The Lay of the Land: Poetry and Landscape

Shift by Slack PicsIn this city where the only elevations are office towers and freeway overpasses, and where a cement-lined ditch is called a bayou, it is easy to forget that there are places in the world full of snow-capped things and cold, clear, running things, not to mention dewy, meadowy-type things and gently rolling things.

Full of Sound and Fury: Poets as Playwrights

Photo Credit: Chimp Does Hamlet by King Chimp / Riley BobThe verse drama has gone the way of the affordable cup of coffee and unironic mustaches and I'm not sure why. It seems to me that the inherent artificiality of a stage production in this age of hyperrealistic entertainment should push playwrights to experiment with language in more interesting ways than they do. As it is, the limitations of the stage place the bulk of a production's weight on its dialogue. Why shouldn't playwrights seek a language that shoulders past the sputtering rhythms of everyday speech into the realm of the poetic?

Life as an Open Book: Memoirs by (and about) Poets

Photo Credit: Underwood by dvs/Doug ShickWriters as a species might be the most abject creatures ever to slink down a blind alley of evolution, but for that anomalous little glitch in our programming that demands that we be heard--that claims not just a voice but a voice made concrete--set in type, if not necessarily in stone.

W. S. Merwin Named U. S. Poet Laureate

Cover Art: The Rain in the TreesW. S. Merwin has been named U. S. Poet Laureate. He will replace the outgoing Kay Ryan. He is the author of thirty books of poems, and translator of many more. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in both 1971 and 2009, and the Academy of American Poets' Tanning Prize, among many other honors.

Young Americans: Sitting on their Hands on a Bus of Survivors

Photo Credit: Typewriter by HeavenlyCabins / Cheryl G Whatever doesn't kill you...makes you stranger  --The Joker in The Dark Knight

Over the last twenty years, this country has experienced a population boom of poets, thanks mainly to the Slam Movement and the proliferation of graduate creative writing programs. There are about 300 colleges and universities in the U. S. offering MFAs in creative writing. If you figure they have each cranked out two dozen shiny new poets each year over the last two decades, you have upwards of one hundred forty thousand  "professional" poets to work the counters of an awful lot of coffee houses. And that doesn't include all those folks who decided they could do without a couple years of listening to their peers congenially disembowel their poems, nor the thousands of gifted amateurs, dabblers, dilettantes, pikers, poseurs, and haiku geeks.

Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: Poetry for Children

Photo Credit: Duncecap from reproducinggenius.comI am only writing this post because a couple of weeks ago I more or less prostrated myself soliciting topic suggestions, so I feel obligated...obligated and bitter.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I do not condone inflicting poetry upon innocent and impressionable minds. Read your kids books on Java Script, or marketing, or advanced particle physics, anything but poetry. It will only lead them to lives of frustration and heartache--not to mention insanely expensive and useless liberal arts degrees.

Poetry in Motion

Cover Art: Casey at the Bat by E. L. Thayer: Illus. by C. F. Payne

Like most of the planet beyond our borders, I've been watching a good deal of the World Cup. Despite the hornet's nest drone of the ubiquitous vuvuzelas and the fact that soccer players tend to react like they've been trepanned with a soup spoon whenever an opposing player so much as gives them a hard stare, I've been enjoying it.

The Lives of the Poets

Photo Credit: Vintage Typewriter [And they lived happily ever after...] by Theresa ThompsonI always feel a bit queasy when reading biographies and it's not just the voyeur's remorse. Maybe it's because biographies invariably remind me that my heroes could be petty and neurotic and boring and prone to eating tuna straight out of the can standing over the kitchen sink. Or maybe it's because I can't help thinking that all this sturm und drang, this tangled string of decisions and indecisions, this strange and messy stuff that is human existence cannot be (or at least should not be) cranked out at forty-five words a minute then bound and gagged between hardcovers. Real lives generally don't have narrative arcs.

The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poets

Language Interchange 8 by J. E. TheriotI've been wrestling with the Language Poets for several years now. It's a pretty masochistic pursuit, but I believe if one is going to write poetry in the 21st century (speaking of masochistic pursuits) one must come to grips with them one way or another. For good and ill, they bent the perameters of the art in such a fundamental way that even vehemently non-experimental poets must take their ideas into account. 

A Defense of the Poetry of Jewel (Kind of)

Cover Art: A Night without Armor: Poems by JewelOkay. Okay. Okay. Please stop yelling. I can explain.
Yes, I realize there is a link to Jewel's book of "poems" down there. No, I haven't read the book. No, I do not intend to read it. Yes, my reasons for not reading it are snobbish and do not reflect well on me as a person. No, I don't really care. 

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