This Week’s Top 10 Poetic Picks

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

Artful Girl by Claire Burge

1 Art

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A brown tree snake and a spider walk into a bar in Guam. A mouse, fattened up with painkillers, drops from the sky in a tiny parachute… I thought perhaps I’d stumbled onto the punchline of that story when I saw these delightful acrylic, pastel, and charcoal renderings of owls, or rather the councillors of the Rabbit Destruction Council established in New Zealand in 1947. Tasked with controlling the country’s rabbit population (eh, good luck with that), the councillors have spent considerable sums and relied on various carnivores for assistance. I suspect a look at these sweet creatures may have led to even greater production. (Behance)

I debated all the while looking at the councillors whether they were photographs, though I knew they were not. And then I looked at this sampling of photographs from Smithsonian Magazine’s 2012 photo contest and debated whether they were real. I’m reluctant to use the words “stunning” and “breathtaking” because I’m afraid you might shrug that off as “Yeah, yeah. Everything is these days.” This collection, from the tiny, tiny ants holding tiny, gigantic seeds while upside down to the crumpling of grain bins on an Iowa farm like the tornado thought they were made from aluminum foil, really is all that. Oh, and remember that rule about not looking directly into a solar eclipse? Yeah. That. (The Atlantic, Smithsonian)

And? There is a photo of a spider hunter. Scroll back to the first paragraph. We’ve come full circle and we’re only through the Art category.

News by Claire Burge

2 News

Yesterday, before I could answer the rapping at my back door, my local police chief had a foot in my laundry room. He’d stopped to check on me, since they’d had repeated 911 calls from my house and no response to their callbacks to verify. Seems one of the household’s cell phones was acting of its own accord, despite being powered off in another location. I was quite delighted to discover I was fine, thank you, and doubly relieved that my street address does not have the accursed public safety hazard of an apostrophe in it, so he was able to locate my house without difficulty.

Citing possible “adverse consequences in times of emergency” due to confusion created by the use (and misuse) of the apostrophe, a municipality in southern England has moved to prohibit the half-wink on street signs altogether. To read reports on the matter, one could conclude that the greater public safety crisis might arise from English-speakers on opposite sides of yet another grammar dispute coming to fisticuffs over a piece of punctuation, however important it may be. So what is it to you? Part of a grand conspiracy to ” erase punctuation from our consciousness” or good riddance to George Bernard Shaw’s “uncouth bacilli”? Gosh, I hope I punctuated that right. (International Herald Tribune, North Devon Journal)

Now, I’m not about to suggest that Emily Dickinson had some seriously unorthodox punctuation going on with all those poems she wrote on the back of chocolate wrappers. I’d hate to be responsible for getting her banished from North Devon. All I know is while they’re duking this out in England over how to safely punctuate the world, unorthodox punctuation is selling big. One of Dickinson’s letter-poems to sister-in-law and intimate friend Susan Gilbert will be sold on April 10 at Bonhams. (Maybe it’s Bonham’s. See? This is hard.) “She sped as petals from a rose…” is addressed to “Sue” on the back in pencil and is expected to sell between $15,600-23,000. (Fine Books & Collections)

Publishing by Claire Burge

3 Publishing

There’s an interesting marketplace developing at one of the intersections where Technology Expressway makes one of its numerous crossings with Publishing Boulevard. Peter Armstrong, who founded Leanpub, suggests a book is a “startup.” Mix that with Tim Sanders’ model, who claims that a writer isn’t a writer but a “content container” and you get a supposed reader’s dream: choose-your-own-adventure books. Authors dial back their “creative authority” in lieu of popular demand, following the model of Toyota’s production system, which may explain why it feels like a multi-vehicle pileup on the interstate just waiting to happen. But that’s just me, a “content container” driving a Dodge.

In her article in The New Yorker, Betsy Morais suggests that “Online, a book’s form warps into something more malleable, and fired-up digital publishers are trying to figure out how to turn that into a business—even if it means a proliferation of books that might as well have been blog posts.” (The New Yorker)

Of course, that brings to mind the question of whether it makes sense for a writer to blog, the subject of a spirited discussion at Jane Friedman’s … blog … spurred by a guest post by L.L. Barkat. Friedman later guest posted at Writer Unboxed with an interesting discussion of current industry trends related most notably to agents, contracts, and platform-building, which dovetails quite nicely with Barkat’s article. (Jane Friedman, Writer Unboxed)

Reviews by Claire Burge

4 Business

When you read about solitude and 3G phone networks in the next section, just forget that I linked you to a helpful infographic featuring 13 great apps for busy entrepreneurs. Because if you add these into your collection–especially if you buy into the “a book is a startup” idea and it just made you and your work in progress an entrepreneur–you’ll be refreshing every three-and-a-half minutes instead of five. (Entrepreneur)

We talk about writing as a business around here, so I’m only partially tongue-in-cheek about the startup thing. Writers and publishers are in a state of constant flux over how to generate revenues through writing. One developing trend in online publishing is the use of a “paywall,” restricting some content to paid subscribers. Finding the sweet spot in pricing the paywall is a little tricky, and will take some trial and error as Andrew Sullivan just discovered, when he had to tighten his up. (Paid Content)


5 Creativity

How many books have you not read because of the Internet? Once upon a time, writers could find the necessary quiet space to work in secluded locations without wi-fi. And now, because of the ever-presence of 3G and 4G networks, even those places are not out of the reach of the long-fingered Web. In an article on the disappearance of solitude and the constant impetus to refresh our lives every five minutes, Alex Mar referenced an author who estimates his reading has diminished from one a book a week to one book a month, a loss of around 36 books a year. Tools abound to help us, but “we are child-­proofing our wireless access only to find that, like children, we can still figure out how to get the cap off the bottle.” So let me ask you again: how many books have you not read (or how many pages have you not written) because of the Internet? Is continual access straining your creativity? (New York Times)

Now that you’re not refreshing your email for the next 30 seconds, maybe take a look at David Biespiel’s thoughts on the revision process–he suggests that when we revise our work, we do it not from the perspective of the reader’s experience.

Not just, or not merely, or not only how the reader sees your poem, but, more, better, the goal…to think of revision as the reader’s experience outside the poem, and in the world. To think of a reader’s new way of living in the world as becoming the best consequence of revision. (The Rumpus)

Write It by Claire Burge

6 Write-It

Could you write your life in six words? That’s the story behind Six-Word Memoirs. Paul Oh has been working on a Six-Word Memoir Thimble project to help writers craft a six-word memoir that is beautiful not only in its words but also in its appearance. Especially if you have a combined interest in words and coding (we’d call you a “code poet” then), you might enjoy this project. And even if the CSS is a bit beyond you, consider how you might distill your essential self down to just six words. (dComposing)

Poems by Claire Burge

7 Poems

One of the best things about receiving my daily poetry delivery from Every Day Poems is the broad selection of work from poets I might never run across. My library is small, and the resources limited, and I can only bring home so many Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath collections before I’m shouting into the uncaring snowdrifts in my backyard, “Isn’t there something, somewhere, from Kathryn Neel?” Ah, there is. See if her “Resume” doesn’t make you stand still for a moment.


Where were you born?
     I was born on the broad hip
     of a black woman
     overlooking the Gulf of Mexico
     during hurricane season.

Read the rest of Kathryn Neel’s “Resume” at Every Day Poems.

Others have written poems as a resume of sorts, including Dorothy Parker’s dark poem of the same title. Take a look at this piece by Rob Ingraham:


In French, it simply means a summary,
which limits what it can and can’t convey
despite my padding and hyperbole.

Read the rest of Rob Ingraham’s RÉSUMÉ at Rattle.

People by Claire Burge

8 People

Speaking of Dorothy Parker (I had no idea I’d be able to pull her forward to this section), she’s alive and well on Facebook. And she has over 70,000 followers, making one wonder why social media gurus do not suggest “being dead” to boost your Facebook following. Note to would-be Facebook followees: If you’re dead, you won’t enjoy your followers so much, so give this strategy careful consideration before proceeding. If you really want to grow your Facebook fanbase, it may be more expedient, and enjoyable, to create a page on behalf of someone else who has already left the social media life. Take a look at this collection of Facebook pages of dearly departed authors. (Huffington Post Books)

Listen, did you lose out in your bid for Dickinson’s signed poem manuscript? We have another chance for you, this time to purchase the original manuscript for Allen Ginsberg’s “Wales Visitation,” a poem he is believed to have written while high on LSD. Emily Dickinson would never have written poetry in such a state. My apologies that I have no Dorothy Parker manuscripts to offer. Perhaps you could post a request to her Facebook wall. (Wales Online)

Book by Claire Burge

9 Books

Someone recently suggested to me that it seems beneficial to make something with my hands when processing certain emotions. For one who spends considerable time in the virtual world where hands touch only keys and mouse buttons, there may be some truth to it. A new book by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, Sign Painters, touches on this theme of the importance of making things with our hands–not for the sake of our internal process so much as the preservation of culture. The book trailer, which features several of the sign painters they interviewed, is a work of art in itself. (Huffington Post Books, Brain Picker, Explore, JS Online)

Motion by Claire Burge

10 Sound n Motion

This has nothing to do with Emily Dickinson, punctuation, the writing business, spiders, mice, owls, or Dorothy Parker. So I’m not going to say a thing about it. I’ll just let you enjoy Her Morning Elegance.

Cover photo by zeze57. Creative Commons license via Flickr. Article photos by Claire Burge.  Used with permission. Post by Lyla Willingham Lindquist.


Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In March we’re exploring the theme The Pantoum.

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    • says

      Not too often I can beat you on a good find. Thank you, Maureen. :)

      I thought that video was so great, and the line that Explore quoted, “The most valued objects of lost cultures are the things that were made by hand” really gave me pause. I’m interested to read the book (as soon as I turn off my 3G).

  1. L. L. Barkat says

    I am reclaiming my mornings these days. And part of the reclamation project is to take time to read a poem in Spanish (and copy it down), write at least 3 pages of something or other, and read a chapter from any book of my choice.

    It’s very relaxing and happy-making.

    (A lot of laugh out loud moments in this post, btw. Which is why every writer… I mean, content container… should make time to read your ingeniously amusing Top 10 :) )

  2. Kathryn Neel says

    Did you call? I distinctly heard my name being mentioned. So glad to see our discussion of mice in outer space wearing tiny parachutes proved to be useful. Love “This Week’s Top 10” by the way.

  3. says

    I think being dead would greatly enhance my enjoyment of Facebook.

    Seriously, though, the apostrophe thing–don’t get me started! The worst is when I look up a business and they spell and punctuate their own name different ways (FB, website, Yellow Pages). This issue always comes up in April, so I know next month will contain many battles with a very small punctuation mark.

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