I’ve been reading Emily Dickinson’s poetry to my kids. I love her simple, spare, evocative verse. So I was captivated by The Little White House Project, brain child and love labor of a 17-year-old boy. The 5-acre art installation is showing at the Emily Dickinson Museum and adjacent properties in Amherst, Mass. So: who’s buying me a plane ticket to Boston and a train ticket to Amherst? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
All right, fine. I’ll stay here and websurf. Lucky for you, I’m not stingy. I’ll still share the fun links I find. Like this one: when famous writers paint. My favorite (of course) is Flannery O’Connor’s Self-Portrait with Peacock.
Last week, the University of Missouri announced it was closing its press, which sent up a hue and cry among its authors and other supporters. They’ve launched a campaign to save the press. One supporter even announced he would make no more sizable donations to the university if the press closed. Be still my book-loving heart.
Though I’m a city girl now, I’ll always have a place in my heart for old country. Buck Owens, rockabilly, honky tonk, hard core twang, and old style folk music. That’s my home, baby. So I’m particularly intrigued by a new album collaboration between Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell. She’s a poet and memoirist; he’s a singer-songwriter. Both are from “the same swampy, Godforsaken stretch of East Texas Ringworm Belt in the age right before air conditioning.” All of which bodes well for an alt-country fangirl like me. (As do these tracks from the album.)
Self-publishing has gotten a lot of hype, largely because of outliers like Amanda Hocking who manage to top the self-pub charts (and some of the traditional ones, too), but according to a new study, fully half of self-pubbed writers make less than $500 a year. Maybe it’s time to rethink that strategy. Then again, maybe not: even including the half whose books tanked, only 5% of respondents said they felt unsuccessful. I’m thinking this just ain’t about the money.
You’re all familiar with Twitter poetry, of course. But now there’s something leaner. Jennifer Egan, winner of last year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is writing in a new, uh, format, I guess you’d call it. Egan’s releasing her most recent short story, “The Black Box, ” in 140-character chunks on Twitter. What would you call that? A twort story? Only if it’s about a wabbit.
How did I miss this collection of poetry about twins? A collaboration between the inimitable Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis, children’s poet laureate of the U.S. and a twin himself, and with illustrations by Sophie Blackall, Take Two came out in March to high praise. As a mother of twins and columnist for an awesome poetry site, I should have been the first in line for this book. And I missed it! But not for long. My copy is waiting for me at my favorite local bookstore.
In a completely different vein, Dwight Garner reviews Michael Robbins’s first poetry collection, Alien vs. Predator:
This man can write…[R}eading Mr. Robbins’s best stuff makes you feel something new is being flogged into existence…[H]e has a sky-blue originality of utterance.
Sky-blue originality. I think I’m going to steal that line sometime. How original of me.
Digital publishing is allowing one of the U.S.’s premiere literary magazines to think outside the box. Ploughshares used to receive stories they wanted to publish but couldn’t because the stories were too long to include in their print journal, so they dreamed up Pshares Singles, a monthly digital-only publication of a short story or novella.
Speaking of digital publishing, Craig Mod has a fascinating look at cover design in a digital world. In truth, it’s not just cover design: with every page a potential entry point for readers, depending on where they came from, it’s more like making every page a cover. Much as I mourn the slow death of the printed book, when I read articles like this one, I feel marginally hopeful that beauty and its sister, simplicity, will ultimately prevail in ebook publishing.
In my last post, I introduced you to Wave Books (the people who published the love letters to Wendy’s). This week, I’m sending you to Wave’s erasure poetry page. They give you a piece of writing. You take out words to make a poem. Here’s mine. I’m in good company: even folks from the Poetry Foundation are playing.
Or if you prefer finding rather than erasing your way to a poem, come join this week’s MayPlay and create a found poem based on Kathleen Norris’s “Hope in Elizabeth.”
May I indulge in a little more Emily Dickinson love? Reading with my kids last week, I came upon “I’m Nobody, “, and I laughed. If Miss Emily were on Twitter, here’s what I’d tweet her: “@emilyd You’re right: It’s dreary to be Somebody/sucking water like a frog/croaking tweets the livelong day/to an oblivious bog.” Maybe I should just resign myself to Nobody-hood. At least I’d be in good company.
If you’re not a subscriber to Every Day Poems, you missed out on Ken Waldman‘s beautiful poem “Irish Tea” last week. I read it twice and then twice more. To assuage the pain and disappointment you must feel about being left out, here’s another tea-related poem I love (also from EDP):
Li Po knew
the fecund trees
full of blossoms,
the tea bushes
flush with leaves,
sweet scent rising
from snow-petaled earth,
spears rolled–or broken–
between fingers and thumb
Ernest Hemingway’s “The Lady Poets with Foot Notes” makes fun of (or maybe outright slanders) some of his female contemporaries. The folks at Harriet have compiled a who’s who of the lady poets in question.
Don’t miss the Ploughshares interview with Tracy K. Smith, winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Here are my two favorite lines:
I think that believing in languagein the ability of words to bring even an imagined reality into beingis a big part of what it means to write poetry.
Poetry, as a practice, necessitates a sense of joy. It’s exhilarating to come into contact with the things we write into being. And a real sense of play and abandon – even when we are relying on hard-won technique, and even when the aim is deadly serious….Poets are lucky.
Practice. Play. Abandon. Joy. She’s right: poets are lucky. (So. Go practice. Go play.)
Did you notice in #7 above how I did not put commas around “Irish Tea”? That’s because, in addition to being a word nerd, I’m also a grammar-and-punctuation nerd. I care about commas. In fact, earlier this week I followed Amanda (@habitofbeing) on Twitter simply because her bio said she was a “fan of the Oxford comma.” I like to reward that kind of grammatical correctness. For anyone else who cares about commas (or wants to), here’s a delightful essay about the most comma mistakes. Yep. I said “delightful.” I’m that kind of nerdy.
I’m also the kind of nerdy that likes old books. I’m not just talking the kind made out of paper (though I like those, too—a lot). I mean the kind written a long time ago, like, say 100 years. Or even (gulp) 1000. But according to a new study, I’m in the minority among writers. Anymore, most writers are taking more of their literary cues from recent publications and fewer (or almost none) from older “classics.” One writer calls it a “reduced tolerance for the stylistic traditions of the past.” Am I the only one cringing here?
10 Sound n Motion
Okay, I’m softening toward New York City. I might actually be induced to go there someday. Maybe. What, forsooth, induced this (possible) transformation of my deeply entrenched anti-NYC sentiments? You would have to ask, wouldn’t you? For one thing, I heard about the Cloisters, which sounds like one of the coolest museums ever. And then I read about the Monet to Mallarme Poetry Walk at the New York Botanical Gardens, which combines three of my favorite things: walking and words and flowers. Sigh. The East Coast is pretty happening right now. Too bad I don’t live there.
In happier (for me) news, back in March Tweetspeak’s twin sister, T.S.Poetry Press, published Deborah Henry’s debut novel, The Whipping Club, to some pretty glowing reviews. Kirkus starred it. Publishers Weekly called it “riveting” (come to think of it, Kirkus used that word, too), and my hometown newspaper said it was “gripping, and almost poetic in its emotional depth.”
In case you missed our post on Tuesday, The Whipping Club even got a mention by actor Eric Roberts:
Intrigued? Me, too, but the trailer’s not available yet (rats!). Not to worry, though; I’ll be sure to let you know when it is!
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 May we’re exploring the theme Roses.