I shudder to think of how the Internet would have developed if it were not for cats. Without felines to stock memes and fill newsfeeds, I can only imagine that the worldwide web would have become a time-sucking void, a place for bored and lonely people to spend their evenings and work hours clicking from page to page of empty content. Thankfully, cats have deigned to give the Internet meaning, and thanks to Zarathustra the Cat in particular, and the cat’s owner, Russian artist Svetlana Petrova, we have this collection of famous artworks reimagined with cats. From Whistler’s Mother to the Mona Lisa, and from Michelangelo to Vermeer, you’ll never see these paintings the same way again. Promise. (Fat Cat Art)
You’ve heard about the handwriting on the wall. Let’s talk about the leg-writing on the tights. Or the tights-writing on the leg. Or, well, this interesting collection of tights with text prints, including poems from Emily Dickinson and quotes from Romeo and Juliet and Alice in Wonderland. The best news is that a custom text option is available, so you could have a pair made with a line or two of your favorite from Every Day Poems. There are a lot of things I would like to say about Emily Dickinson and runs and baggy ankles but words fail me and my good judgement does not. (Coline Design)
I got reviewed on Yelp once. I wasn’t happy about it. I was working a temporary gig for an insurance company, and an unhappy customer posted a review. Since I was the last person he spoke with, I was the brunt of his unhappy comments. In my defense, I’ll say that all I did was take care of the things he was unhappy about, and really, to his complete satisfaction. While his review was far from a poetic masterpiece, I recently discovered that users of Yelp and other sites that feature user reviews are repositories of creative literary works, with community members writing reviews in the form of short stories and haiku to make them stand out and provide a good user experience to readers. One user quoted in a FastCompany article calls Yelp a “mini publishing platform.” Perhaps I should review my detractor in the way that only poetry can do.
It’s fair to say that I don’t get out much. I normally prefer it that way. But last month I got a little cabin fever and in the course of a conversation with a client, I discovered that there would be a poetry reading that evening in a town not far from me. In South Dakota. Think about this. A poetry reading. In South Dakota. I had no idea. (Clearly, I don’t give my state enough cultural credit. Literary citizens of the State of South Dakota, please accept my heartfelt apologies.) I went to the reading in a little Irish pub. (Again, in South Dakota? I must get out more.) I enjoyed myself. Yes, in South Dakota. Turns out we are about to name a new state poet laureate, as current poet laureate David Allan Evans retires soon. And we boast (yes, under the right conditions, South Dakotans will boast) the longest running poetry society in the nation. As the Argus Leader says, poetry is a “very South Dakota thing to do.” (Sioux Falls Argus Leader)
4 Poetry at Work
“Where are the doctors in this poem?” This is a question Dr. Ben Olfield asked a room full of oncologists about W.H. Auden’s “Surgical Ward, ” in a session with the doctors intended to “bolster their compassion and strengthen their resiliency.” Lauren Small writes a beautiful reflection of the work of these doctors and the illness, suffering and death of a friend, and poetry’s power to bear witness at OnBeing.
Billy Collins echoes some of these sentiments in an interview with the Washington Post’s Lillian Cunningham. “With poetry, ” Collins says, “you don’t have to go through a windshield to realize that life is precious.”
Much of what makes a poem work is surprise. If I know how it’s going to end, I don’t need to read it, and if I do, I might well be bored. But surprise gives us the “aha moment” that makes a poem great. Aside from great poetry, researcher Julia Galef has come to understand surprise as a learning tool. When we experience the “aha moments” in every day life, we can take the surprise as an indicator that something was off in our expectations. She discusses the practice of keeping a Surprise Journal at FastCompany as a means of learning to question our own assumptions and thinking differently, saying “It appeals to my curiosity and it just feels different—it feels like I am getting as clear a picture of the world as I can.”
Don’t want to carry a notebook? That’s okay. Just take a walk, instead. Somehow, even though we know these things, we continue to be surprised (write that in your journal if you’d like) by the notion that walking is not just good for our bodies but for our minds. Writers in particular seem to understand this, and the New Yorker recently discussed how even the characters in novels such as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway understood the body-mind connection:
As Mrs. Dalloway walks, she does not merely perceive the city around her. Rather, she dips in and out of her past, remolding London into a highly textured mental landscape, “making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.”
Of course, Mrs. Dalloway didn’t really know this. Mrs. Dalloway wasn’t real. But Virginia Woolf knew it, and so she walked, and made Mrs. Dalloway walk. So. Creative juices down to just a trickle? Put down your surprise journal and go for a walk.
Can you edit your health? Write yourself a new story that improves your life? Research says maybe so. According to James Pennebaker, a University of Texas psychology professor, expressive writing can be “a life course correction” by allowing people to “come to terms with who they are, where they want to go.” Several studies cite improvement in health and behavior even with as little as 15 minutes a day of writing. So, maybe go and write yourself the life you want. (New York Times)
We know that story is powerful, that, as Rebecca Solnit and others have said “we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Maybe it’s writing (or rewriting) our narrative. Or maybe, as in the case of CN Lester, it’s painting it. In this beautiful piece at The Toast, Lester tells of the “mythical creature” of their childhood.
From the hips down my legs were a deep, turquoise green – tiny little thumbnail scales individually shaded and tipped with iridescent glitter. If I crossed my feet at the ankle my tail was finished – I poured a bath, a cold one, with salt, and got in and under the water.
We recently featured a poem by Richard Maxson, written to honor his father, a stained glass artist, in Every Day Poems. (Subscribe to receive a hand-selected poem and beautiful artwork in your inbox each weekday morning.)
I remember saying my last “Our Father, ”
you dead, arced with flower sprays.
Daylight pushed through the stained glass, brushed
itself across white lilies like a canvas of Klee’s.
Man’s time dissolves in ashes, I repeated,
as the sun and the clouds conspired to make
a red pulse over a cross of carnations
and through the veins of the marble floor.
No one planned the wild buttercups in that field.
I brought no bouquet, nor did I kneel, but lay
down in your golden days and painted you to mind,
relieved of all your hidden colors.
Here’s a new way to write in community. Wikipoesis invites you to collaborate with others by considering an existing collaborative poem, or starting a new one, and adding “a word, a line, a stanza or even a whole new poem.” The project will be featured at the upcoming 2015 AWP conference.
I know I already made my one Emily Dickinson joke of the article. (I’m held to a quota of my own making.) But finding her OKCupid profile makes a second too good to pass up. I promise in my next Top 10 not to mention her, just to make up for things. From Rosanna Bruno at The Toast, how Ms. Dickinson’s profile might have appeared on a dating site.
We talk sometimes about the way that poetry can help heal, the way it can find a means of saying that which has until now defied expression, the way it can reach into otherwise unreachable places. In a collection released last year, Claudia Rankine brings poetry to yet another purpose, that of probing, investigating what she calls the “moments that disrupt interactions, ” leading to racism and aggressions. In Citizen: An American Lyric, Rankine writes prose poems that paint a stark yet poignant picture of the experience of the Black person in what turns out to be not so post-racial America. In a video clip discussion of the book, which is featured at Poetry Foundation, she reads of this ordinary moment of erasure:
In line at the drugstore it’s finally your turn, and then it’s not as he walks in front of you and puts his things on the counter. The cashier says, Sir, she was next. When he turns to you he is truly surprised.
Oh my God, I didn’t see you.
You must be in a hurry, you offer.
No, no, no. I really didn’t see you.
10 Sound ‘n Motion
Beautiful guesses. That’s what poet Matthew Zapruder calls the work of Albert Einstein. I think Einstein might have been pleased with that. Motionpoems collaborated with Zapruder on this video poem, Albert Einstein.
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.
- Summer Break & Take Your Poet to Work Day - July 17, 2021
- Adjustments: A Belated Bicentenary Party for John Keats - March 4, 2021
- The Reindeer Chronicles Book Club: You’re Cutting a Tree in Almería and Getting a Storm in Dusseldorf - February 17, 2021