 1912 for giving you the words you need. These are just a few of the words that appeared in print for the first time 100 years ago. Others include punch-drunk, nosedive, sodding (thanks to that sodding rotter D.H. Lawrence) and Oreo. Who knew?

Motion by Claire Burge

10 Sound n Motion

It’s fascinating to me that sound and motion—in this case, music and video images—can change the feel of a poem. This one became dark, even scary:

And just because I liked it, I’m including Robert Frost reading “The Road Not Taken.” The man has a fabulously deep voice. If you prefer to watch as well as listen, take a gander at Frost reciting “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

Photos by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year


Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $2.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In April we’re exploring the theme Candy.

Red #9


  1. Tania says

    Great post, Kimberlee! I like you; I really like you! 😉

    Those Flemish portraits are pretty much the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Genius!

  2. says

    What a treat to view Robert Frost reading his poem (which I referenced this week in a post). I thought it high praise to refer to someone as a bard, when i should be praising them as an Ollambh; yet bard does roll ’round the mouth easier.

    Thanks for mentioning the NCWA post!

  3. says

    It takes a creative and poetic mind to turn such “found” objects into Flemish-style self-portraits, even if the air does get a bit precious at 37,000 feet. Katchadourian has such a range of expressions. I can only hope she’ll be on the next long flight I take.

    Great picks today, Kimberlee.

  4. L. L. Barkat says

    Omg, I *love* that writing thing at McSweeney’s. Ha! And the price was definitely right :) (Thanks for freely sharing :)

  5. says

    A wonderful collection, Kimberlee. I especially appreciated the article about the ancient Irish bardic training. The bard held responsibility for safe-guarding the beauty of the culture, its history, and providing creative leadership. It makes me rethink my own (continuing) years toward a PhD and how this is not simply a narrow pursuit, but education for a way of life and love.

    (And Lavatory Self-Portraits made me laugh–I wish I had read it before my 8 hour flight.)

  6. says

    Twitter makes me feel like I’m talking to myself, only aloud and via a keyboard. Wa-eird. Mostly I quote a Texan cowdog or talk about dogs. Can dogs tweet? I think it’s only birds.

    As always, thanks for the list, miss Kimberlee.


  7. says

    Tania, the Flemish self-portraits cracked me up, too. So glad you liked them…and me :)

    Maureen, thanks for interpreting poetic as broadly as possible to make room for lavatory self-portraits. It’s definitely creative, and you’re right, working with what you’ve got to make something new is what poets (all artists or creators of any stripe, really) do.

  8. says

    Connie, I love Robert Frost. And hearing him read? Swoon. That voice just makes me weak in the knees :)

    L.L., I started skimming that McSweeney’s post and about halfway through I realized, hey wait a sec, I don’t think this is serious (I’m a little slow on the uptake), so I went back and read it. I laughed so hard. Snark is my friend :)

    Monica, we should have a book spine poetry slam. My first one (taken from the piles o’ books on my nightstand):

    rare encounters with ordinary birds
    (for the children’s sake)
    swallows and amazons
    a thousand vessels

  9. says

    Susan my friend, Welcome to Tweetspeak! I’m so glad you stopped by! And I love your words about your Ph.D. path: “education for a way of life and love.” Isn’t that what education is supposed to be about? Teaching us how to live and love?

    Darlene, Did you ever see that awesome Twitter video that came out three or four years ago when Twitter was still new to most people? At one point the character with whom I identify shouts, “NONE OF YOU HAS ANY FRIENDS!” You really ought to watch it.

    • L. L. Barkat says

      Not the Internet :)

      Sometimes a comment gets sent to Spam when it has a link in it. There you have it (and now, here you have it :)

  10. says

    I thought I commented here before, but must have been waylaid midway through. Great finds! Like everyone else, I loved the lavatory art (though I’d prefer not to fly with her unless she lets other passengers in on her work). And you found more basketball poetry? I might have to try to pick that one up and read it over my boys while they’re sleeping. (Except that I go to bed before them — that time is coming, Kimberlee.) And I couldn’t take my eyes of the creepy Karl video.

  11. says

    I pulled a set of books of the stack and found this (in addition to the realization that the vast majority of titles in my book pile begin with The):

    The end of suffering, The great divorce
    The edible woman, The everlasting man
    The need for contemplation, The folly of prayer
    August 1914
    The geography of Lograire

  12. says

    Susan my friend! Welcome to Tweetspeak! I’m so happy you stopped by! And I loved your words about your Ph.D. path; how it is “education for a way of life and love.” Isn’t that what education is for? To teach us how to live and how to love?

    Darlene, have you seen this Twitter video? It’s from three or four years ago when Twitter was still new to most people. At one point, one of the characters screams into the tweetstream, “NONE OF YOU HAS ANY FRIENDS!” And then Twitter collapses. It’s awesome. You might want to watch it if you haven’t already :)

  13. says

    Lyla, the internet ate one of my comments, too. I was so annoyed it took me six hours to rewrite it during which time I went to the grocery store, had dinner, and put my kids to bed. I didn’t fret and stew the whole time, though. Really.

    I’m so glad you liked the post. I thought of you with that basketball book. And my eight-year-old already goes to bed after I do. (But don’t tell anyone. It’ll make me look like a Bad Mom.)

    How’s this for another book spine poem:

    The Great Divorce:
    Are Women Human?
    A Good Man is Hard to Find.

  14. says

    Kimberlee: Who are they talking to?

    No one… And everyone…

    Love that.

    (And I can’t blame the internet for eating the comment I started and then abandoned for some distraction…)

  15. says

    On your No. 9, I just got back from a press trip to Northern Ireland, and our guide the last three days recited poetry all the time. I can still hear the rhythm of his voice in my head.

  16. says

    Megan, My dear friend Susan (that’s her in the comment above, talking about her Ph.D.) also just got back from Ireland. She said if she hadn’t had such good friends to come back to, she would have stayed. :) L.L.’s right, you know: we must hear more about your Irish adventure. Please?


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