The best in poetry (and poetic things)
Someone please tell me what it is about the fox that is so captivating. There’s a beauty, intelligence, expressiveness that makes it hard to turn away. Here, see what I mean. Take a look at this collection of fox photographs by nature photographer Roeselien Raimond. Then, come back and let me know.
In other wildlife art news, check out this (I want to say shocking, but that’s pretty cheap) electrical tower made into a stained glass lighthouse by a group of art students. Proof that anything can be made beautiful if one sets one’s mind to it.
There’s an app taking off, The French Girls, which creates the most curious anonymous exchange between a user who uploads a selfie and another user who uses the app’s tools to redraw the selfie to sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, sometimes words fail effect. If you are interested in something more sophisticated than selfie remakes, you might enjoy this collection of modern remakes of famous paintings.
Until this summer, I thought my town had a little free library. But when I was there earlier this month to check out The Tale of Despereaux (recently listed in our Top 10 YA and Children’s Books extravaganza), I overheard a librarian issuing a probationary card to a new patron, which included collecting a deposit, and I realized that my town has only a little library. Not a free one. But true Little Free Libraries (the kind that look like a large birdhouse on a stick) are still popping up all over the country. The neighborhood book stands are a popular way to exchange books and encourage reading in communities across the country. Unfortunately, it’s been a rough summer for the Little Free Libraries. A nine-year-old in Leawood, KS, constructed one at his home only to have his Little Free Library shut down by the city’s zoning board because it is not attached to the dwelling. In South Minneapolis, a Little Free Library went up in flames in an apparent act of arson. (When one doesn’t enjoy a book, we recommend to simply put it down after the first few chapters, or a thoughtful review on Goodreads, rather than such violent expressions of displeasure.) And yet another Little Free Library suffered the indignity of a wanton raid by book thieves (and, apparently, book zombies).
Now, if there’s no curbside library where you live, or you just prefer to read digitally, you might be interested in the research being done by Maryanne Wolf (of the history of reading Proust and the Squid fame). According to Wolf, because digital reading requires a different type of process (more surface reading and skimming), there is concern that many are losing their ability to read deeply. According to Wolf, “Reading is a bridge to thought. And it’s that process that I think is the real endangered aspect of reading. In the young, what happens to the formation of the complete reading circuitry? Will it be short-circuited and have less time to develop the deep-reading processes? And in already developed readers like you and me, will those processes atrophy?” Others suggest that it is not a matter of atrophy, but learning distinct skills for book reading and digital reading, and that we will need both. Find out more at the New Yorker.
We aren’t going to talk today about whether poetry matters, or if reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated, or why the subject must come up every new cycle of the moon. The discussion is alive and well this month, once again, if you want to dive into it once more. Much more interesting to me is Kate Angus’s observation at The Millions that poetry is surprisingly popular. What is not so popular is actually buying books of poetry. I certainly don’t begrudge Tim Tebow his impressive book sales, but these aren’t the world’s happiest numbers: Angus reports that “in 2011, New York Magazine compared the numbers for two poetry big-hitters (Wendell Berry and former Poet Laureate Billy Collins) with a book ghostwritten for a 23-year-old who catches a leather ovoid. The result? Berry and Collins sold 2, 928 and 18, 406, respectively, while Tim Tebow’s autobiography sold over 282, 000 copies within six months.” Wendell Berry and Billy Collins? It’s not like we’re talking about self-published chapbooks by aspiring but largely unknown poets.
Perhaps they could use some help from Cheryl Conner’s No-Fail Blueprint for Selling Success at Forbes.
4 Poetry at Work
I had an early love of computers, long before they became as common a household item as toasters. I owned one before it was practical to do so, back in the days when a 40MB hard drive sounded as vast as the state of Texas and performing any routine operation on the machine was done to the cadence of “Remove Disk 2 from Drive A; Insert Disk 8 into Drive B.” Dual floppies, baby. My first introduction to computing was in around 4th grade. I didn’t understand a bit of it, but it involved dialing in by phone and IBM punch cards. We played a game of 20 questions with the computer, who answered in a series of beeps. I was sold. Now, combine the manila punch cards with opening lines from famous novels. Perfection. (Paris Review)
About those poetry books that may or may not sell. Poets often work day jobs, and not always in academia. The Atlantic recently profiled poet-computer engineer TJ Jarrett. Jarrett explains similarity between her approach to writing poems and writing code: “I see the world as a system, many parts coming together to make the whole work. To troubleshoot code or to ask the question of “how did we live under Jim Crow?” means that you have to watch the parts coming together like gears and ask good questions. How did it come to be like this? How can we make this better without dismantling the whole? If we are going to replace it all, how does this one part function within the whole? What were our fundamental requirements?”
Because T. S. Poetry Press is committed to helping people experience poetry for life, and because we know that poets come from within any number of fields, we’re excited to announce the creation of a $1, 000 Poetry for Life scholarship open to students pursuing any major, in conjunction with the launch of our new How to Read a Poem website dedicated to featuring teaching tools and stories around the T. S. Poetry Press title How to Read a Poem. If you’re a college bound student, or a teacher, be sure to check it out.
How to Read a Poem, of course, is a fine alternative to the “attack-a-poem” method, which, when I heard mention of such a thing, I heard Whack-a-Poem in my head. In my defense, it had been a longish sort of day.
(You can find this comic, by the way, along with poems, art, humor and other excellent links at Tweetspeak’s Tumblr site. If you’re on Tumblr, stop by and follow us there.)
Apparently, an awful lot of people (especially men) dislike boredom enough that they would trade pain to be free from it. Consider this, from a recent study: “participants were given a small electric shock — akin to a jolt of static electricity — that was so unpleasant that three-quarters of them said they would be willing to pay not to experience the shock again. Yet when they were placed in the room to sit alone with their thoughts, 67% of male participants and 25% of female subjects were so eager to find something to do that they shocked themselves voluntarily.” Ouchie. A significant difference among participants: “those who reported a positive experience during the experiment tended to think about future events, often with loved ones. Those who did not enjoy the time for quiet reflection often thought about work.” (Nature, 3 Quarks Daily)
Success in creative fields (or really, any field) is hard to define. We figure we’ll know it when we see it, but the reality is that it’s often hard to put our finger on. And on our way to success, we often expect it to come on the first try. Brain Pickings recently featured a series of videos by Adam Westbrook reflecting on “the long game” of creative success, starting with a look at a “loser” who could only get work drawing pictures of dead criminals after he failed to deliver on the epic masterpiece “Adoration of the Magi, ” Leonardo da Vinci.
We featured a piece of roadkill poetry here once, which resulted in a lively bit of discussion. Now it seems that roadkill is one of those elements of poetry that is guaranteed to give your poem street (or road) cred. McSweeney’s has gone and published a list of 8 other words (besides “dead deer”) to make your poetry legit. The list is … pregnant with poetry possibility.
If you happen to be a person who grades papers for a living, and find yourself grading poems making generous use of that list of legitimacy-inducing words, you might also want this list of Lines from the Princess Bride that Double as comments on Freshman Composition Papers, also from McSweeneys, which I think will work just as nicely for poems.
Have opinions? Want to express them poetically? You might want to enter the annual LA Times opinionated poetry contest. They’ll be publishing their favorites on August 31.
Sometime last year, Lemony Snicket wrote “Poems, like children, are individuals, and will not be liked by every single person who happens to come across them.” He went on to feature a number of poems for children, saying they may not actually like them and that ‘The only things that all the poems have in common is that they are all strange in some way, because all great literature is strange, the way all good slides are slippery.” Enjoy the strange poems featured by Lemony Snicket at Poetry Magazine.
Now, I’m a little torn about saying I don’t think that Harriet Brown’s poem, Shell, which was recently featured in Every Day Poems, is particularly strange as much as it is beautiful, because I’m not sure Mr. Snicket would agree I can say that and say that it’s good literature both. I’ll let you decide.
I found it in the wash, the orange
shell I picked up on the beach
that last time. One of my girls—
the one named after you—
must have found it in my room
and wanted it. Clean calcareous
curve, a palm open to nothing,
reeking of sunshine
and your death. For years
I didn’t know what to do with it.
You would have liked
this story: how a child
slips grief into a careless pocket.
Breaks it to pieces. Lets it go.
— Harriet Brown
Here’s a question for you: Can you tell the difference between T. S. Eliot’s lines and rap lyrics? I understand that Andrew Lloyd Webber has suggested T. S. Eliot is rap’s true father. So, take the quiz at the Telegraph and see how you fare.
There are few things I love more than learning that previously unpublished pieces have been discovered from a beloved author or poet. Even when I haven’t read all the works by that author that have been published, there’s something so intriguing about the missing pieces being found that I want to read them immediately. Cue the Guardian article about recently discovered poems from Pablo Neruda.
Listen to this and tell me you don’t want to read the rest:
“Reposa tu pura cadera y el arco de flechas mojadas / extiende en la noche los pétalos que forman tu forma.” Or, once more, in English this time, “Rest your pure hip and the bow of wet arrows / Extend into the night the petals which make up your form.”
I saw a graphic recently with some of the saddest numbers in the world about how many books people read after high school or college (hint: for a really big number of people, that number was ZERO). But here’s some science that should encourage adults to read more: people who read are “capable of the most empathy and “theory of mind, ” which is the ability to hold opinions, beliefs and interests apart from their own.” According to Elite Daily, the science says readers are the best sort of people to fall in love with. Why, you ask? Here’s why:
It’s no surprise that readers are better people. Having experienced someone else’s life through abstract eyes, they’ve learned what it’s like to leave their bodies and see the world through other frames of reference. They have access to hundreds of souls, and the collected wisdom of all them. They have seen things you’ll never understand and have experienced deaths of people you’ll never know. They’ve learned what it’s like to be a woman, and a man. They know what it’s like to watch someone suffer. They are wise beyond their years.
10 Sound ‘n Motion
It’s ink, you know? The colored stuff that makes words and images show up on paper. Watch it made set to music and I think it might move you to tears. Okay, well it nearly did me. Listen to the ink maker from the Printing Ink Company: “I remember making my first ink. It was a frustrating, difficult thing. But in the end, there was not a sense of relief, there was more a sense of loss, that I didn’t have to work on that anymore.”
Once you’ve dried your eyes, give a few minutes to Shakespeare, courtesy of John Siddique.
And finally, our friends at the Poetry Storehouse recently featured a new video remix by Marc Neys (aka Swoon) of “A Ladder Our Boat, “ a poem Maureen Doallas wrote for an Image-ine pairing with Holly Friesen’s painting “Warrior Canoe.”
Featured photo by Garrett, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post photos by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by LW Lindquist.
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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.
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Sandra Heska King says
How do you *find* all this stuff? Wow!
Nancy Franson says
Whack-a-poem and roadkill poetry in the same top 10 roundup–stunning!
And, as the culture’s appetite for roadkill poetry continues to grow, you and I both know who got the trend started.
Leading edge of a cultural revolution, baby!
Maureen Doallas says
Thank you for featuring John’s video poem and Marc’s (aka Swoon) remix of my work.
I sent in a poem to LA Times.
Great mix this morning!
John Siddique says
Thank you so much for featuring my reading of Full Fathom Five. Bless you.
ps Thank You Maureen for letting me know it was here.
Marcy Terwilliger says
Very, very good writing here my friends. You totally blow me away with such things, these thoughts that just slip and fall out of your head. Once I’m finished reading I feel like I’ve just walked out of a class that I paid good money to go to.
Megan Willome says
I loved “Shell.” I didn’t think it was strange at all–it’s one I journaled about.
And that essay by Lemony Snicket? Priceless! I’m hoping to get to quote from it.