This Week’s Top Ten 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

I love mash-ups! Today I have two:

The Music and Art Mashup
I am one of the least musical people I know. I can’t read music, and I can’t carry a tune—in a bucket or otherwise. But I found a beautiful piece of music I can study and appreciate, despite my musical illiteracy.

The Poetry, Folk Tale, and Dance Mashup
Live theatre and folk tales—does it get much better than this? Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s poet laureate, is collaborating with choreographer Melly Still to produce the Rats’ Tales: seven folktales (including a few that Duffy herself wrote) brought to life with Duffy’s narration and dance.

And just for fun, and because I adore books, check out these buildings made of books. They really are. How cool is that?

News by Claire Burge

2 News

Poetry is a risky endeavor if you’re a woman in rural Afghanistan. You take your life in your hands if you write poetry. And yet, women risk it. That, my friends, is a testament to the power of poetry.

On the other side of the globe, we glimpse another scene that reveals the enduring power of poetry: a first edition of Robert Burns’ Poems sold at auction this week—for 40,000 pounds. First published in 1786, Poems was Burns’ first book of poetry, and all 612 copies sold within a month. Anyone else feeling green-eyed?

Publishing by Claire Burge

3 Publishing

Got a poem about God? Or your search for God? Or your sister’s search for spiritual sustenance? Or your blind brother’s brief encounter with an angel? The folks at EyeWear Publishing are looking for poems that capture 21st century spirituality for a forthcoming anthology.

Or if you’re feeling really ambitious, you could submit to The Lumberyard, which has a brief open submissions period going on…right now.

Reviews by Claire Burge

4 Reviews

Here’s a review (or maybe it’s a critique? or a rambly essay?) of Conceptual poetry, the new Rita Dove poetry anthology, Susan Howe’s That This, Srikanth Reddy’s Voyager, Charles Bernstein’s All the Whiskey in Heaven and Peter Gizzi’s Threshold Song—all rolled into one. Whew! Trust me; this one ain’t for the faint of heart…unless your faint heart really (and I mean, really, really) loves contemporary poetry.

For those of you looking for something less academic or less esoteric or just less long, check out Maria Popova’s review (with pictures!) of Ounce, Dice, Trice by Alastair Reid (poet and translator of Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda) with illustrations by Ben Shahn. This one’s also for anyone who just plain loves words. Yum!


5 Creativity

I have four kids under the age of eight. I cannot write much when they’re around. But I can think and muse and let ideas simmer on the back burner of my mind. And I find that when I do get to the page or the screen to write, the words flow faster, require less revision because of all the mental pre-writing I’ve done. Cara Lumen argues that creativity requires aloneness. But my experience is often the opposite. Don’t get me wrong: I’d love some more alone time, but I find that in the rush and rustle of routine, creativity unfurls. What’s your story?

Creativity is taking what is and making something new. So when Vic Sizemore writes about insecurity, recognition, and the value of making art, he mixes Albert Camus, Tom Petty, and George Harrison to create an old-new cocktail: “There is meaning beyond the suffering, and art is the path to it.” And he believes that. Except when he doesn’t. What else makes sense?

Write It by Claire Burge

6 Write-It

I love being outdoors. Okay, I love it when the weather’s nice. So I guess you’d call me a fair-weather friend. But when it’s sunny—or heck, when it’s just not raining—I enjoy getting outside and looking around. Especially at this time of year. There’s so much to see, so much to remember, so much just waiting to be captured in words. Children’s book writer Gill Lewis has five tips for people like me who want to write about the world outside our doors.

And since we’re talking about the great outdoors, the folks at The Poetry Foundation have a few poem prompts based on Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour,” the first of which is to notice the wildlife you encounter in the course of a given day and then write a poem about your encounter with the natural world. On Tuesday, we saw two bald eagles circling above the park where we were having a picnic. I can still see in my mind’s eye two dozen children stopping their game of tag to stare up into the sky. Perhaps there’s a poem there?

Poems by Claire Burge

7 Poems

One of the first Tweetspeak blog posts I ever read was by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, whose poetic language and vision captured my imagination. So I’m thrilled to get to share with you her poem “St. Eve in Exile”:

Here amid a field of light
You say my name.

And I am not she
the girl You called Your own.

My mouth a cavern.
My chest an empty cave.

I am dry and dusty.
I am not wet or well.

Read the rest of “St. Eve in Exile.”

People by Claire Burge

8 People

Seattle poet John Burgess finds inspiration for his poetry in punk rock. The words and wordplay of his short poems mirror the rhythm of punk, to which he often listens as he writes. An active participant in open mics and other read-it-aloud poetry events, he views poetry as much a performance art as a written one, revising poems based on an audience’s response (or lack thereof). He encourages young (or not-so-young-but-still-just-starting-out) poets to find an audience to read for. I’m sure that would work for some people, but I’m very much of the opinion that poetry (mine anyway) ought to be read silently…by people on the other side of the continent—or the world, preferably if they don’t read English.

Late last month the Academy of American Poets announced that Matthew Rasmussen has been selected to receive this year’s Walt Whitman Award for his first book of poetry, Black Aperture, which will be published next year by Louisiana State University Press.


9 Education

You knew that William Shakespeare was born April 23 (or 21 or 22), 1564. Of course you knew that. You’re a poet. And every last poet and writer among us owes a huge debt to the Bard of Avon. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Shakespeare is the second largest single source of words in the English language: over 1600 of them!

He coined such gems as hot-blooded, cold-hearted, watch-dog, and young-eyed, not to mention admired, abstemious, and airless. Of course, not all his words are still in colloquial use. Anyone met a flirt-gill recently? Or had opportunity to fishify something? No? Don’t be too chop-fallen. I expect you’ve used many another Bardism in recent days.

Just for kicks, I typed Tania Runyan’s poem “The Empty Tomb” into the little Shakespeare-o-meter. Turns out, Tania speaks 94% Shakespeare. So, how much Shakespeare do you speak?

Motion by Claire Burge

10 Sound n Motion

Natalie Merchant (of 10,000 Maniacs fame) fell in love with old poetry, some of it obscure, some not, and decided to set it to music. Her TED performance of some of these songs brings the techie audience to their feet! A bunch of engineers and entrepreneurs, wildly applauding someone singing poems—that just makes my heart happy.

You’ll also want to hop over to Studio 360 to listen to the articulate and beautiful-voiced Tracy K. Smith, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry last month (on her birthday!), as she talks with Kurt Anderson and reads her David-Bowie-inspired poem (and several others) from her book, Life on Mars. (You’ll also get to hear some of that song…)

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 March we’re exploring the theme Angels.

Red #9


  1. says

    Just going to say this. We use the number “10” around here pretty loosely. Just visited them all. There are way more than 10.

    Great stuff once again, Kimberlee. The conspiracy theories surrounding Shakespeare had me laughing.

  2. L. L. Barkat says


    I was William Shakespeare. That’s what it said.

    Of course my poem was all WS quotes. But apparently some of the spaces weren’t Shakespearian, since I didn’t score 100 :)

    Love this roundup, Kimberlee. You always make me laugh.

  3. says

    The music sheets really are wonderful. . . as pieces of art. I’d hate to have to read the music from them.

    I read the NYT feature Sunday. It’s wonderful the girls and women are using the poetic form in rather subversive ways.

    Great links, Kimberlee.

  4. says

    Monica–or should I can you Ms. Shakespeare?–thanks for reading! I’m so glad you took the Shakespeare challenge. Pretty fun, huh?

    Except that Her Royal Majesty Queen Laura burst my Bard bubble. How is it possible that Shakespeare’s words didn’t score 100%? I’m suddenly unsure how reliable the Shakespeare-o-meter is after all. And lo, I was becoming enkindled that I speaketh Bardic to an unrivaled extent. Lame. (And yes, that’s a Shakespearean usage of that word. Really. It is.)

  5. says

    Maureen, once more, I can’t take any credit for that beautiful sheet music. Laura found it :) As for reading it, it wouldn’t matter how unadorned it was, alas, it’d still be as Greek (or Chinese or Russian or Martian) to me.

  6. says

    Kimberlee, I can be a little slow to figure these things out. (Not that I’m complaining.) I just think we ought to be hollering that from the top of a building made of books — that we’re teeming with poetic picks and even with a book like Ounce Dice Trice we couldn’t count them all.

    Meanwhile, I ran the golfer’s lament poem from yesterday’s post through the Shakespeare machine. 90%. Scored a little lower than you bards-to-be (bardessas?) but I think it should have been closer to .023% unless words like “and,” “to” and “the” count.

  7. says

    Really enjoyed the reads;

    Gill Lewis’s five tips, Eye Wear Publishing — Hmmm!

    Conceptual poetry — A lot to digest; kept hearing my inner voice say “leave it, don’t complicate, continue chasing the art within and let the world chase you, or not!,

    My favorite article addressing if Loneliness is a Natural part of Creativity – This question has been begging exploration and resolve in my life lately. The subject has paralleled many events and conversations in my present people encounters and I find it best discussed alone. lol!

    Thanks for the great feed!!

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