The poet Rosemary Tonks turned her back on the literary world in the mid-1970s, leaving behind her a handful of strange and brilliant poems and a small band of devoted admirers who longed to know what had happened to her. For forty years she disappeared completely, 'evaporated into air like the Cheshire Cat', as Brian Patten remarked in a 2009 BBC documentary, The Poet Who Vanished. Now, with news of her death at the age of 85, the story of her life is starting to emerge.
So it's Kentucky Derby time, once again. But I don't care much for horse racing. So I could say it's really just an excuse to post this wonderful video of Chris McMillian on how to properly craft a Mint Julep. But that would be a lie. I don't care much for Mint Juleps either. They're really just an excuse to post this heart-breakingly beautiful poem about Mint Juleps: [more inside]
Songwriter, singer, poet, memoirist, artist, icon Patti Smith performs in WNYC's The Greene Space. In a program of songs and poetry coordinated by her daughter Jesse Paris Smith, Patti Smith performs with Tree Laboratory (Jesse Paris Smith and Eric Hoegemeyer) and her long-time collaborator guitarist Lenny Kaye. They titled the event "Mixing Memory and Desire: An Evening of Music, Poetry, Sound, and Remembrance," celebrating the "chaos and transformation of spring." [~1h30m, scroll down for video] [more inside]
Melissa May-Dunn is a performance poet who dropped out of divinity school. A successful gofundme campaign sent her to this year's Women of the World Poetry Slam, where she placed seventh out of 72 with a tribute to a Disney villain, Dear Ursula. [more inside]
"Dear Mr Gove" - a poem by Jess Green.
Poetry Everywhere, produced by WGBH, in cooperation with the Poetry Foundation, presents videos of poetry being read, often by the author. And, if you want to introduce a child to poetry, don't miss the animated films made by students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (there even seems to be one written and animated especially for MetaFilter, Spacebar)
W.H. Auden had a secret life that his closest friends knew little or nothing about. Everything about it was generous and honorable. He kept it secret because he would have been ashamed to have been praised for it. [more inside]
Maggie Estep, the writer-poet-performance artist and all-around cool person who came to some fame while living in the East Village in the early 1990s, has died. After suffering a massive heart attack on Monday, Estep died at age 50. Before publishing her first novel, Maggie worked as a horse groom, a go-go dancer, a dishwasher, a nurse’s aide, and a box factory worker. She initially received national attention in the 1990s, when MTV covered the spoken-word movement on an all-poetry episode of "Unplugged." [more inside]
Not got a way with words? PayPal has made available a number of working poets to write custom poems for your love, just in time for Valentine's Day. [more inside]
Although she is a literary legend, only one complete poem of Sappho's survives, along with substantial fragments of four others (the last discovered in 2004). Now two new fragments have been discovered. [more inside]
Writer Teju Cole, perhaps inspired by Agha Shahid Ali, has continued his Twitter experimentation by using out of context retweets to create Ghazals. [more inside]
Hart Crane was a poet, one who was known by and friends with other notable poets. The poet e. e. cummings claimed that "Crane’s mind was no bigger than a pin, but it didn’t matter; he was a born poet" (Google books preview). Tennessee Williams said he could "hardly understand a single line" but insisted he wanted to be buried at sea at the "point most nearly determined as the point at which Hart Crane gave himself back." Crane had his critics — Marianne Moore and Ezra Pound come to mind, and William Carlos Williams wrote "There is good there but it’s not for me" — but Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg used to read "The Bridge" together, John Berryman wrote one of his famous elegies on Crane and heavyweight Robert Lowell included his “Words for Hart Crane” in "Life Studies." Science/Fiction author, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon) also wrote that "nobody seems to have noticed that Hart Crane really was the first space poet," quoting lines from his epic The Bridge in the story Mother in the Sky with Diamonds. Those are all words by other people, why not read a few from Crane? [more inside]
Ever been to Johnsburg, Illinois? Have you received a Christmas card from a hooker in Minneapolis? Maybe you left Waukegan at the slamming of the door? Or perhaps you were simply full of wonder when you left Murfreesboro. If so, the Tom Waits map is for you.
Though best known to fans of Joe Frank, This American Life, and Hearing Voices for the irreverent spirit medium recordings he made as an telephone psychic in the 1990s, the Baltimore poet, composer, and artist David Franks spent decades creating his own work. Several recordings are now available at the internet archive. (previously) [more inside]
Foundational Beat Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti comes to UC Berkeley's Lunch Poems in 2007 and spends ~50 minutes flipping through a book of his collected works and reading poems old and new. [more inside]
Nearly 200 years after "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was written, the authorship is still in dispute. In the years since, there have been quite a few parodies and variants of the poem written, recorded and performed, including at least two different versions of a Cajun Night Before Christmas (a recording of the version by Te-Jules, and Trosclair's version[Google books preview], read by Larry Ray, recorded from WLOX). Snopes tracked down the history of The Soldier's Night Before Christmas, Fifties Web collected 21 tame versions (with auto-playing music), and Dirty Xmas has a number of "adult" versions. Yuks 'R' Us has a large collection, including some dated computer-related stories. Speaking of dated, you can view a vintage '98 "enhanced" version of the original poem plus more variations from Purple Lion (a member of the Merry Christmas Webring from 1998). But for the ultimate collection of variants and parodies, you might recall this thread from 2002. The link is dead, but Archive.org caught the site around that time, with 581 versions. That was over a decade ago, and now Alechemist Matt is up to 849 versions, parodies and variants of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
The Yule Cat, called Jólakötturinn or Jólaköttur in its native Iceland, is something in the lines of a holiday threat. Those who don't work hard and make, earn, or receive new clothes before Yule will be devoured by Jólakötturinn, as told in the poem by Jóhannes Bjarni Jónasson (original poem with some illustrations). Myths say that Jólakötturinn belongs to the ogress Grýla, mother of the 13 "Yule Lad" trolls. [more inside]
In the late 60s, Lutheran clergyman John Rydgren hosted the weekly radio Silhouette, broadcast across the US and in Vietnam, and squarely aimed at the flower power generation. Silhouette Segments (1968) was a double-album which compiled short excerpts from the show. I've compiled as many of the tracks as I can find (see below). But perhaps it makes sense to begin with the Hippie Version of Creation: "The Cat flipped a switch, blinked those big, eternal eyes, and he dug the switch action. 'Yeah... I'll take it.' " [more inside]
"Oh, show us the way, to the next whiskey-bar. Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why." And so opens the Alabama Song (Google books preview) by Bertholt Brecht and Brecht's close collaborator, Elisabeth Hauptmann (Gbp), first published in 1927. Brecht set it to music and performed it on stages all over Berlin, but the better known version was scored by classical composer Kurt Weill, who was impressed with Brecht’s poetry and wanted to break away from the constraints of his previous work. It was this version, first performed by Lotte Lenya, that was made famous by The Doors and their use of a Marxophone (Wikipedia). [more inside]
Courtesy of the Archives of American Art, Robert Duncan and Jess Collins's collaborative art book Scrapbook for Patricia Jordan, 1959. Sketches, poems, doodles, collages, and joyous miscellany. [via]
“The way the poem sits on the page does not necessarily tell you anything about how to read it.” Explains Hugh Kenner of radical modernist poet and New Jersey general practitioner Williams Carlos Williams. The series features archival footage, animation, and interviews with critics, poets and and neighbors, among them Helen Vendler, Marjorie Porloff, James Merrill, and Anthony Hecht. Also, Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman. Produced by the New York Center for Visual History, 1988. Previously [more inside]
Women from the DC Youth Poetry Slam Team have a thing or two to say about women's costumes and the choice to be a sexy nurse or a mother-fucking monster. (transcript)
Joyce Carol Oates's new story about an imagined interview with Robert Frost has been called outrageous, even an attack on the poet. [note: story link opens a print dialog]
College student Lily Myers performs her poem, Shrinking Women, at a poetry slam.
Poetry International Rotterdam has contemporary poetry in English translation from all over the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, including countries as different as Argentina, China, Finland, Iran and Romania, in languages as unrelated as French, Malayalam and Zulu, as well as many poems originally in the English language. The poets range in age and stature from those barely over thirty to Nobel prize winners. There are also videos and audio recordings of poets reading, as well as articles about poetry.
The poet Cassandra Gillig mashes up recordings of poets reading their work with the instrumental tracks from contemporary pop songs. She doesn't do this to be "even remotely irreverent," but rather because she believes "pop music has a way of capturing our emotions in their most palatable form & placing pop songs behind poems can guide us incorrectly or correctly but I’m hoping I’m going in a correct direction." Listen: Dylan Thomas with Miley Cyrus, Sylvia Plath with Rihanna and Eminem, Alice Notley with Justin Timberlake, Frank O'Hara with Drake, Hannah Weiner with Beyonce, William Carlos Williams with Wale, Dana Ward with Katy Perry, Dorothea Lasky with Raekwon, Ted Berrigan with Kendrick Lamar, and Richard Brautigan with Mariah Carey.
One hundred years ago today, W.B. Yeats published one of his best known poems, September 1913, as a letter to the Irish Times. [more inside]
Always totalize! This is the majuscule axiom — the maxiom, let us say — for revolution. Revolution is a total thought, a thought of the totality; they are necessarily entangled. Reform, repair, regime change, recuperation: all of these are the politics of the partial, of isolating specific problems as if they admitted of independent solution. Ezra Pound said that the epic is a poem that contains history. What matter that we might amend the last word, a minor amendment at that, a swapping out of inseparable concepts? The epic is the poem that contains totality. [more inside]
The poet Seamus Heaney has died aged 74. "There's a summons in those first words; they're like a tuning fork": a long interview from 1997. Metafilter's 70th birthday celebration. Some poems. [more inside]
I am chasing you like a drone
You have become al Qaida;
there’s no trace of you
The poetry of Afghan trucks.
You have become al Qaida;
there’s no trace of you
The poetry of Afghan trucks.
Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia," Twenty Years Later. Novelist Brad Leithauser muses on "the finest play written in my lifetime": One sign of "Arcadia"'s greatness is how assuredly it blends its disparate chemicals, creating a compound of most peculiar properties. The play’s ingredients include sexual jealousy and poetasters and the gothic school of landscape gardening and duelling and chaos theory and botany and the perennial war between Classical and Romantic aesthetics and the maturing of mathematical prodigies. [more inside]
House of Leaves of Grass: Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves (previously) remixed with Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass into a 100-trillion-stanza poem. Artist's statement. Instructions for reading.
A wonderful, generous and free selection of authors, collections and books online at Lit2Go for awake times or drowsy ones. The Count of Monte Cristo from the Adventure collection | or perhaps a Just So Story from the Fantasy collection | Beowolf from the Here Be Dragons! collection | Aladdin from Andrew Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors or The Heart of Happy Hollow from the African American collection. Also practical for children. Previously. [more inside]
Poet Kenneth Goldsmith writes in praise of dumb art.
Jost Amman (1539 – 1591) was a Swiss artist, best known for his woodcut illustrations. He was a prolific artist, with some 1,500 prints attributed to him, in the era when engravings were replacing woodcuttings. Amman also made stained glass (Google books preview) and jewelry, but there are more examples of his woodcut illustrations, as found on the colored cover of this bible from 1564, and the black and white images of biblical scenes. Amman's most widely know work is "the book of trades," Eygentliche Beschreibung Aller Stände auff Erden (Google books; PDFs of sections of the book). Ptak Science Books has 25 images with (most) job titles in English, and here is a full index of English titles, linking back to Wikimedia Commons. But that's only half of the book. The other part is the descriptions of the jobs, which are short poems by Hans Sachs, some of which are translated on the Victoria and Albert Museum.
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
Hollie McNish, Poet Shamed By Breastfeeding In Public, Has The Last Word on breastfeeding in public. [Warning! very uh... colourful language]
Black Soviet Icon's Lonely American Sojourn: For decades Jim Patterson was arguably the most famous black man in the Soviet Union, a debonair homegrown poet whose childhood role in an iconic film cemented his celebrity and who later roamed the vast country reading his work to adoring audiences. These days Patterson, whose African-American father emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1932, is convalescing in a threadbare subsidized apartment in downtown Washington, where he has led a reclusive life plagued by illness and depression since his Russian mother died more than a decade ago.
Amaranth Borsuk, Jesper Juul, and Nick Montfort present The Deletionist, a bookmarklet for automatically producing an erasure poem from any Web page
"Look around—there's only one thing of danger for you here—poetry." The Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda, died 40 years ago of prostate cancer/heart disease, coincidently just 12 days after the military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet (Neruda did not support Pinochet). A few months ago, a Chilean judge ordered his body exhumed, and two days ago [more inside]