The best in poetry (and poetic things)
1 Art & Apps
We’ve been sailing poems all month as part of our Ship, Sail, Boat theme. One morning on Twitter, @flashbangpgh pointed out this wonderful “text-art collaboration” of vessel poems, folded up at the intersection of blackout poetry, origami and paper art. (Vessel: Text (Re)Accessioned)
Repurposing paper is one thing. Buildings, yet another. There’s a great story developing in NoDa, Charlotte’s historic arts and entertainment district, where a local developer has plans to tear down a music venue, the Chop Shop. But in a move that makes it hard to demonize the developer as “the greedy, evil antagonist to a defenseless locally owned business, ” the developer has plans to use its space in the former Goodyear Service Center building in the time before it is razed later in the year to launch an artist-in residence program to help provide space that Amy Bagwell (who you may remember for the Wall Poems of Charlotte) notes is lacking for the mid-career-level artist to show their work. Three artists have already been selected for residencies. It will be interesting to see if this sort of model catches on in other growing communities. (Charlotte Viewpoint)
Back to the paper. There is a funny little story that a certain person will tell that claims that a couple of years ago she and I were arguing about a story she thought I could write (I wasn’t convinced). In the midst of my insistence that I was unable to start said story, I was doodling mindlessly on a Post-It Note and when she saw it, thought what I had drawn was a roller skate (even though it was more likely nothing at all). There, she posited, could start the story: with a roller skate. I scoffed for a while, but eventually did start a story with a roller skate (a pair, actually), which is now over 85, 000 words long and is about to be released in serial form for our newsletter subscribers. These Post-It Note doodles of dinosaurs by Talcott Starr on Twitter are a far cry from my humble roller skate that wasn’t, and I’m pretty sure there’d be a great story that could come from them, if a writer wanted to start there. (Scientific American)
2 News & Opinions
Because I work from home, and work multiple jobs from home at that, my daily life is centered in my home office. Sometimes I take my meals here, and I often do my leisure reading here. But something I’ve never thought to do in my office is garden, though the way the last few storms have left my otherwise larger-than-life tomatillo plants huddled on the ground, it’s tempting to consider how I might move the small patch inside. But Microsoft, whose offices in Redmond, Washington, are about 180, 000 times bigger than mine, has the space to do it. They’ve started growing micro-greens onsite in the company’s cafes, as a means of providing healthy uber-local produce and reduce the massive company’s carbon footprint. (Microsoft.com)
What her How to Read a Poem did for classroom teachers, Tania Runyan’s upcoming title, How to Write a Poem, could do for robots. That is, if the folks at Poetry for Robots wanted to use the book to help teach the robots of search engines such as Google how to write poetry. As it is they are using poems written in response to 120 images to “teach the database the metaphors” that we might normally associate with certain images and watch what the robots do with them. I’d be interested in the results of a little A-B testing of the two methods. (The Guardian, Poetry for Robots)
Word on the street is that publishing can be a stressful industry (or, what Porter Anderson would call the industry! the industry!). Of course, in my other industry, the claims business, we like to believe we have a corner on the stress market. And I’m pretty sure if you talk to someone in the finance sector, or some arm of government services (what many would call bureaucracy), or even in management of the grocery store in my little town, the business is stressful. So the planners of the Bookseller Marketing and Publicity Conference decided to ease up on those pressure points by including in the program a session by Rohan Gunatillake, who created Mindfulness Everywhere and the buddhify app to help folks in the publishing industry look at what mindfulness might look like in their work, focusing “on a few key pressures: the pressure of competition, of scale and sales, of missing the moment, and of personal success.”
And what of notions of personal success as a writer? What does that look like, and what kind of pressure does that create? Charity Singleton Craig writes at Grub Street this week, suggesting that if we define success strictly in terms of making it big, the odds are not in our favor. She provides an outline for success as a writer on her own terms. One important marker that I believe it’s easy for us as writers to overlook is simply having a writing life that allows her to write. (Isn’t that what we say we want to do?) She goes on to list additional criteria for her success, including “making positive connections with those who interact with my work.” The article is worth a read, and worth spending some time laying out the criteria for what defines your success. (Grub Street)
In her article, Charity mentions the statistics cited by L.L. Barkat in Rumors of Water, who points out that based on actual book sales, “if every writer with a publishing dream thinks he is the exception, the math doesn’t work out.” For a further look at the math, check out this insightful piece by Jane Friedman that breaks down the math from the publisher’s side, using the P&L (profit and loss statement) in determining whether it makes financial sense to acquire a particular title, from marketing costs to art and design to warehouse and shipping. It’s a smart piece, but it smarts. (Jane Friedman)
4 Poetry at Work
This past fall, 43 Mexican students were abducted near the city of Iguala. The facts surrounding the case have been questioned and there are various theories as to what happened to the disappeared students, known as normalistas, resulting in considerable unrest in the country. A new digital anthology was released in June for free in response. The bilingual anthology, Poets for Ayotzinapa, includes work by poets who began to read and write about the disappeared following the incident. (Hyperallergic.com)
At a time when urbanization is challenging cities in greater ways than ever, The Project for Public Spaces seeks to focus on concepts of public space and placemaking. Particularly in countries where spaces are being newly urbanized, priorities include “setting aside and protecting public space.” But the notion of place suggests more of the “community’s collective life, ” the “unique cultural and social identity that is defined by the way it is used and the people who use it.” Take a look at this fascinating article on the activity of “placemaking” and the role of language in that process. (Project for Public Spaces)
If we’ve told you once, we’ve told you eleven or twelve times: Go for a walk. Now, we’re going to tell you again. Open Culture has a great article citing all kinds of sources on how walking fosters creativity (as though you really need to be told more reasons): Aristotle believed people did “their best work while in leisurely motion.” Nietzsche said “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Ferris Jabr says “the way we move our bodies further changes the nature of our thoughts and vice versa.” Open Culture doesn’t mention it, but don’t forget the things Harold Fry taught us about walking. (Open Culture)
After your creative walk, be sure to eat some creative food. I mean, food that boosts your brain power. Like, start by scooping yourself up a big bowl of turmeric. (Okay, maybe not a big bowl.) Check out the rest at Forbes.
Now, take that one step further (not that we’re encouraging you to have a brain injury) with this fascinating podcast with Jessica Fechtor, talking about the role that food played in her recovery. (Tablet)
This week on Twitter the entertaining hashtag #tenthingsnottosaytoawriter took off. I was particularly amused by those that had some version of “Oh, am I in your book?” Michelle Huneven writes at The Paris Review about being “fictionalized”—that experience of finding something that looks a lot like you in someone’s fiction. And when that happens, of course, there’s not a lot one can do about it because. . . it’s fiction. The problem, as most writers of fiction and libel lawyer Elizabeth McNamara, who Huneven quotes in the piece, will tell you, “Since time immemorial writers have used real life to inspire them and build upon their experience.” True story. (Paris Review)
Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman came out the other day, to much hullabaloo. There’s controversy over the publication of the book itself and whether Lee was in agreement. There’s controversy over whether it is true that Watchman was in fact written before To Kill a Mockingbird. There’s controversy over the development of the beloved character of Atticus Finch. Now, I must confess that while I did in fact read (most of) Mockingbird dutifully in high school, I remember little of it. Clearly I am not one who is deeply invested in the preservation of Lee’s reputation, or that of Atticus, for that matter. But here’s what’s more interesting to me: as the story goes, Lee wrote Watchman first. Her editor sent her back to do some work on the characters and flesh out Scout as a younger girl. And Mockingbird eventually came about. Lee Martin takes a look at the revision process through the lens of these two books and draws out some helpful lessons in editing and revision. Caution: possible spoilers. (Lee Martin)
So, maybe you are not ready to write a novel (or two). But how about a haiku? Writer Courtney Symons embarked on an experiment writing a haiku every day for 100 days. Take a look and see what it did for her.
Some people will say that poems are oral. They are always and only meant to be spoken aloud. And some will say they are visual. That yes, hearing a poem is important but seeing it on the page also lends meaning. And then there is Julian Peters, who creates comics from poems, from Seamus Heaney to Guiseppe Ungaretti.
Wondering how to find just the right poem for a particular event? Split This Rock, a poetry organization focused on social justice, has developed The Quarry, an online archive of poems and the group’s “Poet of the Week.” The collection is searchable not only by poet or title but also by issue which, according to executive director Sarah Browning, would allow a person planning a rally or vigil or other event to “easily find poems that will infuse your event with imaginative language, poems that help us grieve and mourn, express our communal rage, and articulate our hopes for a different future.” (Washington Post)
And sometimes, through the wonder that is Every Day Poems, I can have just the right poem show up in my inbox, like Hart Crane’s “Forgetfulness” that was featured recently.
Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled,
Outspread and motionless, —
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.
Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest, —or a child.
Forgetfulness is white, —white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.
I can remember much forgetfulness.
After you inadvertently fictionalize your neighbor, you’ll want to consider how your story reflects a particular culture. Is it a culture you’re familiar with because it’s your own, or because you’ve been inside it for some time? Is it authentic? Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shares in TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, on the importance of hearing (and telling) multiple stories about people and cultures in order to gain a deeper understanding of them. Perhaps the most curious part of this talk for me was the suggestion by a professor that her novel lacked “African authenticity” because it didn’t match the “single story” he knew about Africa, which was woefully incomplete.
Remember those robots learning to write poetry? What if they looked like Russian poet Alexander Pushkin? “RoboThespian” is a singing and dancing robot that was on hand for last month’s celebration of Pushkin’s 215th birthday in Moscow. (Moscow Times)
I’m not sure that if William Carlos Williams had lived to the full blossom of the Internet age if we would not be needing say “Forgive me / it was so easy” to apologize for the way his This is Just to Say has been turned into a meme. But then, I also wonder if he might not have enjoyed it, understanding the irresistibility like the sweet, cold plums in the icebox. New York Magazine has a fun collection of WCW rewrites from Twitter.
9 Reading and Teaching
If we believe walking can make you creative, it shouldn’t be too hard to believe that reading can make you happier. And maybe it’s not just happier, but healthier. The New Yorker discusses the therapeutic benefits of reading (it has its own name: bibliotherapy, and is used formally with dementia patients and prison inmates), delving into the ways that fiction enables us to transcend the self. (New Yorker)
In that same spirit, NPR tells the story of a Syrian bookstore that provides a space in the midst of war to become a “cultural oasis, ” where people can share with one another, even across cultures, by reading.
10 Sound ‘n Motion
The Sonnet Project from the New York Shakespeare Exchange is a terrific project involving the filming of “154 sonnets, 154 NYC locations, 154 actors.” They call it a “tapestry of cinematic art that infuses the poetry of William Shakespeare into the poetry of New York City.” Take a look at Sonnet 17, filmed at the New York Public Library in Manhattan:
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