“I don’t feel any compulsion just to stand under the spotlight night after night unless I have something to say," --Leonard Cohen, December 1974
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 went to Bob Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition". From the New York Times:
Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the 18-member Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, called Mr. Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition” and compared him to Homer and Sappho, whose work was delivered orally. Asked if the decision to award the prize to a musician signaled a broadening in the definition of literature, Ms. Danius jokingly responded, “The times they are a changing, perhaps,” referencing one of Mr. Dylan’s songs.
The standard format for a New York Times lead obit headline goes NAME, AGE, Dies; STATEMENT OF ACCOMPLISHMENT (e.g. "Suzanne Mitchell, 73, Dies; Made Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders a Global Brand. Read the rest
stood a space houseRead the rest
is this thing on
In the space stood a house, tardigrade looked through the window, saw a capybara disapproving past and he knocked upon the door "tardigrade, tardigrade let me in," "I would like to have a drink" "capybara, capybara come inside," "and let's have a cup of Sutter Home"
Ursula Vernon's amazing, wry poem, "This Vote Is Legally Binding," is a double-barreled, remorselessly funny blast at the mansplainers, man-babies, and political correctness whiners of the world, written "In response to all those articles about talking to women with headphones." Read the rest
NPR has a quiz that invites you to guess which of six poems were written by a computer program, and which were written by humans. A group of 10 judges weren't fooled, but I had trouble correctly guessing all of them. I appreciated the computer-generated poems as much as the human-written ones.
Read the rest
The dirty rusty wooden dresser drawer. A couple million people wearing drawers, Or looking through a lonely oven door, Flowers covered under marble floors.
And lying sleeping on an open bed. And I remember having started tripping, Or any angel hanging overhead, Without another cup of coffee dripping.
Surrounded by a pretty little sergeant, Another morning at an early crawl. And from the other side of my apartment, An empty room behind the inner wall.
A thousand pictures on the kitchen floor, Talked about a hundred years or more.
Enormous Smallness: The Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess Enchanted Lion Books 2015, 64 pages, 8.4 x 11.5 x 0.7 inches $12 Buy a copy on Amazon
Enormous Smallness, written by Matthew Burgess and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, details the life of poet E.E. Cummings for fans of all ages. From Cummings’s fairly ordinary childhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to his adventures in Europe and New York City, the book spans the decades of writing, working, and experiencing the world that made Cummings an extraordinary artist.
The story that emerges is one of a boy who loved observing the world as much as he did participating in it — a boy who said “yes” to everything. As Burgess writes, “Yes to the heart and the roundness of the moon, to birds, elephants, trees, and everything he loved.” But the story doesn’t shy away from the good or the bad, including both the praise and support young Cummings got from his parents and teachers, as well as the negative criticism his first book of poems received.
The message to kids is twofold and clear: one, making art is hard work that requires the same dedication and persistence that any other job does for success. And two, so long as you put in the work, you can be a poet or an artist, too. It’s not a message kids hear often but it’s important. As Cummings said in his Harvard graduation speech, we need artists to challenge the way we see and think. Read the rest
When German chancellor Angela Merkel allowed the prosecution of a comedian who had insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, some thought it was strategic: that by doing so, it exposed the country's ancient ban on insulting heads of state to broad legal scrutiny.
A court in Hamburg, however, has now banned most of the insulting poem from being read in public there, further rattling those worried about free speech in Germany.
In Tuesday's ruling the court found that "Erdogan does not have to put up with the expression of certain passages in view of their outrageous content attacking (his) honour."
The court found that such material overstepped the boundaries of decency in attacking the Turkish leader.
[Comedian Jan] Boehmermann has indicated his poem was a response to Ankara's decision to summon Germany's ambassador to protest a satirical song broadcast on German TV which lampooned Erdogan in far tamer language.
This line, from the court, really sums up the problem: "Through the poem’s reference to racist prejudice and religious slander as well as sexual habits, the verses in question go beyond what the petitioner [Erdogan] can be expected to tolerate.”
"Germany's Ai Weiei," Boehmermann's clever self-appellation, has a good ring to it, but is surely inaccurate. How often does China interpret its laws for the tolerance of a foreign head of state? Read the rest
Tristan Miller and Dave Morice created a website that produces highly-authentic Shakespearean sonnets. The trick: rather than randomly-generated Markov gobbledygook that evokes the flavor while crudely hitting the meter, each generated sonnet reuses whole lines from the body of Shakespeare's poetic work. The results are more convincing, at the cost of more commonplace repetition.
Writes Miller: "unlike some other poetry generators, this one ensures that the poems have the correct rhythm, rhyme scheme, and grammar. Dave first published the method for generating the poems back in 1991, but this is the first time it's been implemented on the Web." Read the rest
The title grabbed me in such a way, I had to buy Morgan Parker's Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night without reading a single line. I tore through about half the poems, before realizing I was exhausted and emotionally drained.
Parker is an accomplished poet, publisher and creative writing instructor. She builds vivid pictures, and transmits such strong feelings, in so few words, I am thrilled! Parker shares a vivid portrait of life in America, pulling no punches and guided by an unerring moral compass. This collection of poems observes life, from how we use social media to outright discrimination, with an immediacy and power I've rarely found in modern American poetry.
Here one of my favorites (via Pank Magazine):
If My Housemate Fucks With Me I Would Get So Real (Audition Tape Take 1)Read the rest
I didn’t come here to make friends. Buildings spit their stomachs at me and I spit back, down the sidewalk into a bitch’s hair. I am a forehead careening in clouds, a dirty tree branch brushing against the shingles of the production room. I am groundbreaking: two as one. Brooding tattooed over my art. Otherwise, black. Can do angry, can’t do accents. I need little coaching, provocation. Opinionated and Everything a man wants. Lips and boobs camera-ready. If I hear you’re talking shit about me in your confessional interview, please know seven birds have fallen dead at my feet right out of the sky. I learned this right hook here when I was only six.
On December 30th, someone using an IP address from the 32nd Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg sent a probe out to every IPv4 address with an open connection on Port 80, consisting of a poem exhorting the reader to "DELETE your logs. Delete your installations. Wipe everything clean, Walk out into the path of cherry blossom trees and let your motherboard feel the stones." Read the rest