The best in poetry (and poetic things), this week with Will Willingham
What would you do if a mystery artist left exquisite sculptures on literary doorsteps all over your city? Well, if you’re Edinburgh, City of Literature, you put them all on display in a national tour. Last year, an unknown artist crafted books (including titles by Ian Rankin and Arthur Conan Doyle) into ten intricate works of art, and quietly left them at prominent institutions, beginning and ending with the Scottish Poetry Library, to celebrate “libraries, books, words and ideas.” I suppose if you really must know who was responsible, you could check hands of Edinburgh residents for paper cuts.
It’s possible that the artist was wearing a mask when these striking sculptures were delivered. Wouldn’t it be something if instead of a nylon stocking this mischievous art donor wore one of Rebecca Love’s glorious masks? Workshop participants work their ceramic forms telling their own narratives with the details they choose to include or leave out, leaving one to wonder if the masks reveal more than they conceal.
Science is reaching for a piece of the poetry pie. A few weeks ago, Kimberlee highlighted the work of a scientist trying to grow poetry in a petri dish. Now, Irish researchers ran some advanced statistical study on the Facebook and Twitter interaction between characters in Homer’s Iliad along with Beowulf and Tain Bo Cualinge. They found that of the three, the Iliad’s social network seemed the most plausible, with both the characters and overall society seeming realistic. Beowulf on the other hand, seemed to have real characters but the events were a bit fanciful (you think?). And Tain Bo Cualinge? Turns out it was more like an Iron Age comic book. Must be why I’ve never read it.
This just in. Among other difficulties facing Emily Dickinson, a textbook used in some Louisiana schools claims she sported a bad attitude. When asked about the allegation, the late Ms. Dickinson replied, “Saying nothing . . . sometimes says the most.”
Another day, another writer stranded on the tightrope of balancing platform building with actually writing. Ewan Morrison wrote an alarmist piece on what he believes is the coming burst of the e-publishing bubble and the failure of social media to sell. Porter Anderson dispenses an extra shot of ether to help you sort it out.
And when you write that bestselling e-book that makes a the full spectrum of gray shades fade into white, what will your mother say? Well, it might depend on what you said about her. Jane Friedman quotes Anne Lamott and Barbara Abercrombie quotes Carol Shields on what to do about the people who show up in your writing. But really, says Keith Ridgway, tell your mother not to worry. It’s all fiction anyway. Even your real life and the real people in it.
I always thought that electronic communications were tone deaf. But ToneCheck, a new “nudging” software that hopes to function as a sort of “civility check” in online communications, claims it can hear the tone of your messages and off a helpful nudge if it appears you’ve met your boiling point. It’s too bad Emily Dickinson didn’t live in the Internet age. She might have known when to take her own advice and kept herself out of that textbook.
It’s like Google Earth meets Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. A mathematician has created a map of the Internet — it’s a beautiful visual of the universe, using a complex algorithms to turn hundreds of thousands of abstract websites into colorful galaxies. And he says he’s neither poet nor artist. Click through to the map and scroll to zoom in. Maybe you’ll find your house.
As a kid, I was fascinated by the vending machine-type meal preparation in Jane Jetson’s kitchen and wished for the ability in real life to push a button and watch my food eject from the slot. Okay, so my literary development may have been delayed by cartoon watching, but admit it. There are some amazing fictional items from literature that would be pretty spectacular in real life. We stumbled on a collection of them. Besides the Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter and everything in Willy Wonka’s factory except the Oompa Loompas (they creep me out a little), what would you want?
I come from a long line of People of the Pun. My dad sent an email just last night recapping a medical procedure in which he had to drink 32 gallons from the Bering Strait. Turns out, his doctor said, it was only 32 ounces of Barium, straight. I’m not sure I want to share it with my relatives just yet, but their word play might be a sign of advanced civilization. History is telling us now that the ability to play with words was essential to the development of phonetic language, which, as we all know, made modern civilization possible.
If you were along for our last book club, you agonized through Paul Chowder’s writer’s block as he tried to write (or not write) the introduction to his poetry anthology. This week, Poets & Writers invites you to write a poem as a “Preface to________, ” filling in the blank with whatever other written work you might be introducing — love note? Apology?
And while you’re glancing through some other introductions to get yourself started, be sure to look at the book spines. Maybe you’ll find a poem and play along with Seth Haines in the August Rain/Water Book Spine Poetry Project.
With much of the country suffering drought conditions, we’re soaking up as much August rain as we get in our cups. But sometimes the water fills from inattention, and doesn’t go down as sweet. We featured Carl Phillips poem No Kingdom this week in Every Day Poems.
So little wakes you — why
Last month, we featured the Cento, poems patched together with lines from others. Grace Marcella Brodhurst-Davis cobbled together a delightful piece, featured in the last round up.
She clacks and clatters
down hardened, dusty way,
hundreds of tiny seeds
spilling by her sway.
Writer’s block is nothing new. Even Dorothy Parker had bad days. We found a telegraph she sent to her editor in 1945 when she simply couldn’t bring herself to look him “in the voice.”
Maybe she should have held that thought when she took a poke at Winnie the Pooh. Seems that civility-enhanced nudging software is a few decades too late. It’s an all-out author monkey pile when Kerouac, Capote, Eliot and James trade insults.
Even Scholastic got wind of Tweetspeak’s August Rain and Book Spine Poetry project. Well, maybe they didn’t hear it from Tweetspeak. Maybe they picked it up from the original, Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books. Or maybe she saw some of Maria Popova’s book spine poems. It might have even been Huffington Post’s recent feature. Look, we’re not asking you to jump off a cliff because your friends did. Just to stack some books together and write some cool poems. All the cool kids are doing it.
10 Sound n Motion
If you’re my age, when you think of Bill Murray you think of a country club greens keeper blowing up the whole course over a small rodent. Let this video clip of Murray reading two Wallace Stevens poems wipe away the gopher-chasing memories.
Photos by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by Will Willingham.