The Best in Poetry: This Month’s Top Ten Poetic Picks

The best in poetry (and poetic things)


1 Art

Emily Dickinson said “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” About the work of artist Li Hongbo, perhaps Dickinson would say, “If I can lift the top of my head off and stretch it across the room, I know that is a Li Hongbo sculpture.” Li creates sculptures from thousands of sheets of paper glued together (like classical-style busts now on display at the Klein Sun Gallery) that become something altogether different when pulled.

Whenever art meets books it’s a wonderful thing. Thanks to the New Yorker and cartoonist Bob Eckstein, now art meets bookstores. Check out Eckstein’s favorite New York bookstores, including the Strand and Three Lives.


2 Opinion

Jeremy Paxman, who recently judged the Forward prize for poetry, has suggested that poetry has “connived at its own irrelevance.” What’s happened, he believes, is that poets no longer talk to the public, and have started talking only to each other. He’s arguing for poets to be “called to account for their poetry,” asked to appear before a panel of regular folks to explain “why they chose to write about the particular subject they wrote about, and why they chose the particular form and language, idiom, the rest of it.” Read the rest at The Guardian.


3 Publishing

There’s a lot that goes into the title of a book. Among other things, genre, tone, and the actual content of the book all play a part. And increasingly, how well the title will search on the Internet is a significant factor, so it’s not unusual to find titles that are less than catchy but are rich with key words that hope to tickle Google’s ears. In all but a few cases, titles are not protected by copyright laws, so in the case of Stephen King’s print-only novel that released last year, there’s no reason to find anything sinister about his use of the title Joyland, even though author Emily Schultz released a novel by the same title eight years ago. But there is reason to be very amused that Kindle readers are searching for, and purchasing, the ebook version of Schultz’s novel by mistake, thinking they are getting King’s. Schultz is earning royalties on the sales, and spending them in style—which she is documenting on her Tumblr site, $pending the $tephen King Money.

Will Self is writing over at The Guardian that the literary novel is dead (which, perhaps, as a statement is slightly premature if for no other reason than that at last I checked there wasn’t even agreement whether literary fiction was an actual genre and if it is, how it is properly distinguished). In his many meandering (and maybe or maybe not true) reasons for his opinions, he does not suggest that we’ve run out of unique titles, despite Stephen King’s demonstration of the same. Anyway. I don’t really want to get into it, but before the next in the perennial Poetry is Dead articles comes out (poetry and literary novels are on a rotating schedule in this regard), you might like to go read it for yourself.

Poetry at Work

4 Poetry at Work

We love great Poetry at Work stories, for the manner in which they reveal the poetry inherent in our work, and also the way poetry gives us an understanding of our work. Stacy R. Nigliazzo, an ER nurse, has released a collection of poems focused on her work in the hospital. In an interview at Huffington Post about Scissored Moon, she explains the decision behind a line in the poem “In Situ”: He revealed her / diagnosis.

I structured it in this way to emphasize that much more than just her diagnosis is revealed. A person’s response to such news often opens up hidden dimensions of personality. In this case, the woman refuses treatment, living and dying on her own terms. The word diagnosis stands alone to illuminate the seriousness of her condition, as well as the idea that it is something that must be faced alone, whatever the outcome.


5 Creativity

Sometimes a boost to our creativity is as simple as looking at something in a little different way. As is said here at Tweetspeak from time to time, “taking a quarter-turn.” Rewire Me offers 6 Ways to Make Real Change Happen, including this subtle change in our language to put things in the present rather than off in some wishful place:

Be in the now. Say to yourself, “I am excited to write my novel,” rather than, “I want to complete a novel.” Want implies lack. The subtle shift from future wishing to present enthusiasm carries weight with our subconscious mind. When you conjure a positive emotional response in your body from influential I am thoughts, productive actions follow!

And, sometimes to boost your creativity, you just need a little something different, something to play with. Like the curious app He Liked Thick Word Soup which allows a user to physically (as physical as one can call it when one’s fingertips swipe a touch screen) wrestle the text of Ulysses.


6 Write-It

And if wrestling Joyce’s words is not enough for you (or rather, is too much), let us introduce you to the new iOS app Ku, which helps you craft a haiku-like status update and share it with a minimalist doodle. In case you’re not sure what you want to share, the app will prompt a user with simple questions like “How was your lunch?” Of course, one could also consider the old adage Thumper’s mother taught us: “If you can’t say something interesting…don’t say nothin’ at all.”

I’m still trying to decide how bad to feel that this is not available for Android.

Back in the Dark Ages of the 20th century, I was taught the art of research by one of the most brilliant English teachers ever to walk the halls of a high school. I might still have the notecards to prove it and, if pressed, might be able to reproduce that old ruler configuration to decide how much room to leave at the bottom of the page for footnotes. Today, I could dispense with the notecards just go to EasyBib and let the web app compile my citations in MLA, Chicago, APA or any number of other favorite formats. Before commencing with too much rejoicing, perhaps we should consider the possibility that tools like EasyBib help foster a sort of world where we need reminders like this:

(This is the same sort of principle that ensures that I am never so lost as when using a GPS to find my way.)


7 Poems

If you like your haiku with a little legalese, you might like to follow Supreme Court Haiku on Twitter. Houston lawyer Keith Jaasma tweets about Supreme Court decisions (and sometimes the San Antonio Spurs), including the occasional “throwback” to historic decisions like Reynolds v. U.S.:

This month at Every Day Poems, we’re enjoying dog poems, like this wonderful domed gem from Anne M. Doe Overstreet, author of Delicate Machinery Suspended:

Men Who Love the Domed Heads
of Old Dogs

whose hands like thick pads
polish the half-globe
from white fringed brow
to nape, those
are the men I love
who move gentle
slowly folding knees
offering homage
to the fine silk of an ear,
loving the large
nature, the teeth
that slumber behind slack lips.


8 People

Remember what I said before about a quarter-turn? How looking at a thing in even the slightest different way can give you a new understanding. So it’s not that crazy to think that imagining the things that famous author would text while drunk might give you new insights into their work. Not that crazy at all. Take a look at these Drunk Texts from Famous Authors and see what you think.

Here’s your feel-good story of the day. Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, has established an annual prize to honor “a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact.” The American Library Association website explains, “It is of the opinion of Lemony Snicket, author, reader, and alleged malcontent, that librarians have suffered enough.” This year, the award has been given to Laurence Copel, who “opened a library in her home while living on $350 a week. She also turned her bicycle into a mobile book carrier, making house visits for families who couldn’t leave home.” Through her Lower Ninth Ward Street Library in New Orleans, Copel has distributed over 5300 books to the hard-hit area while dealing with her own hardships.


9 Books

The idea that publishing a book will garner instant notoriety for an author is, at best, a gallon jug of hogwash. Pull up a stool, pour yourself a big frosty glass, and listen to Roger Rosenblatt tell you all about it in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

The most disheartening readings usually occur in bookstores, where crowds often swell to three or four people, at least one of whom has shown up to take a nap, and another who has misread the store schedule and come to the wrong reading. In Boston, a woman approached me after the Q. and A., her face tense with anguish and disappointment. “I thought you were going to be Alice McDermott,” she said. “So did I,” I said.

Despite Rosenblatt’s numerous books, awards and publications, he is no more famous in my local library than he was in the last Barnes and Noble where he read: I can’t find his latest title, The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood, on the shelf there. Even so, I think I’ll pick it up, maybe from someone else’s library where I learned this week a person has to go through near DMV-like procedures to maintain a library card in good standing.

sound n motion

 10 Sound ‘n Motion

Student poets and authors make us smile around here. Enjoy this video I’m a Flame You Can’t Put Out, featuring 5th grade authors from the Rafael Hernández School.

Remember that time you went to see the giraffes in the diving competition? You don’t? Well, maybe this little video will refresh your memory (or make you wish you’d gone to see them). This is the reason (well, one of them) that I love poetry.

Featured photo by Alexandre Normand. Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post photos by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by LW Lindquist.


tweetspeak free newsletter sample

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter.

We’ll make your Saturdays happy with a regular delivery of the best in poetry and poetic things. Need a little convincing? Enjoy a free sample.


  1. says

    That giraffe animation is absolutely amazing! And quite amusing (when it’s not tweaking your sense of propriety about dropping giraffes into a pool :) )

    Always love the Top Ten.

  2. Anne Doe Overstreet says

    Do you know, I can still recall–exactly–the man who knelt to stroke an aging golden retriever outside of Zoka’s Coffee? Work suit, the dog frosted with age about the muzzle and eyes, and both of them, eyes half closed in pleasure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *