This Week’s Top Ten Poetic Picks

The best in poetry (and poetic things), this week with Lyla Lindquist.

Artful Girl by Claire Burge

1 Art

I suppose it goes without saying what type of images displayed in the art gallery of my mind when I read the headline Portraits Drawn with Tea, Vodka, Whiskey and Ink. One part preschool finger paint, one part erratic Picasso distortions, shaken not stirred. Not so. These portraits by Carne Griffiths are breathtaking. And I didn’t say breathalyzer-taking. You must see.

And where Griffiths succeeds in mixing ink with his beverage to create beauty, novelist Orhan Pamuk succeeds in his own way of blending the medium with reality, creating the museum in which his fictional work, The Innocence of Objects, takes place. With 83 numbered display cases, the 19th century house in Istanbul takes on an intimate life alongside his novel as he collects teacups, sugar bowls and other miscellany. Jane Chafin of Huffington Post Books says, “It is a triumph of intimacy over sterility, depth over superficiality and humanity over inhumanity. It is also the most perfect intersection of art and literature that I have ever encountered.” This book just went on my wish list.

News by Claire Burge

2 News

Last week was Banned Books Week, marked by authors, readers, booksellers, and librarians in an effort to draw attention to censorship. Events around the country included an Edible Banned Book Contest in Iowa that would put hot dog eating Kobayashi to shame; to public read-outs of banned selections in Vermont, Rhode Island and other states; to Kentucky’s “Let’s Kill All the Philosophers” event at Murray State University. After that last one, I’m not sure whether to feel relieved or ashamed to observe that my home state had no formal events planned.

Maria Popova helped celebrate with Literary Jukebox selections featuring banned books with her musical pairings matched only by Tweetspeak’s own Seth Haines. (Have you listened to his themed poetic playlist for October?)

Publishing by Claire Burge

3 Publishing

I’ve often wondered what would have become of some of our classics had they been subjected to the modern publishing market and submission process. The wry folks over at The New Yorker had some fun writing rejection letters to Homer, Fitzgerald and Kerouac. Calling The Great Gatsby neither the worst nor the best novel he’d ever read (but apparently the first novel he’d ever read), Andy Borowitz explains to Mr. Fitzgerald what might be a better fit:

For these reasons, F., I am afraid “The Great Gatsby” does not meet our needs at the present time. What would meet our needs at the present time would be a young-adult trilogy with movie potential. Right before she left for Cote d’Azur, [editorial director Charlotte Pelker] said to me, “Pandora, find me the next ‘Twilight’ or ‘Hunger Games.’ ” Charlotte has never forgiven herself for passing on both “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” while paying two million dollars for a book of poetry by Todd Palin. LMAO.

I wonder, though, if Homer, staring down the rejection, could have published an ebook and achieved overnight success on the order of 50 Shades of Grey. This recent infographic on ebooks paints an interesting outlook for the future.

Reviews by Claire Burge

4 Poetry at Work

We here at Tweetspeak, of all people, take poetry at work very seriously, perhaps in some way to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. A few months ago, poetic pranksters played with the poem that girds the beams in the subway corridor between Eighth Avenue and Seventh Avenue at Times Square. The original poem is a bit of a bleak statement on work:

Overslept / So tired / If late / Get fired / Why bother? / Why the pain? / Just go home / Do it again

The updated, upbeat version, which replaced “overslept” with “overexcited” and “why the pain” with “much to gain,” was rebuffed by the original poet’s widow who asked, “Why be optimistic?” and the work was promptly restored to all its previous despondent splendor.

Depending on where you live, there is ample poetry to accompany your morning and evening commute. Check out this list of transit poetry from The Atlantic Cities and make it to work happier. Unless, of course, you must traverse the gloomy stretch between Eighth and Seventh Avenues. And if you live somewhere like me, where the cultural landscape feels a little more sparse, you could try Poetry Foundation’s smartphone poetry app and take your poetry wherever you go. Or you could have Every Day Poems drop into your inbox every weekday morning.


5 Creativity

We’ve long been told to visualize our preferred future to help make it happen. (A little something we call dreaming.) But new research now wants us to envision not only everything we want to achieve, but everything that could get in our way. Before you suggest that these Donald Downers go stand in the subway corridor at Times Square, take a look at this article on 99u that says that “Visualizing our aims as already achieved can backfire.”

Write It by Claire Burge

6 Write-It

Are you one of those writers who is always looking for the magic fountain pen — the perfect writing workshop, the top writing books, the latest blog post listing the Six Most Awesomest Writing Tips Guaranteed to Propel You into 50 Shades of Great Success — that will finally make you into the writer you keep envisioning yourself to be? First, back up and read that article at 99u and add some obstacles into your visualization. And then, read this guest post by L.L. Barkat at Jane Friedman’s blog. She’ll tell you that what works for one writer may not work for another. You might need to learn by doing, as she did, learning to write fiction through the story waiting to be told. “Anything that opens your inner writer,” she says, “is a real steal.”

Barkat has written in multiple genres, an experience writer Michael Erard finds both helpful and troublesome. He calls himself a “dancer who walks for a living” because of the contrast between his writing life and his day job as a researcher. In the same way that walking and dancing both help us understand how our bodies move, varying genres can help us understand language and writing better. He has some excellent tips to help us “prime” by cleansing our linguistic palate and prepare for the writing we’re about to do.

Poems by Claire Burge

7 Poems

Poet Matthew Rohrer writes in “The Emperor” of waiting for his love to return home, using the details of preparing a meal to express his joy at her impending arrival. I imagined her shuffling in the crowd in the subway corridor under the weight of “Just go home / Do it again” and my own heart did a clumsy little cartwheel when he wrote “I fold a napkin under / a little fork.”

The Emperor

She sends me a text
she’s coming home
the train emerges
from underground
I light the fire under
the pot, I pour her
a glass of wine
I fold a napkin under
a little fork

(read the rest of  the poem “The Emperor”)

Rohrer has a way with using these ordinary details to convey deeper meaning. See how he does it again with an ink pen and spin cycle button (I’m a little partial to laundry poems):

Precision German Craftsmanship

When I replaced the ink the sky was socked in,
only one window of blue open in the north, directly over someone.
But that person was reading about Rosicrucians in the laundromat,
he was unaware as the blue window closed above him.
The rest of us are limp and damp,
I see a button in front of us that says “spin cycle.”
I’m going to push it.

(Read the rest of the poem Precision German Craftsmanship)

People by Claire Burge

8 People

If a favorite writer of yours has a favorite writer, is that favorite writer’s favorite writer also your favorite writer by extension? Is it kind of like a friend of a friend on Facebook? So if J.K. Rowling is a favorite of mine (and I’m not saying if she is), and she is particularly fond of Jane Austen (but only on certain days), should I check my calendar to ensure that, since today is Thursday, I know how I feel about Jane? If you are fond of the author of the Harry Potter series, then perhaps you should study a bit on Rowling’s favorite authors so you can keep up.

I did notice, and fail to understand, that Emily Dickinson was not on her list of favorite writers. Since I have my own little Emily fan club now, I take note of these things. In my intensive Emily research, I ran over — erm across — her third cousin, twice removed (at her request), Emmett Lee Dickinson on Route 10. Emmett is the proprietor of the Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum. Curiously enough, Mr. Dickinson also appears to have been camera shy much like his cousin. (You’ll remember our exclusive report on the recent discovery of additional Emily Dickinson portraits.) Well, as it turns out, a second portrait of Emmett was also discovered not long ago. Emmett Lee Dickinson is active on Twitter and is well worth following.

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9 Education

A few months ago, my then 17-year-old son tweeted “Poetry is dumb,” perhaps in a final moment of teenaged defiance. He was apparently also not influenced by his peers, as teenagers are reportedly flocking to poetry in record numbers. The Independent report over 7,000 teens entered competition for the Young Poets of the Year Award in London. I might suggest he hurry and find a word that rhymes with “dumb” before he tweets any further opinions about poems. Perhaps he would win himself a week-long poetry retreat and his own poetry mentor.

It’s just in time too, as new research is showing that explicit writing instruction is teaching kids not only better writing, but also better reading and thinking skills. (Of course, at Every Day Poems we’ve known stuff like that all along. Works for grown-ups too.)

Motion by Claire Burge

10 Sound n Motion

I’m not the only Emily Dickinson fan in the room. (I might just be the most suspect one.) Brain Pickings just highlighted this video featuring Efrat Ben Zur and her new album Robin which is based on the poetry of Ms. Dickinson. (Emmett, have you seen this?) You’ll want to play this over and over again.

What great poetic finds did you stumble across this week? Share them with us in the comments.

Cover photo by Steven de Polo, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Article photos by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by Lyla Willingham Lindquist.


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  1. L. L. Barkat says

    Laughing at this. What’s new?

    How do you do it, Lyla? Must be that secret Emily connection you have. Maybe a private channel to her wicked sense of humor. And she baked cookies too. You like cookies, yes? :)

    I’m thinking Emily would have written a sweet hilarious Top 10 too. But she’s got you to do it for her, since she’s otherwise engaged (I think Kimberlee might be over at the Literary Citizenship post giving her a hug 😉


  1. […] October 11: I suppose it goes without saying what type of images displayed in the art gallery of my mind when I read the headline Portraits Drawn with Tea, Vodka, Whiskey and Ink. One part preschool finger paint, one part erratic Picasso distortions, shaken not stirred. Not so. These portraits by Carne Griffiths are breathtaking. And I didn’t say breathalyzer-taking. You must see. –LWL […]

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