It's Poe's birthday, so here's Neil Gaiman reading The Raven

Neil Gaiman says Edgar Allan Poe should be read aloud, and he's right: he recorded this video of him reading "The Raven" in 2016 as part of Pat Rothfuss's Worldbuilders charity drive. It's Poe's birthday today, and I can think of no better way to celebrate it than to listen to it again. Read the rest

How would Emily Dickinson fare with online dating?

After swapping online dating disasters with friends for hours, writer and poet Erin Bealmear decided she didn't want to be the kind of woman who spends all her time "talking about boys."

She joked with these friends that she was going to create an OkCupid profile for Emily Dickinson, to see how she'd "fare in the world of online dating." She pondered, “Would a lovelorn poet, obsessed with death and privacy, be able to woo a modern man?”

Then Bealmear took it one step further and started humorously answering the dating site's questions, imagining how Dickinson herself would answer them. For an extra layer of authenticity, she included specific details from the 19th-century American poet's life:

What I’m doing with my life

Being a hermit. Overusing the dash.

I’m really good at

Breaking rules, specifically capitalization and punctuation.

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food

Movies: What is a movie?

Books: Wordsworth, Browning, Keats, Emerson, Shakespeare (i.e. dead people)

Music: Yes, I do enjoy playing the piano on occasion. Thank you for asking.

Food: Baked goods, especially my famous gingerbread. I love making it for the neighborhood children, but I can’t leave the house. Instead, I stand at the window and lower it down to them in a basket. It’s so much easier that way.

Then, she decided to publish it. Once she did, "Emily's" inbox started filling with messages. Some men were amused, others were not. Many were just confused. Some curious responses came from men that Bealmear calls, "'Hi' guys."

Every woman who has participated in online dating knows them.
Read the rest

Hawk Moon: Sam Shepard’s Forgotten First Book

In the flurry of obituaries for Sam Shepard, who died last Thursday, at 73, from complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease, the playwright and actor appears in close up, as an uncompromisingly honest anatomist of family traumas, and in long shot, as the last mythologist of the American West. He grew up “all over the Southwest, really -- Cucamonga, Duarte, California, Texas, New Mexico,” yanked from place to place by his Air Force-pilot dad’s postings, but when he moved to New York in ’62, he seemed oddly at home in the bohemia of the Lower East Side, plunging into the experimental theater scene orbiting around La MaMa. His Gary Cooper features, laconic way with words, and cowboy cool seemed right, somehow, for the post-beat, proto-punk underground that produced Andy Warhol’s 1968 movie, Lonesome Cowboys, and Velvet Underground songs like “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” (1970), both ironic, deadpan jabs at the moribund myth of the American Frontier (at the very moment that John Wayne was performing CPR on it in True Grit). In his early play, Cowboy Mouth (1971), binge-written in the Chelsea Hotel with his then-lover, Patti Smith, Shepard reimagines the high-plains drifter of John Ford legend as a wannabe Keith Richards, “a street angel…with a cowboy mouth.”

Coming of age at a moment when the rock guitarslinger was coolness itself, both Shepard and Smith, like many Boomer writers, sublimated their dreams of rock stardom into bravura improvisations on the typewriter. “First off let me tell you that I don’t want to be a playwright,” wrote Shepard, in 1971. Read the rest

Delightful Fibonacci sequence poem

Poet Brian Bilston wrote this delightful poem above describing, and embodying, the Fibonacci sequence in which each every number after the first two in a series is the sum of the preceding two numbers. (via @pickover) Read the rest

Gorgeous "Monster Zen" book of Japanese-styled monsters with haiku

Chet Phillips's Monster Zen is a book of 16 beautiful, "Japanese-styled" drawings of monsters, accompanied by haikus by the artist -- you can get the book for $24 or get individual prints. Read the rest

Stanford Libraries post digital archive of drafts of Allen Ginsberg's HOWL

Ginsberg's HOWL isn't merely a masterwork of poetry, nor is it merely a classic; it is also an indelible part of American free speech jurisprudence: when US Customs seized copies of the poem on their way into New York from the British printer's presses, the resulting obscenity trial made history. Read the rest

Rhymes from a high-schooler's machine learning system trained on Kanye lyrics

Robbie Barrat is president and founder of their high school computer science club; they created Rapper-Neural-Network, a free software project that uses machine learning trained on a corpus of 6,000 Kanye West lines to autogenerate new rap songs. Read the rest

Animated interview with Leonard Cohen

“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

(Blank on Blank)

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Leonard Cohen, RIP

The great songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen has died. He was 82.

"I never had the sense that there was an end," he said in 1992. "That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot."

(Rolling Stone)

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Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature

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.

"Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature" (NYT)

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Computer-mining poetry from the New York Times's obituary headlines

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

Bob Dylan is the first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for literature

The fantastically brief press release from the Nobel Prize hivemind says, simply, "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition". Read the rest

Easypoem writes excellent AI poetry for you

Easypoem asks you a few questions, then generates a charming verse for your entertainment and that of your friends. Here's the one is made for me:
stood a space house

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"

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Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" - the pop-up book edition

Pop-up book veterans David Pelham and Christopher Wormell have collaborated on a just-in-time-for-ween edition of Edgar Allen Poe's magnificent torch, 1845's The Raven.

The women held a vote, and you're not allowed to talk to anyone ever again

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

Human or machine: can you tell who wrote these poems?

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.

SONNET #2

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.

Read the rest

Enormous Smallness – Work hard and you can become a poet (not a message kids often hear)

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

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

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