Tag Archives: poetry


“There’s little in taking or giving, There’s little in water or wine; This living, this living, this living Was never a project of mine.” ~”Coda,” by Dorothy Parker Read the full poem (12 lines total). These lines popped into my … Continue reading

Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon

Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon (Harper Perennial, April 13, 2010), 208 pages

Austin Kleon picked up a marker and the New York Times and started creating poetry.

This is a really cool idea (although not unique to Kleon, as he points out in the book’s introduction). I love that he’s creating by subtracting (or destroying, as he said it), deconstructing another written work.

Some of the pieces seem totally meaningless to me, but others have real depth. I was drawn to this book because of the newspaper aspect, I think. I’m not a huge poetry aficionado.

The wrong punctuation in some of the poems really distracted me — why didn’t he black out that errant comma or hyphen? Such choices just made the piece(s) confusing and didn’t add anything.

The first section was my least favorite; I’m not sure if I just didn’t connect with the content or what. I call it a “section,” because, although the book isn’t divided into sections, it does seem to follow a sort of narrative. At first it felt that the poems were just presented in no particular order, but gradually a thread appeared. This may be one of my favorite aspects of the book.

I wanted some of the poems to be longer, to jump from one page to the next.

Some pieces I particularly liked:
• “On a Sunday,” page 67
• “In Cleveland, on My Deathbed,” page 71
• “The Pursuit of Landscaping,” page 83

• “His Wife Appears,” page 137

The book also includes a tutorial on creating your own blackout poems.

In some ways, I might prefer a daily or weekly dose of such poems (such as, via Kleon’s blog) to the book (that I read straight through, pretty quickly), but really, a daily dose and the book are two separate animals.

About the author
Austin Kleon is, in his own words, “a writer, cartoonist, designer, and visual thinker obsessed with the art of communicating with pictures and words, together.” He’s @austinkleon on Twitter.

Other reviews
She Is Too Fond of Books
Classic Vasilly: 1330V

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher.

Nebraska poet on parade

As April is National Poetry Month, I’ve been seeing more than my usual share of poetry posts around the blogosphere. I’ve been especially tickled when I find one featuring the work of a Nebraska poet, in this case Ted Kooser.

Carrie at Books and Movies posted several Kooser poems, all taken from his Delights and Shadows:

And Beth Kephart wrote about meeting Kooser.

(Screenshot capture of video still on Kooser's website.)

Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. He won a Pulitzer for Delights and Shadows. He is a Presidential Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the author of twelve full-length collections of poetry. Born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939, Kooser earned a bachelor’s at Iowa State University in 1962 and an master’s at the University of Nebraska in 1968. He lives on an acreage near the town of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife, Kathleen Rutledge, and their dogs, Alice and Howard.

This post is part of my Literary Road Trip through Nebraska.

Poetry and knitting

I’ve read a couple great posts recently at the Image blog about the intersection of poetry and knitting.

Late last month Peggy Rosenthal wrote about a way to enhance enjoyment and understanding of poetry by reading a line, knitting a row, reading the next line, knitting the next row, and so on.

I haven’t tried the reading idea out for myself yet, but I fully intend to do so. I haven’t figured out a good way to keep a book open while knitting, but at least with this technique I wouldn’t be needing to turn the pages frequently. And I do need a more constant reminder to slow down when I do read poetry, rather than rushing through and gleaning little.

Then, yesterday, Rosenthal posted again, musing about knitting imagery in poetry.

Rosenthal lists several examples of knitting being used in poetry, but she’s on the lookout for more instances (as am I, now). Do you have any to add?

Booking Through Symbolism

btt2Today’s Booking Through Thursday question was suggested by Barbara H:

My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.

It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?

I actually think symbolism is still in use in today’s literature, at least to some extent — if nothing else, what about poetry? I’m recalling Field of Blood by Eric Wilson, for one — it’s full of symbolism.

Perhaps instead, the modern reader is at fault. I’m recalling a comment I saw on Twitter yesterday. Someone, I think it was Vasilly, said it sometimes takes more than once through a book to be able to review it well. Perhaps, in our modern hurry, we simply don’t notice symbolism.

I actually liked most of my literature class discussions about symbolism. I think they helped me read with more comprehension. (Classes about Shakespeare, The Scarlet Letter, some Irish lit …)

One classroom discussion where I do remember feeling like symbolism was being shoved down my throat was about Emily Dickinson. Sure, whatever poem we were discussing had some symbolism. I just didn’t see the whole long list of things the teacher thought we should. I’m sad to say, I place my dislike of Dickinson squarely at the feet of that class. For a time, it led me away from all poetry.

Do you find symbolism in modern fiction?

Short list for best translated book announced

Via Shelf Awareness, January 28:

Finalists for the 2008 Best Translated Book of the Year award in fiction and poetry were named this week. Ten works in each category made the shortlist, which was posted on Three Percent, a website devoted to drawing attention to translated works of literature published in the U.S. Winners and runners-up will be announced February 19.

Tranquility by Attila Bartis, translated from the Hungarian by Imre Goldstein
2666 by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews
Voice Over by Céline Curiol, translated from the French by Sam Richard
The Darkroom of Damocles by Willem Frederik Hermans, translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke
Yalo by Elias Khoury, translated from the Arabic by Peter Theroux
Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver
Unforgiving Years by Victor Serge, translated from the French by Richard Greeman
Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra, translated from the Spanish by Carolina De Robertis
The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig, translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg

Essential Poems and Writings by Robert Desnos, translated from the French by Mary Ann Caws, Terry Hale, Bill Zavatsky, Martin Sorrell, Jonathan Eburne, Katherine Connelly, Patricia Terry, and Paul Auster
You Are the Business by Caroline Dubois, translated from the French by Cole Swensen
As It Turned Out by Dmitry Golynko, translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky, Rebecca Bella, and Simona Schneider
For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut by Takashi Hiraide, translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu
Poems of A.O. Barnabooth by Valery Larbaud, translated from the French by Ron Padgett and Bill Zavatsky
Night Wraps the Sky by Vladimir Mayakovsky, translated from the Russian by Katya Apekina, Val Vinokur, and Matvei Yankelevich, and edited by Michael Almereyda
A Different Practice by Fredrik Nyberg, translated from the Swedish by Jennifer Hayashida
EyeSeas by Raymond Queneau, translated from the French by Daniela Hurezanu and Stephen Kessler
Peregrinary by Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
Eternal Enemies by Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

What have you read from the list?

As we’ve been without power, my reading has ebbed and flowed. I read quite a bit on Tuesday; Wednesday I read very little as we trekked from place to place; today, so far, is matching Wednesday.

Alexander named poet for inauguration

Elizabeth Alexander, 45, has been chosen to compose and present a poem during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. She’s the author of four books of poetry, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, and a professor at Yale University.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Obama’s appreciation for the written word (both as a reader, and, of course, as a writer). This one speaks louder, however, as evidence of an appreciation of the arts.

This is the fourth inauguration in which poetry will have a home, after those of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Robert Frost read during Kennedy’s swearing-in, Maya Angelou composed for Clinton’s first term, and Arkansan Miller Fisher had a hand in kicking off Clinton’s second term.

My husband looked for policy statements on the arts from all the presidential candidates last year, and Obama was part of the large majority that lacked any kind of statement about the importance of the arts. Perhaps he’s started to think of creativity and the arts now?

Note: This Washington Post article makes it seem that poetry is a standard part of the inauguration throughout history, but that’s not true. The article makes a big deal of Bush not using poetry during his swearing-ins.

You can read a selection of Alexander’s poetry at her website, or listen to audio.

Fitting poetry into life

Do you read poetry? Regularly? If yes, what’s your practice? Where does it fit in your day?

I’ve got a few books of poetry I want to read, but I’m not in a poetry habit. I don’t want to just read straight through — I don’t feel that I’d get a good feel for the works.

I tried keeping a book at the dining room table, so that at lunch, I could read one or two each day. But it hasn’t worked. The table gets completely cleared when we have company (so the book isn’t at hand), and sometimes my lunchtime reading is preoccupied by the recent magazine. Perhaps with more diligence this could work, but I’m still dissatisfied: Even if I read one poem each day, it will take what feels like forever to get through this. The table of contents of the book I’m currently attempting is seven pages long. That’s a lot of poems. And the next book? At least twice as long. And when I read a poem, I’m drawn in. I read the next, and the next, and … before I know it, they’ve all run together and I don’t know what I’ve read.

Tell me about your poetry reading. What do you read? How much, how often? What drives you to poetry? I hope to draw inspiration from your stories.