The best in poetry (and poetic things), this week with Lyla Lindquist.
For a second, I thought I was looking at one of those excruciating grade school art projects where we cut squares of crêpe paper, wrapped them around our fingertips, dipped into Elmer’s glue and then stuck them down with 3,762 other tiny pieces of colored crêpe paper on a tag board cut-out to make a 3-D Valentine. But the Pattern Matters project is different. It won’t leave your pointer finger all gluey, for one thing. But it also adds a stunning, tactile dimension to graphics and “inspires designers to look at pattern in every possible angle.” I know it’s the first time I’ve wanted to run my hand over the surface of an infographic.
If you’re more the look-but-don’t-touch type, these breathtaking photos Cassini took of Saturn might be just the thing for you. They’re much too far off to get your hands full of Saturn dust. When I see the way Titan mugs for the camera and blocks Saturn’s rings, I understand why Keats gave up writing his epic Hyperion.
London residents have reported a bizarre increase in the sudden appearance of Shakespearean actors in the streets since the conclusion of the Olympics. The Head of Culture at Greater London Authority seems to think these spontaneous episodes on the street are a way of bringing Shakespeare to the people, making him accessible. Others think “Pop Up Shakespeare” really belongs in a sturdy bound book in the children’s section of the library.
Friends don’t let friends burn their manuscripts. But some guys will find a way to do it anyway. Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Joyce, Thomas Hardy — all destroyed work with which they were not satisfied, and one wonders if a potential classic was lost in the ashes. Some pieces, like W. H. Auden’s September 1, 1939, live on as one of his most well known, despite his efforts to set it aside. The Atlantic has a fascinating discussion of what happens when a writer wants to disown an earlier work. When it’s already in publication, it’s harder than putting toothpaste back in the tube. And while I won’t ask that the story I wrote for Mrs. Johnson in the first grade about the “pelgrems” and their big November feast be destroyed, I might, like Auden, prefer that it not make another appearance “in my lifetime.”
The destruction of a book has raised the existential question of whether or not, absent its “container,” a work of literature continues to exist. As one listens to the debate over repurposing books into works of art (or household storage bins, for that matter) one can almost hear a tattered paperback hidden in the shadows of the library whispering, I’m bound, therefore I am.
In the early days of blogging, posts could still run 1,000 words without raising the ire of the scannable text police. Now, social media users seem to prefer that a picture replace those 1,000 words altogether. With ready access to services such as Pinterest and Instagram, even the 140 character allotment of Twitter can seem burdensome. Fast Company reports on the way brands are responding to this image-driven focus.
Of course, here at Tweetspeak we like to think we’re right out there at the front of the trend, offering you ways to communicate through beautiful images (and just a few beautiful words) with our WordCandy app and clever infographics that can be easily shared.
Finally, someone got around to writing the article I’ve been putting off myself. The one that says that procrastinators “aren’t usually slackers . . . they just have a different way of doing things.” In fact, procrastinators tend to be highly productive, if a little late. And the best part? John Perry offers tips to be an even better procrastinator, starting with not listening to advice from non-procrastinators. I’ll get around to following these suggestions sometime soon.
And while you’re waiting for me to get around to something, anything, you can enjoy the rich benefits of holding your horses. Maria Popova highlights the work of Frank Portnoy on the art and science of delay.
Life might be a race against time, but it is enriched when we rise above our instincts and stop the clock to process and understand what we are doing and why. A wise decision requires reflection, and reflection requires pause. The converse of Socrates’s famous admonition is that the examined life just might be worth living. (Frank Portnoy, Wait)
The first person I’m signing up for the How to Be a Better Procrastinator workshop is our own managing editor, L.L. Barkat. The award-winning author recently decided to try her hand at fiction and, unlike most novelists, dragged the process out for nearly a month, from first word to exquisite cover in-hand. According to publisher T.S. Poetry Press, The Novelist: a novella ”explores themes of origins and consciousness in the writer and the woman….In addition to Barkat’s image-rich poetry woven throughout, the climax of the book hinges on readings from Adrienne Rich, whose words powerfully turn the main character when she can’t turn herself.”
At the end of The Novelist, Barkat remarks that poet James Cummins “lent his name to a fiction, so I could lie my way to someone’s truth, if not my own.” It’s a profound comment on the nature of truth, fiction, and the way story can help us heal. As if to expand on “that Barkat woman’s” observation, well known fiction writer Stephen King tells an interviewer with The Paris Review that “You can never bend reality to serve the fiction. You have to bend the fiction to serve reality when you find those things out.”
I’m surprised we don’t have an eleventh Top Ten category for food. Fortunately, Nicole Gulotta pairs poetry and food at Eat this Poem in such at way that it is hard to tell the difference. Sample this, from The Potato Eaters by Leonard Nathan:
The Potato Eaters
Sometimes, the naked taste of potato
reminds me of being poor.
The first bites are gratitude,
the rest, contented boredom.
(read the rest of The Potato Eaters and be sure to look at the delicious photos)
And of course, to grow food, or to waken the heart and the senses, one needs the rain, which sometimes comes in torrents, but at other times as just a slow arousal.
It seems Emily Dickinson finally got a new head shot for her avatar. The newly discovered daguerreotype is being analyzed to determine if it is, in fact, Ms. Dickinson given that up until now, only two photographs have been known to exist. The daguerreotype includes a friend, believed to be Kate Scott Turner, who was mourning the loss of her husband. Dickinson’s stiff-arm gesture may have been an attempt to offer consolation.
If only she shopped at Anthropologie. She could have offered a delightful cotton napkin for her friend to dab away her tears, complete with typewritten letters from Ms. Dickinson, Jack London, D.H. Lawrence, and Mark Twain. Find me someone who can wipe marinara sauce off her lips with the words of these literary icons.
I just read an article last week on how the Poet Laureate is selected. Once I get a line of Anthropologie napkins imprinted with my own poems, I’m going to apply. And did you know this is not an elected position? You have to suck up to a super important librarian. (I suggest whispering.)
Poet Laureate is not appointed the same way as the U.S. president: there are no Poet Laureate primaries, no Free and Formal Verse National Conventions, and there is no national election. . . The Librarian of Congress identifies a poet he’d like to serve as Poet Laureate, confirms that the poet is willing and able to serve as Poet Laureate, and then appoints the poet to the position.
As part of my preparation for the grueling Poet Laureate Primary season, I’m definitely taking part in the upcoming Tweetspeak book club. We’re reading and writing our way through Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, starting September 26.
Are you a promiscuous reader, leaving a trail of one-chapter stands, abandoned for the next pretty cover? Jen Doll at The Atlantic Wire has an intriguing study of different types of readers. From the Cross-Under to the Bookophile, you’re sure to find yourself somewhere in the pages.
Depending on how well you handle your assigned reading, you might be interested in this new grading scale featured at McSweeney’s, based solely on Samuel Beckett quotes. I would have landed somewhere around “The earth makes a sound as of sighs. ”
10 Sound n Motion
The loss that comes with aging has not been portrayed more poignantly than in this beautiful video from Hayley Morris. Watching Undone is not easy. If you’ve been close to the process, you know that neither is the undoing.
What great poetic picks have you found this week? Be sure to share them with us in the comments.