got nothing to do with poetry.
is how the air goes green before thunder,
the sound you make when you come, and
you live and how you bleed, and
sound you make or you don't make when you die.
"You Can Study It If You Want")
this exposition has nothing to do with the study of poetry, nor is it a
how-to-write-poetry manual. It is about knowing (in a deep down remembering
way) that words speak images and images speak words... it's about casting
aside controlled, censored, logical thought and looking at the world in
an unexpected way. Askew. It is about what is out there in the large dark
and the long light. Breathing.
So how do
you unleash your poet's heart?
start with the basic foundation of poetry... words.
Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg writes: "The aim is to burn through
to first thoughts... to the place where you are writing what your mind
actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see and feel. It's
a great opportunity to capture the oddities of your mind. Explore the rugged
edge of thought."
First Thoughts are present not just in the written word but also in song
and film. I believe that these fresh, First Thoughts create connections
on a visceral level. Whether it's the visual whimsy of the film Amélie
or the musical musings of Heather Nova on Oyster: "I
want two stars for arms like Orion I could / breathe in breathe in and
breathe out" (Truth and Bone).
course, that's just a starting point... there are many other songwriters
out there who tap into this creative process. Next time you listen to a
song you like, listen closely to the words not just the music. You may
find a phrase that makes no sense yet captures your imagination. You've
probably discovered a First Thought, the life blood of poetry.
also important to see the beauty of the words themselves. To that end,
I suggest reading The Miracle of Language
by Richard Lederer. "Know that our tongue is rich in crisp, brisk, swift,
short words. Make them the spine and the heart of what you speak and write."
also like to recommend an eclectic assortment of poets. I suggest them
not to study but to experience.
you, beloved, my love,
you have died,
the leaves will fall upon my breast,
will rain upon my soul night and day,
snow will burn my heart,
shall walk with cold and fire and death and snow,
feet will want to march toward where you sleep,
I shall go on living.
"La Muerta [The Dead Woman]", The Captain's Verses)
I, once again whirling among
painted horses, gladly exchange,
one reminder of life,
"Memento", The Face Behind the Face)
if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
and even if one of them suddenly
me against his heart, I would perish
the embrace of his stronger existence.
beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
we are barely able to endure and are awed
it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
single angel is terrifying.
"The First Elegy", Selected Poems)
should have loved a thunderbird instead;
least when spring comes they roar back again.
shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
think I made you up inside my head.)"
"Mad Girl's Love Song", Collected Poems)
keep such music in my brain,
din this side of death can quell.
exalting over pain
beauty garlanded in hell."
"Secret Music", The War Poems)
don't forget Gwendolyn MacEwen... the poet who launched this treatise (Afterworlds).
let's talk about those images that speak words... I'll start with Chagall
(Marc Chagall: 1887-1985). A painter not a poet, it's
true. But that's merely a technicality. His paintings are stories to unleash
the imagination, not merely representations of something seen only with
the eye. And he's not the only one. I urge you to go out and discover other
painters who fuel your inner poet. (Klimt is another of my favorites, take
a look at Gustav Klimt 1862-1918: The World in Female Form.)
the same vein, I would encourage you to savor the Griffin & Sabine
books (Griffin & Sabine, Sabine's
Notebook, The Golden Mean).
Nick Bantock's visuals are poems in themselves. Then, paired with the letters
and postcards which tell the story, they become part of a rich tapestry
of the poetic experience.
about movies as visual poetry? I already mentioned Amélie.
My next choice may not be popular -- Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein directed by Kenneth Branagh.
I will not claim that it is Branagh's best work, but it belongs in this
discussion for a very good reason. With it's grand imagery and spiraling
cinematography, the movie becomes the nightmare that inspired Mary Shelley
to write her story. It is in that connection between words and images that
poetry is born. And then there are the films of Baz Luhrman. Which brings
me to my next point.
Outside the Box, Color Outside the Lines
that one of the most exciting aspects of poetry is that it doesn't need
to make sense. It's about evoking a reaction or emotion, rather than telling
a linear story. About making connections between things that most people
see as unrelated.
can happen in any medium, but tends to be most accessible in film. But
before we head in that direction, you might want to consider reading the
journals of artists or writers. Great for creative connections. One journal
that I highly recommend is A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine
L'Engle (author of the Wrinkle in Time books). And Stephen King's memoir,
Writing, is worth a read.
while we're still discussing books, don't overlook the science fiction
genre. The concepts and associations in the stories of Philip K. Dick (The
Minority Report) or books by Jack Finney (Three by Finney,
which includes the delightful Woodrow Wilson Dime) can be great
fuel for imaginative leaps.
sci-fi and fantasy fiction aside, non-linear often works best in a film
format -- with movies that shake things up, break the rules, and leave
the boundaries so far behind that they become dots on the horizon. Whether
it's messing with chronology, using unusual cinematography, or creating
a fantastic world, I love a film less ordinary.
Hundreds of books are around
that tell how to avoid bad writing. Natalie Goldberg's books tell how to
create good writing. What a pleasant surprise. Both Bones and Wild
Mind, her second book, are splendid combinations of Zen wisdom and
down-to-earth advice about writing. The secret of creativity, Natalie Goldberg
makes clear, is to subtract rules for writing, not add them. Proof that
she knows what she is talking about is abundant in the speed, grace, accuracy,
and simplicity of her own sentences. They flow with speed and grace and
accuracy and simplicity. It looks easy to a reader, but experienced writers
know it is the hardest writing of all.
Perhaps the most charming
movie of all time. The title character (the bashful and impish Audrey Tautou)
is a single waitress who decides to help other lonely people fix their
lives. Her widowed father yearns to travel but won't, so to inspire the
old man she sends his garden gnome on a tour of the world; she reverses
the doorknobs and reprograms the speed dial of a grocer who's mean to his
assistant. Gradually she realizes her own life needs fixing, and a chance
meeting leads to her most elaborate stratagem of all. This is a deeply
wonderful movie, an illuminating mix of magic and pragmatism. Fans of director
Jean-Pierre Jeunet's previous films (Delicatessen,
City of Lost Children) will not be disappointed; newcomers will be
An edgy, affecting debut
album. There's a rawness here that draws you in (which is missing on Heather's
next CD, Siren
-- still worth the price of admission but with a more produced pop sound).
Unusual and vivid metaphors abound in the lyrics of every song on Oyster.
Her words will resonate in your mind just as her angelic voice and unforgettable
music will resonate in a deep place in your soul. Recommended tracks: "Truth
and Bone" (with its lush, soaring sound and fresh, poetic lyrics), "Walk
This World" (an upbeat, radio-friendly rock song), "Island" (a powerful,
intense song about abuse), and "Maybe an Angel" (which will send shivers
down your spine). But the song I find myself listening to over and over
again is "Sugar" (a musical journey that defies description).
Following up two of her strongest
a Pretty Girl and Out
of Range, Dilate takes a different tack. It's quieter and more lush
than previous efforts but just as intensely personal, with songs like "Untouchable
Face" that are easier to identify with than many other DiFranco tunes.
At the same time, DiFranco's old fans might not recognize the sound here,
especially on tracks like the trip-hop-influenced "Amazing Grace," the
shuffling "Napoleon," or the indescribable "Shameless"... this isn't the
same thrash-folkie of old. There's a lot to like on Dilate, especially
if you're a fan of Portishead
Germano, but it takes some getting used to.
On Solitude Standing, Suzanne
Vega layers catchier melodies and arrangements onto her verbally adept,
absorbing songs, and the result is an album that is both her commercial
and artistic peak. Tracks include several truly outstanding songs like
"Luka", "In the Eye", "Language", "Solitude Standing", "Ironbound", and
"Tom's Diner." If you don't have it already, get it -- a pop-music classic
whose treasures are buried abundant and deep, Solitude Standing is an essential
piece of music history and, to this day, sounds fresh and up to date.
Trying to make a compilation
of Bob Dylan's music is equal to taking 30 of Picasso's works, and saying
"this is the artist" -- the immense creativity is too deep, the development
and changes too wide. But if you're a newcomer to the genius that is Dylan,
this album is a good introduction to one of the greatest songwriters of
all time. What if you're not a greatest hits kind of person? Then take
your pick: Highway
61 Revisited, Blonde
on Blonde and Blood
on the Tracks are all considered to be landmark albums for Dylan.
Jane Siberry creates unique,
quirky music without strict attention to commercial acceptance. Hailed
by critics in the 80's as one of the finest Canadian songwriters of the
decade, Siberry's strength lies in her intelligent lyrics. Though it's
hard to single out tracks on this album, you might want to take special
note of "Mimi on the Beach" (her first big hit) and "Map of the World Part
II" (quirky, poetic lyrics accompanied by a hooky, uplifting melody).
Combining effervescent pop
with the lyricism of a skilled storyteller, this album manages to be charming,
awkward and catchy all at the same time. Some people complain that her
lyrics are confusing or nonsensical, but if you think of her songs as poetry
set to music, you'll realize that her lyrics are insightful, imaginative
and clever. This alternative pop/rock album is definitely worth a second
listen... and a third... and a... you get the idea. (If you're trying to
place her name, you probably remember her monster hit "Stay" from the soundtrack
of the film Reality
Bites. And yes, that song is included on this album.)
Imagine what alternative
Celtic folk pop might sound like and you're on your way to imagining the
sounds of Sinead Lohan. If that description doesn't work for you, try thinking
of a slightly less electric Heather
Nova, or an edgier Sarah
McLachlan. Sinead's beautiful lilting voice combined with imaginative
lyrics and simple soaring melodies make this an unforgettable album.
In this collection of entertaining
and enlightening essays, Lederer (Anguished
English) celebrates language as "incomparably the finest of our achievements"
and passes along some eloquent testimony on the emancipating power of language
in the lives of Helen Keller, Richard Wright, Malcolm X, Anne Frank. Also
appraised are the contributions of other writers who, "sculpting significance
from the air, have changed the world by changing the word..." such as
Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson for starters. A delightful and edifying
A classic poetry book in
a masterful bilingual edition. Long before he received the 1971 Nobel Prize,
Pablo Neruda had attained worldwide recognition as one of the most important
figures in contemporary poetry. A fiery poet of leftist politics, he was
also a fiery poet of love. This translation of The Captain's Verses
is a major achievement in the genre of love poetry. Neruda originally published
the book anonymously, some years before he married Matilde Urrutia, to
whom he had addressed these poems of passionate devotion as well as lover's
quarrels. The first "acknowledged" edition appeared in 1963. In this collection,
the Chilean poet's brilliant images are expressed with remarkable directness
From the book's introduction:
"The life of a poem does not begin on paper. It ends there. A poem lives
-- truly lives -- when it is darkly palpitating within the poet, kicking
around inside him, when the poet still has no clear idea of what it will
become, still senses it only as a vague presentiment, a promise, a hope."
Yevtushenko's real virtue as a poet lies in the sudden twist of perception,
the change of tone whereby he seizes upon an 'ordinary' moment and opens
up its hidden potential. Read more about Yevgeny
Flemming captures Rilke's
style and mood with grace. He is a master at lining, and his use of contemporary
meters, rhythm, and diction makes his translations more 'readable' to a
contemporary audience without losing the mysticism and lyrical quality
of Rilke's poems. These translations suggest a new way to look at Rilke
in English and are fine poems in their own right. Read more about Rainer
Sylvia Plath died in 1963,
and even now her outsize persona threatens to bury her poetry -- the numerous
biographies and studies often drawing the reader toward anecdote and away
from the work. It's a relief to turn to the poems themselves and once more
be jolted by their strange beauty, hard-wrought originality, and acetylene
anger. This is one of the most comprehensive collections of her work, containing
everything Plath wrote after 1956. Edited, annotated, and with an introduction
by Ted Hughes.
Sassoon wrote poetry before the Great War he was no more than a minor Georgian
poet. He had been born into a leisurely society of English country living
and, as young men of his upbringing were expected to do, he enlisted in
the military... two days before the British declaration of war. The war
was Sassoon's loss of innocence. As it dragged on, he experienced a sense
of total disgust with the conflict. This was reflected in his poetry. At
times violent but always honest, his poems expressed his conviction of
the brutality and waste of war in grim, forceful, realistic verse.
resonates with fragility and strength. Form, craft and style yield to her
inimitable ability to marry artifice and art, to create poems of power,
eloquence and beauty. This book is no longer available at Amazon.com. If
you are interested in locating a used copy, try searching at abebooks.com.
For more information about Gwendolyn MacEwen, I recommend the University
of Toronto Gwendolyn MacEwen site.
Miller once described Marc Chagall as a "poet with the wings of a painter."
The pages of Chagall are filled with images that prove the writer's words
true. Chagall's mysticism, his deep religious sentiment, and his playfulness
are revealed in the hundreds of full-color images lushly reproduced in
this volume. The commentary provided by Chagall scholar and friend Jacob
Baal-Teshuva expertly guides readers through the artist's various moods
and media and underscores the passion of belief and feeling that informed
all of his artwork.
Gustav Klimt's unique style
combines sensuality, realism, and spirituality to make his work recognizable
and among the most popular in the history of art. His primary focus on
women has led to the most ethereal portraits and murals ever produced.
The text explores Vienna at the turn of the century and Klimt's importance
in its society and within the context of the modern art movement.
This singular, magical volume
invites readers to examine handmade postcards and open colorful envelopes
as they eavesdrop on lonely London card-designer Griffin Moss and mysterious
South Pacific islander Sabine Strohem. Their personalities shine through
both their art and penmanship: Griffin's faintly disturbing, often subliminally
violent collages, blocky printed words and imperfectly typewritten pages
contrast with Sabine's whimsical doodles, fanciful postage stamps and flowing,
Devotees of Bantock's enigmatic
bestseller, Griffin & Sabine, won't be disappointed by this equally
intriguing, perplexing and gorgeous sequel. Bantock's distinctive premise
continues to puzzle and delight, the wonderful stationery has an authentic
look and, not surprisingly, the finale leaves room for another chapter.
Bantock's bewitching trilogy,
begun with Griffin & Sabine and Sabine's Notebook, ends with this characteristically
curious installment. If the fictional events here seem more melodramatic
and slightly less profound than in earlier volumes, it's because readers
know (almost) what to expect. This fantastical and peerless tale is a must-have
for Bantock's collectors.
If you rent or buy this movie
expecting to see a tall, big, green ugly monster with bolts on the side
of his head that staggers around, then you might be disappointed. While
it does take a few liberties with Shelley's classic novel, it does a wonderful
job of capturing the essence of the original story, its gothic character
and nightmare origins. The creature's portrayal is haunting and true, while
the visuals are breathtaking and visceral. Not Branagh's best work, but
definitely worth viewing.
popular author of A
Wrinkle in Time (who has also penned numerous other books for children
and adults) offers her insights on life, religion, self-consciousness,
love and -- above and through it all -- the art of writing. The title of
this book comes from the text itself: "Every so often I need out--away
from all these people I love most in the world -- in order to regain a
sense of proportion. My special place is a small brook in a green glade,
a circle of quiet from which there is no visible sign of human beings...
[there] I move slowly into a kind of peace that is indeed marvellous, 'annihilating
all that's made to a green thought in a green shade'."
1981 King penned Danse
Macabre, a thoughtful analysis of the horror genre. Now he is treating
his vast readership to another glimpse into the intellect that spawns his
astoundingly imaginative works. This volume, slim by King standards, manages
to cover his life from early childhood through the aftermath of the 1999
accident that nearly killed him. Along the way, King touts the writing
philosophies of William
Strunk and Ernest
Hemingway, advocates a healthy appetite for reading, expounds upon
the subject of grammar, critiques a number of popular writers, and offers
the reader a chance to try out his theories. Recommended for anyone who
wants to write and everyone who loves to read.