When I was in high school, my family lived in a sprawling three-story home built at the turn of the (twentieth) century. Despite being just two blocks from downtown in a bustling rural community of nearly 5, 000, ours was a quiet neighborhood. Of the five houses on our street, two were funeral homes. Every year, in the hopes that trick or treaters would brave our doorstep, sandwiched between the mortuaries, my mother would buy enough candy to last until Christmas. And every year, about two and a half children would show up and we’d have to eat it all ourselves. My sister and I would put paper bags over our heads to trick or treat at the neighbor’s because even those two and a half children were afraid of her house (I don’t suppose the creepy orange lights they put in the upstairs windows for the occasion helped much). I wish I’d seen these famous works of art turned Halloween costumes back then. I’d have tossed the brown bags in a tell-tale heartbeat. It might be worth drawing all the dots for the Lichtenstein cartoon. And I’d even consider wearing the pearl earring for the Vermeer.
If you think you’ll be afraid of my neighborhood and want to make yourself scarce for Halloween, maybe you’d like to make your way down south for the Louisiana Book Festival at the state capitol this weekend. Events will feature artist George Rodrigue and you might catch sight of his portrait of Sylvester Stallone with the Blue Dog.
And if you’re not able to make it to Baton Rouge because, say, you’re stuck in Dublin over the weekend, you might stop by Connolly Station for your book fix and shop at Eason’s virtual bookstore. In an effort to expand the reach of the bookseller’s brick and mortar store, shoppers can select from book cover images and purchase by using QR codes with their smartphones.
In a time where the debate rages daily, in its various forms, over some aspect of e-publishing and self-publishing and big publishers and small presses and the bookseller-who-must-not-be-named, it’s refreshing to see a new anthology released of short stories, a genre which has survived despite a publishing market that doesn’t seem to favor it. This interview with Sadie Stein, editor of Object Lessons, is a fascinating read on the success of the teller of short stories. (And the anthology, it seems, is teeming not only with great stories, but also writing advice from the authors. I’m so glad the bookseller-who-must-not-be-named has a Wish List button.)
Yes, the landscape is grim in certain respects and, sure, very few people will get rich on literary fiction. But is the life of a writer ever easy? Of course not. That’s not why anyone goes into this business.
4 Poetry at Work
Here at Tweetspeak we are always interested in the ways in which poetry informs our work and our work informs our poetry. We just published a list of Ten Great Articles on Poetry and Work from around the Web, in fact. And we always have our eyes open for Poetry at Work, as in the case of Irish poet and archaeologist Simon Ó Faoláin. Poetry International featured his second volume of poetry, As Gaineamh, observing that “his profession of archaeologist and status as father fuse with his vocation as poet in an ancient and – seemingly – dying language.”
Ó Faoláin’s poetry has roots in the land, as does the poetry of Lin Warfel, a farmer who recently published a collection of poems, Songs of the Prairie. Warfel writes poems from the field, literally, while driving his tractor, jotting them on the windows with a Sharpie so he doesn’t lose track of a good idea in the middle of harvest. I keep a small notebook in my pocket, but maybe I’ll try the Sharpie-on-glass method and see if it turns up some earthier poems.
When it comes to creativity, some folks are like an unstoppable faucet, running ideas all day and without end. But if that’s you, how do you manage the flow of ideas without running the risk of capping off the source? Our friends at Get Organised have some great tips for organizing the creative mind, including a brilliant recognition that ideas have “sell-by” dates. How do you know when your once fresh idea has gone stale and is starting to grow a little green fuzz around the edges?
Chris Guillebeau, author of the e-book 279 Days to Overnight Success, talks about how to keep those ideas from expiring, by working out of a sense of urgency and doing the things you love. And as the title of the article suggests, he seems to operate out of a belief that “Balanced People Don’t Change the World.” So, are you unbalanced enough to realize your passions?
I’ve been told my sonnets can sound somewhat angry. If that’s so, it would have been nice to have the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows when I angrily thumbed through Roget’s to express a particular sentiment. For instance, I sure could have used the word rubatosis:
n. the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat, whose tenuous muscular throbbing feels less like a metronome than a nervous ditty your heart is tapping to itself, the kind that people compulsively hum or sing while walking in complete darkness, as if to casually remind the outside world, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.
Then I’d just have to find a way to end another line with anthracosis and I’d be in business. (No, I’m not too proud to admit I also use a rhyming dictionary when I’m backed far enough into a corner.) Of course, Charles Bukowski would have said if it comes to all of that, don’t do it. In a provocative piece over at The Atlantic, Bukowski’s advice to writers includes the oft repeated don’t, particularly “unless the sun inside you is / burning your gut.”
I confess. I’ve written sometimes when I shouldn’t have. And perhaps other times, chugged Maalox when I should have written.
One of the most difficult things about the written communication that dominates social media is not that I cannot hear the tone of voice as much as that I cannot see the other person’s eyes. There is much that happens in the midnight blue or dark chocolate or an apple green dawn of one’s eyes that is lost in the winking semi-colon or more stoic straight-up colon of an emoticon. D. H. Lawrence captures the beauty of his love’s green eyes in this poem, recently featured in our Every Day Poems poetry daily:
The dawn was apple-green,
The sky was green wine held up in the sun,
The moon was a golden petal between.
Recently we featured a video of Efrat Ben Zur in our Top Ten, an evocative (just look at her eyes) musical work based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Now, vocalist and composer Christine Tobin has a collection of songs based on the work of W. B. Yeats. Worth your time to listen to this one.
If Zach Houston is any measure, a poet can always find work. He’s been out on the street writing poetry for passers-by on an old manual typewriter for the past seven years. He accepts donations for his work, and I suppose that at least he doesn’t have to worry about rejection letters.
The key to Houston’s success, one could imagine, would be the same as any entrepreneur. According to Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, passion, trust and mystique are among the triggers “that transform a brand from a utility into something people want to talk about and buy.”
Does a guy on the street with a glow-in-the-dark typewriter have a brand that fascinates? There’s definitely mystique.
The late Josephine Hart, poetry anthologist and novelist, was instrumental in bringing poetry performance to a broader public. Before her death in 2011, she famously founded the Josephine Hart Poetry Hour at the British Library, which brought together great actors to read poetry publicly. Her work, which emphasized the importance of the “sense of sound” and “what Robert Frost described as the sound of sense” goes on in the Josephine Hart Foundation’s new Poetry App, which features 30 actors reading the works of Larkin, Plath, Frost and others. Users can learn about the poems and also upload their own poems via text and performance.
10 Sound n Motion
We always like to leave you with a little poetic video when we wrap up our Top Ten. This clip was recommended to me by one of the Tweetspeak staff. I’m not saying which, but the note that came with it said, “This is so your type of humour.” That ought to narrow the field to somewhere between Canada and South Africa. My advice for today: don’t mix up a chain saw and an ice cream cone. As Mr. Bukowski would say, Don’t do it.
And for good measure, watch this piece on “grudgingly proud” Tennessee-based artisanal chocolatier Olive & Sinclair. Sure, there are easier ways to make chocolate bars than the way these guys do it. In fact, you could make 500 pounds of chocolate in 45 minutes. “But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the craft in doing something of that nature?” My bonus advice for today: don’t watch this video before breakfast. Or lunch. Or really, anytime you don’t normally allow yourself to dig into the chocolate stash in your dresser drawer. Not that I have one.