The Art of Daring
"In August of last year Graywolf Press released the tenth volume in their acclaimed "Art of" series, this time authored by poet and four-time National Book Award finalist Carl Phillips." (The Huffington Post)
“The Triumph of Bullshit" by T.S. Eliot
"TS Eliot, once a subversive outsider, became the most celebrated poet of the 20th century – a world poet, who changed the way we think. Yet, fifty years after his death, we are still making new discoveries about him." (The Guardian)
"Fifty years later, “difficult” remains the word most people attach to his verse. Yet we quote him: “Not with a bang but a whimper”, the last line of Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” is among the best-known lines of modern poetry. “April is the cruellest month” begins The Waste Land with unsettling memorability; no reader forgets the strangeness of the “patient etherised upon a table” at the start of “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”."
"Through allusion, quotation, echo and resonance, modern life is presented as a repeated ritual, one we can hear more deeply than we see it. To a greater or lesser degree, this is still how poetry works. It’s not so much that knottily difficult poets including Geoffrey Hill and Jorie Graham embed one resonance within another as they write, as that even poets very different from Eliot inherit an acute self-consciousness in their language. Poetry manifests an awareness that language – in its play of sound as much as in its denotation, its meaning – spools and unspools the self."
The Web Poet's Society: Can an online course revive interest in the classics?
This is an article on the University of Pennsylvannia Modern Poetry MOOC course (The Atlantic)
"Skeptics of online education still question if academic subjects, let alone poetry, can be taught on the web. They stress that true scholarship takes patience and time—values that aren’t inherent to online education. Even though many MOOCs offer certificates of completion, only 5 percent of of those who enroll actually stick to it. And, despite their popularity, both UPenn and Harvard’s poetry classes have experienced high dropout rates as well.
But Filreis suggests that the courses’ objectives are more important than their measurable outcomes. ModPo, he said, isn’t about the number of people who complete it—and it certainly isn’t designed to replace a traditional college seminar. After all, data indicates that most of the students who sign up already have some formal higher education under their belt. Rather, ModPo—and Poetry in America—are about reaching more minds and opening more people to the possibilities of language. They're about finding Whitman not only under boot soles but on smartphones, too."
Arkansas poet and father of singer Lucinda Williams, Miller Williams died on New Year's Day this year at the age of 84. Longtime fan of Lucinda Williams, I was lucky to see them perform together in song and poetry at Royce Hall at UCLA years ago.
I think I picked up his book, Making a Poem: Some Thoughts About Poetry And the People Who Write It, at that show.
Here are some prominent obituaries. As you may recall, Miller Williams read the inaugural poem for second term of President Bill Clinton.
The narcissism epidemic has spread around the world and has tainted the attitudes and impulses of writers and all artists. This situation affects our futures and our fortunes. In my new eBook, Writing in the Age of Narcissism, I talk about strategies of literary criticism as they enable narcissism, as well as possible solutions to counter-act destructive tactics in writing and reviewing.
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If you’re a poet or writer in any other form or genre, you’ve probably witnessed many modern, uncivilized behaviors from fellow students, writers and academic colleagues—their public relations gestures, their catty reviews and essays, and their often uncivil career moves. Like actors, visual artists and politicians, cut-throat pirate maneuverings have become the new normal. It’s what occurs whenever there are more people practicing an art than any particular economy can support.
The difference with writers is their ability to develop highly conceptualized, rationalizations in order to prove their worth and ideals. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has reached a critical mass in meaningless attempts to pull focus in a society obsessed with the show-biz spotlight.
This essay traces how the narcissism epidemic affects writers, including our gestures of post-modernism and irony, and proposes an alternative way to be a more positive writer, critic and reader.
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I've been following Mark Coker’s publishing predictions for a few years now. He's just come out with his 2015 points. I like that he studies his data for these things and that he updates his predictions as the data changes. He doesn't have an ideological agenda. Well, he might, but he's willing to adjust his assessments, for instance he predicts screen reading increases might slow down this year.
Last year he was still promoting the power of making books free to raise your profile. This year, with traditional publishers finally getting wise, the idea of free might lose some steam.
In 2008, College Crunch listed Poetry as the number one most expensive and useless degree in America.
And they provide a depressingly sad-sack example.
I found that link over the holiday break going through my email. I found a few old fad links I'd missed over the years, like this video from Weird Al. If you’re a word-nerd, his "Word Crimes" video is for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc
Promoting your own work - in this day of low publisher promotion, it's something poets must learn how to do. Ann Cefola figured out a way to put together a fun poetry video.
She tells me she recorded herself reading her poem "Velocity" from her new book Face Painting in the Dark. She then selected photos from the Internet and included a copy of "I'm Sittin' On Top of the World" by Les Paul and Mary Ford.
She says she wanted the song because the lyrics were "I'm sitting on top of the world, just rolling along, just rolling along" and "Like Humpty Dumpty, I'm about to fall." Cefola says, "Les Paul and Mary Ford had such energy together and their songs had a sparkly innocence--it seemed right for that moment in time."
She then sent the images to a film editor who used effects to create a sense of movement out of the individual photos. You could also try to create a slide show yourself in Windows Live Movie Maker or some similar software for Macs.
DVD Note: In November I reviewed the documentary The Life & Times of Allen Ginsberg. I rent my DVDs from GreenCine and they send me one DVD at a time. The week after my review, I reviewed the DVD with the extras which amount to a long list of poets talking about their friendship with Allen Ginsberg, some interviewed before his death and some after. I watched them all and have noted my favorites: Joan Baez, Beck, Bono, Stan Brakhage, William Burroughs, Johnny Depp, Lawrence Ferlinghetti*, Philip Glass*, Peter Hale* (especially talking about Paul McCartney and then watching Paul McCartney), John Hammond, Sr., Abbie Hoffman, Jack Johnson, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Judith Malina and Julian Beck, Jonas Mekas, Thurston Moore, Yoko Ono, Lee Ranaldo, Gehlek Rimoche* (footage of his death service), Bob Rosenthal, Ed Sanders*, Patti Smith* (footage of his death service), Steven Taylor, Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Thurman, Anne Waldman* (tells story of the founding of Naropa Institute's school of disembodied poetics), and Andy Warhol.
Getting this screener is the result of my first Kickstarter contribution. I donated $25 dollars over a year ago, probably a pittance compared to other contributors to this very expensive movie-making process. A Place to Stand is the documentary about the life of New Mexico poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, an Arizona convict who taught himself to read and write in prison and whose entire life was transformed by poetry.
Even though the film was already given glowing reviews from The Nation and the Los Angeles Times, I wasn’t expecting this movie. After all, you get used to things being sort of half-assed here in New Mexico. And I had just seen a threadbare documentary of artist Ray Johnson called How to Draw a Bunny (2002), a great story but somewhat amateurish documentary.
I was expecting something equally homegrown with A Place to Stand. Big mistake. This thing exceptionally well-filmed. Its storytelling technique reminded me of Searching for Sugarman, very fluid, creative and professional.
Not only was this the best, hands down, documentary of a poet or about poetry that I’ve ever seen, this film was so good, I stopped taking notes. I had to stop and give this story my full, rapt attention. Monsieur Big Bang walked through the living room in gym shorts intending to work out on the treadmill in another room. But instead, he stopped and sat on the couch in rapt attention for the entire movie.
This is an unbelievable moving story about redemption and the spiritual weight of words. If DVD copies are available for sale by next year, I'm buying a stack for Christmas presents.
Extras on my screener included a featurette on the movie’s animator, author readings (indoors and outdoors), and a short on the artist Eric Christo Martinez (a former convict whose life was also transformed through art).
A primer on Jimmy Santiago Baca:
To check movie showings: http://aplacetostandmovie.com/
I went to the library and checked How We Became Human, Selected Poems by Joy Harjo to see what she had to say about New Mexico as place. Harjo is one of my favorite poets period, definitely my on the top of my list in the category/almost-genre of American Indian poets. In her first anthology I was looking for any 1970s references to New Mexico places. Harjo does come back to New Mexico quite a bit in her writing and she seems to view New Mexico as a spiritual, if not physical, home place when she references the Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque streets and the more southern Manzano Mountains.
But Harjo is really one of the most well-traveled and cosmopolitan modern poets we have. She moves through towns all across American and abroad and digs into the concrete of it all, so to speak. This fusion of urban and outpost gives her work uniqueness. Take for example her older poem "3 A.M." about being in an airport and trying to get back to Hopiland. There are also quite a few Indian themes in how she handles alcohol and the ideas of futility and fate. Like many Indian writers she's in a struggle of locating: locating her foundation of history, locating a sense of belonging, even locating asuvivor’s-guilt sense of existing, and locating forgiveness.
Harjo feels unique to me however in the sense of how she writes eye to eye with her reader. Much of American Indian poetic tone contains a spiritual distance inherent. Harjo is much more intimate. She’s not some voice-over spirit speaking from the stars. She’s on the street and across the table from her reader.
I always love to find moments of Harjo talking about the earth’s circling revolutions. This occurs again and again: “a whirring current in the grass,” “swirling earth,” “slow spin like the spiral of events.” The swirling is often coupled with descriptions of women in crisis, turmoil, madness, and lostness.
As a holiday greeting, the Academy of American Poets sent me a holiday postcard with a Larry Levis quote from the poem “Winter Stars”
The newCopper Canyon Reader catalogue also came. I sensed a shift in poems this time, many more experimental poets although still with a spiritual cast. My favorite new book samples:
My autumn issue of Poetry London also came a few months ago. When I reflect back on this subscription I want to say I haven't enjoyed it. It's a bit dry and the magazine itself is unwieldy and downright ugly. But I have to admit some of their poets and reviews have stuck with me over the last few years. I still don’t like the layout, material or covers of this magazine, with such big photos you can see the pores on the chins of poets. It’s just distracting. Where's some tabloid airbrushing when you need it?
CK Williams has a great poem in this issue about climate change called “The Sun, The Saint, The Sot,” taking on an impossible topic and making it poetic. CD Wrights is included in the issue too. I always get those two confused. I liked her “Obscurity and Winter Sun” poem which is sort of about writing.
There are always a large amount of experimental, language-y poems in the magazine and whenever I read these pieces I think of the neurosis of the Internet age and how the world is full of too much information. I wonder if these poems are depictions of our minds spiraling out.
The issue provided me with a nice list of "new" poets to look up:
Over on my sister-site Cher Scholar, I've just published a recent interview with the author of a new novel, Sister Golden Hair, about a pre-teen girl named Jesse growing up in the early-to-mid 1970s. I talk to author Darcey Steinke, the daughter of a minister and a beauty queen, about how a celebrity-obsession with Cher works in the narrative and what Cher's "text" means vis-à-vis our struggles with ideals of beauty, role models and holiness. We also talk about the construction of her novel and depicting the trials of a teenager navigating issues of identity.
Last spring I listed The Anthology of Really Important Modern Poetry by Kathryn & Ross Petras on my list of books to check out in the celebrity poetry genre. I was hoping this book was an anthology of poems written by celebrities, poems collected which had never appeared in full-length collections.
It was billed as having "Timeless 'Poems' by Snooki, John Boehner, Kanye West and Other Well-Versed Celebrities." However, this book does not include any poetry written by celebrities. Instead, the authors have culled bad, embarrassing quotes from press interviews and twitter feeds and turned them into faux poems with snarky line breaks. The authors skewer not only celebrities, but political figures and they slay democrats and republicans alike.
On the one hand, I did enjoy the ridiculousness of the quotes and the author’s ruthless mockery of them. But on the other hand, I am nagged by the worry that making fun of ridiculous things celebrities say only encourages more celebrities (and all of us really) to make really idiotic comments in order to score some attention. After all, any spotlight is a good spotlight in modern America.
Highlighting the really ignorant comments of celebrities and politicians does not discourage the behavior, it simply lowers the bar.
I've recently come across this new poetry website: http://poetry.newgreyhair.com/ which promises "Punch in the Face Poetry."
I'm way behind on my trial subscription of Poets & Writers but the July/August 2014 issue (find it at your library) is all about finagling a literary agent (for you novelists) and the magazine continues to occasionally deconstruct and analyze good pitch letters.
There's also a good column inside on writing groups for military veterans and one on the life of teaching poetry in prisons. If you're like me you've probably already read quite a few of these testimonials but this one, by Wendy Bron-Baez, was particularly good.
And I want to give kudos to one in the mass of MFA advertisements inside the same issue. Pine Manor College uses images of the published books of its graduates to say all that needs to be said. Very impressive on many levels.
Poets with Sexy Hair