Monday, March 20, 2023

Professor King

I teach a variety of composition, literature and creative writing courses full time in Nassau Community College’s English Department.

If you need to contact me, feel free to use the "Drop Me a Line" section on the "Contacting Me" page. You do not need to own an email account to send me one using this feature.



Breaking the Ice With Pints and Poetry @Wall Street Journal

Colson Whitehead Amy King New York City literary pub crawl Colson Whitehead and Amy King at the first New York City literary pub crawl hosted by Goodreads. AMY SUSSMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL[/caption]

The first hour involved cocktails at the Housing Works Bookstore and Café in SoHo. Then there were readings by Colson Whitehead ("Sag Harbor"), Emily St. John Mandel ("The Singers Gun") and poet Amy King, who runs a popular poetry group on Goodreads.



6. Amy King

Amy King, American poet “There are things that are not sayable. That's why we have words.” ― Amy King, I Want to Make You Safe[/caption]

Amy King has won a Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize and a WNBA from the Women’s National Book Association. Her poetry reflects her personal commitment to progressive activism and intersectionality.

“Be incomplete, be the visual, / be what turns the moon / into sunlight in a dress. / Twirl your way into existence. / Be the outline for us.” — from “Time Is a Dare.”


The dead are wide awake in sleepy Hudson Valley village - NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

[cAMY KING IN MAKEUP. (HUDSON VALLEY FILM COMMMISSION) Amy King in makeup. (Hudson Valley Film Commission)[/caption]

“I was running an art gallery in Phonecia and these women descended upon me and said, ‘You would make a great zombie,’” says Amy King, a Nassau Community College professor who lives just outside of Phoenicia.

King, 47, initially thought it was a joke, but was glad she took a chance in front of the bright lights and has done it a few times since.

“I thought the makeup would be annoying but the people were delightful,” she says, adding that most days it took less than an hour.

“The film had such a fun energy it spoiled me for the work I’ve done since,” King says, adding that Jarmusch and the cast were friendly and appreciative. “I remember seeing Bill Murray talking to some of the Hasidic people who live in Fleischmanns.”


30 Poets You Should Be Reading @ Literary Hub King-cover1

Amy King’s breathtaking poetry reflects the same unwavering commitment she brings to her role at VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts: aesthetics rooted in ethics; community advocacy and intersection. King’s gift, which has earned admiration from John Ashbery among many others, seems to be about letting the lyric take hold of modern life’s messy vibrancy as it falls together seamlessly:

This is what it sounds like outside,
fat geese and guinea hens holding hands.
I am 31, which is very young for my age.
That is enough to realize I’m a pencil that has learned
how to draw the Internet. I explain squiggles
diagramming exactly how I feel and you are drawn to read
in ways you cannot yet. Slow goes the drag
of creation, how what’s within comes to be without,
which is the rhythmic erection of essence.


38 Gifted Poets on Twitter @ MASHABLE 

18. Amy King


Amy King @amyhappens




Author Amy King will speak at SUNY Adirondack @ Times Union - Saratoga Blog

Award-winning writer Amy King will speak about poetry and memoirs at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, 2019 in the Visual Arts Gallery in Dearlove Hall as part of the SUNY Adirondack Writers Project.


13 Creative Contemporary Poets Finding Truth in the Written Word [Video] @ Text Validated by Ezvid Wiki Editorial

Poetry has been a beloved and respected art form for centuries, and today's poets are keeping the medium alive and well with their well-written works that explore everything from nature to pop culture to mental illness. The contemporary poets listed here use language to convey both thoughts and emotions to their readers.

Talented Contemporary Poets: Our 13 Picks

8. Matthea Harvey Modern Life Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form
9. Amy King I Want to Make You Safe I'm the Man Who Loves You
10. Meena Kandasamy When I Hit You Ms Militancy


Bettering American Poetry with Amy King @HUFFINGTON POST

BETTERING AMERICAN POETRY Bettering American Poetry is an explosive revelation of the arriving generation of American poets—arriving from every part of the landscape, bringing energies, gifts, and ways of seeing and saying of every kind. Plunge into its pages. See/hear the news of who we are. -Jane Hirshfield, author of The Beauty and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World[/caption]


"I just read somewhere that one in three Americans did not read a book last year. I dedicate this book to them. And to those still reading. I challenge anyone to pick this anthology up and flip to any page and see if something doesn’t hit you somewhere deep. I ask, Did you think poetry was far removed from what you know? Did you think that poetry was meant for classrooms alone? Here is poetry that takes you into lives and homes and streets and places of businesses and minds and existences you thought were off limits to poetry. These poems speak history into the present. They speak being into the present. They speak the present into being."



We all could stand to read more poetry. I say this as a poet who is immersed in poetry daily. You can never have too much of it–and personally, I don’t understand why more people don’t read poetry more. It’s short, which means you can digest a poem (the first time) on the subway, on a walk, while taking a break on work, etc. It’s all very momentary. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t go back to the poem later, and reread it with new eyes...

11. Saeed Jones – Kudzu (
12. Candace Williams – Black Sonnet (Sixth Finch)
13. Amy King – Perspective (Poetry Foundation)


Bob Dylan’s Silence on Nobel Prize Is Called ‘Impolite and Arrogant’ by Academy Member

The New York Times 

“Bob Dylan now has a chance to do something truly great for literature: reject the Nobel Prize for Literature,” the poet Amy King wrote on PEN America’s website after the organization asked writers and publishers to respond to the award. “Great literature is not easily consumed like pop songs that rhyme.”


17. I Want To Make You Safe, Amy King 

Litmus Press

“…a lack of hate to push death into.”

Walt Whitman made us feel safe, calling that “death is great as life,” imparting that if we ever need him, we can find him. Amy King’s love is just as wide, her breath more modern. In I Want to Make You Safe, her best book yet, King is both warm and tactically evasive. She goes from conversational to abstract to personal with impressive fluidity, creating absorbing tones and swells in the course of a poem. Her methods will sometimes remind you of great poets like Rae Armantrout or Ange Mlinko, but runnier; she might also remind you of John Ashbery, who blurbs here, claiming King is “emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.” He is right, and ultimately, any comparison is reductive. King wavers between obscurity and candor, creating a dissonance that is completely unique, that derives from a singularly productive and skeptical mix of unconditional love and ferocious social conscience: “Nothing desired is property, / nothing given, given, we lie in glass sheds.” Her book is not a self-serving venture, but a collective surge towards “a lack of hate to push death into.”

Read a review here.


Poetry Connects Us In Troubling Times: Why Poets Write and What We Can Do to Support Them 

“Can literature influence social change? Can it reflect activism? Can a poem be a fulcrum for change?” asked moderator Amy King.


Ana Božičević: 5 Poets Who Changed My Life [Video] @ Lambda Literary 

Lammy-nominated poet, Ana Božičević, (Stars of the Night Commute) talks with Lambda Literary about 5 Poets Who’ve Changed Her Life. Her list includes Edgar Allan Poe, Marina Tsvetaeva, Bhanu Kapil, Amy King and two contemporary Croatian poets.


Bob Dylan and the Significance of Not Signifying Anything

Jewish Currents

The poet Amy King responded to an American PEN query whether Dylan deserved the prize by answering that “Bob Dylan now has a chance to do something truly great for literature: reject the Nobel prize for Literature.” Not that she supports Dylan’s arrogance, but rather because someone needs to tell the Nobel Committee that “much of the greatest literature requires depth of thought, nuance, and often shines a penetrating light on aspects of the world that are difficult to process, like genocide and survival, on lives lived through sacrifice, obscurity and facing phobias and isms that threaten and transform individuals, to name a very few. Moreover great literature often requires time spent communing with words on pages, a very solitary (and as of late, increasingly unpopular) thing.”

She’s right. The Nobel Prize is a reward for a lifetime’s striving to make sense of humankind, or to express reality in a unique way.


Women's National Book Association honors poet Amy King @ NOLAAMY KING NOLA

WBNA members made their way on June 6 to the awards ceremony at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, where the 2015 honor was given to poet Amy King. She worked on the "Poets for Living Waters" project after the BP oil spill and is one of the founders of VIDA Count, which tracks gender bias in publishing and reviewing. (VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, which VIDA Count is part of, is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of gender equality issues in literary culture.)




The hypocrisy is racial and gendered. In high school, we sat riveted by the jealous, money-grabbing, womanizing exploits of fellows in The Great Gatsby and via Hemingway’s skirt-chasing, bull-running, and hunter protagonists, but when a story primarily about poor black women trying to make their way rears its head, it becomes a target of “worthiness” and “offensiveness” meritorious discussions, seemingly permanently.

...Celie took me through violence hoisted on her and other women she knew and loved, she drew me into the depths of depression and confusion, she charged me with her own efforts away from self pity and towards confidence, she overtly carried me into the arms of a love that “dare not speak its name” without shame and with joy (a feat still treated cursorily or glossed over whereas Walker gave life to lesbian sex as well as deepening it with Celie’s pain: “She say, I love you, Miss Celie. And then she haul off and kiss me on the mouth. Us kiss and kiss till us can’t hardly kiss no more. Then us touch each other… Then I feels something real soft and wet on my breast, feel like one of my little lost babies mouth. Way after while, I act like a little lost baby too.”)...



The implication that women aren’t submitting work and getting published in sufficient numbers deserving of attention has become a joke at this point. It’s like saying, “We simply aren’t seeing worthwhile work written by women” as if we’re all still domestic goddesses incapable of putting pen to paper, when you don’t need to look far to locate an abundance of excellent writing by women.


After Yi-Fen Chou: A Forum
19 writers respond to Michael Derrick Hudson’s yellowface @ ASIAN AMERICAN WRITERS' WORKSHOP



1. Amy King

Back in 2012, the U.S. Census revealed fewer than half the babies born are white. Jay Smooth (Ill Doctrine) humorously addresses white people concerned with losing a majority footing, which is surely coming, in “Don’t Freak Out About the White Babies.” Cue the anxiety.

1.) Increased visibility of racist acts has inspired outrage, lament and louder calls for justice on our national stage. Of course, justice demands misuses of power be challenged and held accountable.

Justice suggests power be redistributed evenly to prevent misuse; thus nepotistic networks begin to rail at remote or even imaginary threats to having the upper hand. So just as George Bush called for a costly, bloody war on the basis of ghost weapons of mass destruction, so are those who now fear exposure of and challenges to their positions beginning to point at imaginary threats and preemptively strike to maintain their right to power.



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Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 6.46.17 PM

So excited to have 2 poems in The Guardian today next to amazing poems by 20 other poets (including Melissa StuddardRita DovePatricia Smith, Lynn Melnick, Kaveh Akbar, Shane McCraeCraig Santos Perez, Steph Burt, Jane Hirshfield, Cornelius Eady, John Yau, Muriel LeungMatthew ZapruderHanif Abdurraqib, Carmen Gimenez Smith, Joan Naviyuk Kane, Srikanth Reddy, Bob Hicok, Bhanu Kapil, and Paul Guest). We riffed on “The New Colossus” in response to recent controversy. Special thanks to Jane Spencer for the invitation!


Please read the poems at The Guardian (click here)!

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61_3_cover_front.jpgEXCERPT from Introduction:

Some may ask: Why poetry? Why respond in a kind of language where meaning is not always transparent, when the subject matter of sexual abuse might rather invite language that states categorically the terms of the experience, that does not allow for misinterpretation or ambiguity? Shouldn’t this be language that gets straight to the point rather than travelling slant, arriving wonky or misshapen? But, we ask, whose point would that language be arriving at? If it wasn’t women who shaped the vocabulary and syntax we widely recognize as legible, then following these forms could, for some, feel like another act of docility.

–Emily Critchley and Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, 2018


One of my poems:

Last night at a Love’s
truck stop, a man
told me he would like
to slice me up,
boil and eat my liver
and rape me after,
I’m pretty sure,
in that order.
With his eyes
he spoke those words,
and if you don’t
believe me
(“How could you know
for sure?”)
then you’ve never been
a woman, or else.
The rain and the cows
don’t care.
The corn doesn’t
ask or doubt.
And there’s
a southern sadness
buried in everything
I pass down this dark
road driving tonight.

–Amy King




ACTIVISM AMERICAN POETRY POEMS POETPOETICS POETRY SEXY                                                       

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30 Poets You Should Be Reading

30 Poets You Should Be Reading

A Brief Road Map for National Poetry Month

April 18, 2016  By Adam Fitzgerald

AMY KINGKing-cover1

Amy King’s breathtaking poetry reflects the same unwavering commitment she brings to her role at VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts: aesthetics rooted in ethics; community advocacy and intersection. King’s gift, which has earned admiration from John Ashbery among many others, seems to be about letting the lyric take hold of modern life’s messy vibrancy as it falls together seamlessly:

This is what it sounds like outside,
fat geese and guinea hens holding hands.
I am 31, which is very young for my age.
That is enough to realize I’m a pencil that has learned
how to draw the Internet. I explain squiggles
diagramming exactly how I feel and you are drawn to read
in ways you cannot yet. Slow goes the drag
of creation, how what’s within comes to be without,
which is the rhythmic erection of essence.


BHANU KAPILBan-en-Banlieue_0

Recently I walked into a classroom where the amazing Evie Shockley had just finished teaching a class of undergraduates Bhanu Kapil’s most recent and, to my mind one, of the most challenging books of contemporary poetry published in the 21st century. I stood in awe of the ambition to introduce the rigor of this work to beginning poets. Ban en Banlieue, essential reading, stands at the precipice between what is present and absent on a printed page. I often describe Kapil as the kind of writer who doesn’t settle for simply writing the books of poems she intended, but rather their exoskeletons. That is, books that chart her radical procress towards abandoning, revising, self-realizing across fragmentation, self-erasure and the unsayable. Look no further for a poet to fearlessly interrogate self, displacement, decolonization, geographic and cultural memory. Her blogher Twitter, her teaching—are immense resources.



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Ms. Muse: Amy King on the Power of Stories and the Weight of the Current Political Moment

We’re carving out a new discovery place for riotous, righteous and resonant feminist poetry to nourish and give voice to a rising tide of female resistance—and you’ve clicked right into it. Click here to read more Ms. Muse.

“There comes a point in everyone’s lives where we start to recognize that we are making choices, that we are determining who we are by the actions that we make,” poet, educator and activist Amy King stated in a 2015 speech at SUNY Nassau Community College, where she is a professor of English and creative writing. “What we do says a lot about who we are, not just what we say.”

As a young child growing up in the Bible Belt, King remembers going to the grocery store with her grandfather—her one source of stability, love and unconditional support at that time who, “everyday,” made comments that she was learning to understand were racist. She recalls watching her grandfather flirt with a Black woman who was checking out their groceries. “I was very young,” she told students about that day. “I didn’t even have the vocabulary at that point to recognize this feeling or to articulate what this feeling was, but it was the feeling that something hypocritical was going on.”

That was when King, who identifies as queer, began trying to figure out how to address those moments in her family. “A story begins when a protagonist recognizes a conflict and begins to address how to correct that conflict,” she shared, “and some of us choose not to address that conflict—and that is a story too.”

After growing up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, King lived with her father in Baltimore, Maryland. As a teenager, she worked for the National Security Agency after testing high for analytical skills, but says she felt “uncomfortable” there, even just at 17, and “didn’t like the way the institution was run.”

Two consistent themes throughout King’s life are “social justice and story.” Her latest book, The Missing Museum, is described as “a kind of directory of the world as it rushes into extinction, in order to preserve and transform it at once.” Publishing it won her the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize and vaulted her to the ranks of legends like Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson and Pearl Buck when she received the 2015 Women’s National Book Association Award. (Named one of “40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism” awardees by the Feminist Press, King also received the 2012 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.)

King is co-editor of the anthology Big Energy Poets: Ecopoetry Thinks Climate Change and the anthology series Bettering American Poetryher other books include I Want to Make You Safe, one of Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011. Much of her prose, activism and other projects focus on exploring and supporting the work of other women writers, especially writers of color. King is a founding member of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and former Editor-in-Chief of VIDA Review.

During a 2014 interview King gave for Houston’s Public Poetry Reading Series, she spoke on the subject of trying to understand poetry by asking a pivotal question: “What is ‘understanding’ and what is an ‘experience’ with a piece of art?” She went on to say poetry should “jostle” us out of our regular ways of thinking—it should “undo” us in ways that are both good and uncomfortable.

For this installment of Ms. Muse, King opens up about learning to speak up and step up—and shares three new poems with Ms. readers. Here’s to hoping that they “undo” you.

Amy King (Photo: Ana Božičević)


Selling Short

I cannot afford to live in the city I teach in,
& the number of people sleeping in cars has grown,
indivisibly. This is not a dream of guarantees
but the pursuit of handwritten freedoms that night the sting away.
Demons of clinics devise distribution mechanics
based on who you were born to & who you might know.
The 2 a.m. quiet promises no solace or silence when days
are hobbled & taken. Soon, light will be privately owned.

I’m Building a Body to Burn My Effigy In 

I will not mention stars Today. They have been used
for purposes not their own. Listen to them. Give them space.
Observe but leave them distant. If you think you know everything
about them now, you have outgrown yourself.
In the south we say bigger than your britches burns,
but I do not wish to confuse. I want to learn.

Joy Even

The denim and calico patchwork
of my childhood. Mothballs in a little black box,
felt lining each crevice. Michael Jackson
on a hobbled turntable someone left
at the apartment complex curb.
Costwald Village. Regal.
British. Anything but.

The dislocation of Backwoods, Georgia.
The first time a man touched me,
his semen glistening my inner thighs.

“Thriller” and the plywood coffee table.
The hoarder grocery bag maze
and Childcraft Encyclopedias flayed across the shag.
My 12-year-old amazement.
My 12-year-old embryo.
The fact of a body electric, searing for days.
Turning that birthed another world with a song and dance.

So many ways to joy. Some to death.
My anything. Me, anything. Joy even.

Amy King (Photo: Kimberly Evans)


Can you tell me about your process of writing “I’m Building a Body to Burn My Effigy In,” “Joy Even” and “Selling Short”?

I don’t have one process. Sometimes compiled notes take shape. Or a poem just falls out of me as if, gored, the liver drops from my body. The heart seeping sounds more fitting, but a liver plop fits better.

“I’m Building a Body…” comes from an interest in physics and mortality.

“Joy Even” is part of the slow-burn of outlining a memoir.

“Selling Short” emerges as predictive dream, touching on issues that have recently led me to Rosi Braidotti’s “The Posthuman.”

What childhood experiences with language informed your relationship with poetry? 

When I first moved to live with my father in Baltimore at 15, I spoke slowly and heard the same. I often said “What?” in a deep southern drawl, uncertain of my own ears, which was probably also testament to a deeper uncertainty too. My father was my only safety line in a house full of strangers and with a stepmother who, quite quickly, began to play her own uncertainties out on me.

One day, as usual, I asked “What?” and my dad, no longer riding the romance of his daughter’s betrayal of her mother to be with him, the winner, suddenly shouted at me, “DO YOU REALLY NOT KNOW WHAT WE’RE SAYING?” It shocked the shit out of me. I made adjustments over time to alter the way I spoke, how I heard, to absorb unknown word usages and infer what I could. And to recover from what that moment meant.

You might prefer the story of how I used to read Gertrude Stein to friends over the phone to annoy them until I realized I had tricked myself as I was enjoying sounding her poetry aloud. Or how I grew up reading Nancy Drew and science fiction late into the wee hours and then woke up and watched Saturday morning cartoons in black and white. But this moment with my father shattered something. Luckily, the cracks are often where we make things and the broken pieces what we make things with.

I’m stunned by that moment with your father and your struggle to understand what people around you were saying. I’m also struck by the notion of the poet as a young girl not trusting her own ears, as you say. How did you learn to make out the words all around you–and to trust yourself?  

I don’t think I ever have really. I just embrace the temporality of life a bit more than usual and go with what comes across. It’s why I am not embarrassed to ask someone to pass the “lotion” for the salad or to verb nouns for decades now. I think subconsciously I suppressed my accent as a response to my father, but that shock taught me that not only is my mother unreliable, but so is the alternative, my father. I had already been disabused of the notion of unconditional love; I was holding out hope in him for at least a lasting, warm embrace. I’ve grown since that bottoming out: DNA is not all, and one can find family—and become family—elsewhere.

This is all linked to the notion that people speak to signal group intimacy; language is shaped by mutual alliances and allegiances. When family rejects your language needs, believe the message it sends and seek anew.

Do you seek out poetry by women and non-binary writers? If so, since when and why? More specifically, how has the work of feminist poets mattered in your childhood and/or your life as an adult?

I won a city-wide fiction contest for Baltimore ArtScape during my senior year of high school. It was judged by Lucille Clifton, which made a lasting impression on me. I was not a writer, but my high school English teacher, Carolyn Benfer, encouraged me tremendously. I was attending a vocational school in the city and, up to that point, was destined to become a CPA.

From there, I attended the University of Maryland at Towson State and had the good fortune to enroll as a double major in English and Women’s Studies. The latter program is especially noteworthy as the program served as the model for many other Women’s Studies programs across the country, as envisioned and spearheaded by Elaine Hedges, who was also an active feminist, affiliated with the Feminist Press. This program led me to numerous marginalized writers back in the early nineties that I likely would not have encountered so early on independently or simply from core English classes.

I cannot speak highly enough about the work that Women’s Studies program did. The short answer is that the program taught me to seek work by marginalized writers as I would be missing out on so much otherwise. I do not seek literature simply to reflect my own experiences—I seek to learn beyond them.

What groundbreaking (or ancient) works, forms, ideas and issues in poetry today interest and concern you? 

There is no one work, and as such, I continue to read widely. There are so many books I have not read yet, which is thrilling. Some of my touchstones range from Cesar Vallejo to Leonora Carrington to Audre Lorde to James Baldwin to Lucille Clifton to Gertrude Stein to John Ashbery. There are numerous younger poets I look to for energy, shifts in consciousness and awareness of current cultural concerns and who also signal structural and formal changes. A handful include Billy-Rae Belcourt, Chen Chen, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Vievee Francis, Airea D. Matthews, Raquel Salas Rivera, TC Tolbert, Ocean Vuong and Phillip B. Williams—but this by no means is an exhaustive list. Check out the poets anthologized in the Bettering American Poetry series I am lucky enough to be a part of.

As a woman, and as a woman who writes, what do you need to support your work? What opportunities, support, policies and actions can/could make a direct difference for you—and for other women writers you know?

Besides the room, money and time Virginia Woolf called for, I’m beginning to find that a support network is vital. I don’t think this needs to be formal or a writing collaboration. I simply mean that it is encouraging to have regular check-ins with a small group of writers, as few as two even, where you discuss what you’re each working on, maybe share a small piece/excerpt, get feedback and discuss ideas.

It is often the idea exchange, even with just a friend on the phone, that I find generative. I find myself articulating ideas and vision in a way that is as revealing to myself as to my friend. I leave those conversations with ideas of where to head next with a poem or on what to research to build foundational ideas for a concept.

What’s next? What upcoming plans and projects excite you?

I’m outlining a memoir—fingers crossed—and writing poems. I may birth an essay down the road, but that is gestating for now. And volunteering time and support to a program called La Maison Baldwin Manuscript Mentors, a nonprofit arts and culture association that remembers and celebrates James Baldwin in Saint-Paul de Vence, to save James Baldwin’s house and turn it into a vital residency in France.

How has the current political climate in the U.S. affected you as a woman writer? 

I am not so much shocked as often startled. I think we all knew white supremacy, colonialism and toxic masculinity were at the helm, but the built-in invisibilities kept them shrouded in respectability politics and notions of civility, and of course, that begs the question: Whose civility? I also don’t think we are in some unique moment of history where shocking things have taken hold and the end is nigh, but that is how it feels at times. Power and paradigm shifts are often premised on tectonic shifts, and folks have to finally step up, choose sides.

That seems key at the moment: one can no longer pretend to be above the fray. And that may be most painful for those of us with privilege. No one is outside anything after all.


Ms. Magazine feature - click here -

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How the Day Was One

How The Day Was One by Amy King

"A poem is an act of war / over today's fenced-in neighbors / and sheds."



#poem #poetry #contemporary #queer #poet #queerpoet #LGBT #AmyKing † read more ...

Genève Chao reviews “The Missing Museum” by Amy King

Amy King’s irascible and incantatory sprawlfest, The Missing Museum, which won the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Prize (a fact which alone makes it the Heavyweight Champ of World Poetry as that year’s TS Prize anointed literal dozens of books of astonishing breadth and beauty as finalists and semifinalists), begins with a one-poem prologue/manifesto, the beautiful, frustrating “Wake Before Dawn & Salt the Sea,” which reads like a sonnet that refuses to restrain itself to quite the syllables required and yet still manages to convey precision and restraint, and which tells a reader everything about poetry: explicitly, that it is useless, it is fuckworthy, it is love; implicitly, it is the only choice that can be made by this glib, driven, passionate, jaded speaker, or anyone with any intelligence and heart. It is a warning and a dare: “We are not edges of limbs or the heart’s smarts only.” It is a fitting introduction to this book of poems that, as it demands, wrestle and make love, and which unsurprisingly leave the reader breathless, dazzled, exhausted, and slightly bruised.

This, of course, comes as no surprise to those familiar with King’s work. It is uninterested in evenness and regularity. It is adroit and sharp and scream-y (often in literal caps) and rampaging. You don’t disgorge a poem entitled “PUSSY PUSSY SOCHI QUEER PUSSY PUTIN SOCHI QUEER QUEER PUSSY” because you are trying to lull your reader with luxe, calme, et volupté. And yet King’s work is for me memorable because, amid all those sharp blades and swears, her light step is frequently, unavoidably beautiful, with lines that you want to lick until they melt: “SHE WRITHED IN THE SEA BESIDE ME.” This kind of lubricious sonority makes you wonder if King needs handlers to get out of readings unmolested lest enthused listeners try to lick her. Not that this is what the poem is angling for; it just seems to be a by-product of the relentless courage and curiosity with which this work confronts, well, everything. Some examples of “everything” include sex, drugs, drinking, love, war, writing, belonging, identity, America, myth, ordnance, New York, social media, string theory, stop and frisk, writing, love, war, sex, depression, violence, self-doubt, art, politics, and even a subtle jibe at New Jersey that makes those of us allegiant to the Apple swell with pleasure and with the wistfulness of missing it.

If, however, you are not familiar with King’s work, I refer you to the two excellent and complementary reviews of this book on Goodreads, which I found during errant Googling when wondering where to begin this review. They are disonnant but symmetrical, being both written by older white men called John A. The first John A., himself a writer, is pithy: he gives five stars and repurposes a couplet from King’s book into a description of it: “”My, how her reach has grown./Like gunpowder aches in the calyx’ eardrum.” It’s coy but certain praise. The second John A. begins by calling the author “Mrs. King,” which will demonstrate to you that he lives on a planet I call Getmedafuqout, and continues with: “This is a pretty good collection. I heard chiefly about King through her University status as a professional feminist…”

…I can’t even be irritated by this characterization because I’m too busy being delighted by its unintentional hilarity and re-reading the piece “A Woman Is an Act” in light of its status as screed of the Professional Feminist: “You don’t even know/you’re falling into what you build,/made of what you fuck,/guilt for pleasure,/ how you capitalize and see the others of us/through the pores of such efforts…” O John the Second in your omniscient banality, meet Amy King and her quiverful of zingers, each line making an arrow sing; she is both adroit and trenchant, a sad contrast to your plodding paternalism (“an excellent effort,” finisheth John). And yet notoriety as a Professional Feminist, if King has it, seems to fit. The Missing Museum closes with an all-caps poem that forges rough chains of its claims and concerns, saying, among other things,




O Reader: in this gorgeous and terrible moment, the space occupied is called you.



Amy King is the author of the poetry collection, The Missing Museum, co-winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. King also joins the ranks of Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt & Rachel Carson as the recipient of the 2015 Women’s National Book Association Award. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is currently co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology, Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She is also co-editing the anthology, Bettering American Poetry 2015, and is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

Genève/Geneva Chao is the biracial, bicultural, and bilingual author of one of us is wave one of us is shore (Otis Books | Seismicity Editions), and Hillary Is Dreaming (Make Now Books). Chao is the translator of Gérard Cartier’s Tristran and, with François Luong, of Nicolas Tardy’s Encrusted on the LivingChao’s forthcoming manuscript is called émigré.

Woodland Pattern Books -

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BOOK REVIEW: THE MISSING MUSEUM BY AMY KING Reviewed by Emma Bolden @ Los Angeles Review

Reviewed by Emma Bolden

The Missing Museum
Poems by Amy King
Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2016
$14.00; 114 pp.
ISBN-13: 978-1939460080

In February 2012, the Russian feminist punk/performance art/protest group Pussy Riot staged an act of protest against the re-election of Vladimir Putin. Between services at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a Russian Orthodox church destroyed by Stalin and rebuilt in the 1990s, the women entered and walked up to the altar, jumping and jabbing their fists in the air. Filmed footage of the performance was included in the music video for their song, “Punk Prayer: Mother of God Drive Putin Away.” The song implores the Virgin Mary to “banish Putin” and “become a feminist, we pray thee.” Although Cathedral guards removed the group in less than a minute, three group members were arrested, charged with hooliganism, and sentenced to two years in prison.

After the American election of 2016, Pussy Riot warned Americans to prepare themselves: Trump’s presidency, they predicted, would resemble Putin’s in ways that many Americans might not even be able to imagine. In a December 2016 interview, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova told New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg that it was “important not to say to yourself, ‘Oh, it’s O.K.’ [ . . . ] in Russia, for the first year of when Vladimir Putin came to power, everybody was thinking that it will be O.K.” It isn’t safe, Tolokonnikova continued, to trust that America’s institutions will protect its citizens and their freedoms, as “a president has power to change institutions and a president moreover has power to change public perception of what is normal, which could lead to changing institutions.”

Pussy Riot’s work serves as a frame for Amy King’s riotous, rapturous, and radical fifth full-length collection, The Missing Museum. I mean “frame” quite literally: a passage from the poem that shares part of its title with the first section of the book, “PUSSY PUSSY SOCHI PUSSY PUTIN SOCHI QUEER QUEER PUSSY,” is printed on the back cover. “I HAVE A WITCH-CHURCH HAND,” the speaker declares in the poem, “& / PUSSIES RIOTING A PUTIN PRAYER / ON A NATION OF PEOPLE.” Just as Pussy Riot composed the clarion call of an iconoclastic culture countering Russian authoritarianism and repression, so too does Amy King’s work spur, capture, and curate the artifacts of a burgeoning resistance movement in the United States.

Also like Pussy Riot, King’s use of the term “pussy” serves as a shibboleth for revolutionary feminism, reclaiming a term used as a slur against women—and, as the 2016 release of Access Hollywood footage shows, one often linked linguistically to sexual assault and rape. Through reclamation, feminists empty the term of its misogynistic implications, empowering themselves by taking ownership of the language of the oppressor. Now, “pussy” has become a common part of the American vernacular, wielded by women fighting to preserve their fundamental rights to control their own bodies and speech. Likewise, Pussy Riot’s music carries great meaning for the American resistance and for the poems in this collection, which serve, in many ways, as a museum preserving the gathering motion of resistance.

Unlike many museums, King’s isn’t a collection of evidence of an unchanging monolithic culture. Instead, the book protests the very idea that any culture or subculture is, was, or ever will be stable, static, and homogeneous. King’s poetry sweeps through cultural references from surrealist painter Leonora Carrington to soul singer and activist Nina Simone to pop singer Lionel Richie. The sheer breadth of references in King’s work echoes the idea that no culture is singular or stationary. The disparate works—songs, paintings, poems, acts of civil disobedience—of all of these artists cross through the collection as separate but equally essential works and workers of culture. As King writes in “You Make the Culture,” “The words become librarians, custodians of people.” If any representation of a culture is to be accurate, she continues, it is to involve movement: “I will walk with the sharks of our pigments / [ . . . ] until we leave rooms that hold us apart.” Inclusivity, and the ability to envision all groups in terms of belonging, is essential, as lines near the end of the poem show: “Nothing comes from the center / that doesn’t break most everything apart.”

After all, culture is the product of changeable, mutable human beings who, King argues in the collection’s prologue, “Wake Before Dawn & Salt the Sea,” are more action than object: “Our limits may not be expandable, but before you say, / ‘Blood and sinew,’ remember you’re making a mistake. / We are not edges of limbs or the heart’s smarts only.” As such, a worthwhile life is a life beyond “noise,” beyond “dying full of money but no one will give a shit, rich asshole.” To be stationary, to live untroubled while following the American exhortation to gain money and power without examining the dangers this philosophy poses or the system purporting this philosophy, is anathema to progress. The poem ends with a couplet that brings to mind Herman Melville’s enjoinder at the end of “Art,” in which he calls for a fusion of opposites within the self and between the self and the heavens. “Be somebody,” King implores of us, “be one who wrestles and make love to the dark / that is your deepest part, the uselessness of love and art.” The idea that the most beautiful things we as human beings bring to the light—beauty, love, art—are utterly useless comes as a shock, especially as it also comes at the end of a gorgeously-wrought poem serving as the collection’s prologue. The location of these lines creates the same kind of shock as the location of Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer” in an Orthodox cathedral. Both performances don’t just shock: they shift. The juxtaposition of lyric and location creates a moment in which the mind bends, allowing disparate realities to coexist.

King calls upon the work of the Surrealists to illustrate this juxtaposition. In “And Then We Saw The Daughter of the Minotaur,” a poem named after a painting by Surrealist Leonora Carrington, King writes of the need to move beyond accepted meanings, “to grow branches / between worlds on the backs of nurtured equations.” She calls for us to “[s]ay another elsewhere. Open the broom, sick with sorceries.” In “Pussy Riot Rush Hour,” King speaks of a woman traveling the Lexington Avenue Line while “hitting / herself, buck up head heavy against / the number 5 train downtown.” She describes her “self-infliction” as “a cause / that brings us away from our senses.” Here, King references Arthur Rimbaud, who called for poets to transform themselves into “seers” through a “long, immense, and reasoned derangement of all the senses.”

King’s collection carries out Rimbaud’s call through the velocity of its juxtapositions, racing through shifts in voice, structure, theme, and tone, sometimes within the same poem. In “Understanding the Poem,” “this world is anything but a poem” —and then, in the next line, “This world is this, this world is poem, and I am unusual today, at least.” The frenetic movement of King’s work—from popular culture to high culture, from Georgia pines to New York streets, from all-caps alert to expertly-groomed almost-sonnets—recalls the cry of Baudelaire’s soul to travel “Anywhere, anywhere, as long as it be out of this world!” The speed and span of juxtapositions in the collection reveals what is missing from museums: movement, derangement, change.

By this dynamic derangement of our assumptions about culture, King’s museum reveals what culture really is: an ever-changing multiplicity of perspectives that cannot be carved into different, disparate wings. The narrative of culture as a series of singular, separate factions and philosophies leads to the violence of othering and violence against others. In “Perspective,” this moves beyond theory to a matter of actual life and death:

When I see two cops laughing
after one of them gets shot
because this is TV and one says
while putting pressure on the wound,
Haha, you’re going to be fine,
and the other says, I know, haha!,
as the ambulance arrives—
I know the men are white.

At the end of the poem, King asks us to wrestle with questions about this narrative, about the curation of our culture, essential for the survival of our nation and ourselves.

Who gets to see and who follows
what script? I ask my students.
Whose lines are these and by what hand
are they written?

In that 2016 New York Times interview, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova herself echoed this idea: “‘You are always in danger of being shut down,’ she said. ‘But it’s not the end of the story because we are prepared to fight.’” With her work and words, King shows her readers how to join the fight.

Emma Bolden is the author of medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books 2013). Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Pinch, and Prairie Schooner, among others. Her honors include a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA and the Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. She serves as Senior Reviews Editor for Tupelo Quarterly.

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Amy King’s workshops and critiques are as intelligent and intuitive as she is. She’s introduced me to conceptual ideas that seem at first complex and perhaps over my head—but the way she breaks them down and incorporates them step by step into fun and challenging exercises makes them so accessible that I find myself pondering and using them in my own poetics again and again. I’ve worked with her several times, and I highly recommend Amy’s teaching style—learned yet lucid, erudite yet playful. She’s a joy!

—Jenn Givhan, 2015 Winner NEA in Poetry

What’s amazing about Amy is, unlike so many other great poets, she’s also a great teacher, a true facilitator of other people’s visions. Amy has a range of techniques to guide you through the entire arc of the creative process from the first germ of inspiration to your final edit, but the support Amy offers doesn’t just confirm what you’re already doing. She will shake you up, jolt you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to confront the personal limits you’re stumbling over in your writing. Her prompts will immerse you – literally, with all kinds of media – in new ways of seeing, thinking and making connections, and her responses to your work will help you re-frame how you think about your writing. I always feel that Amy holds my work to as high a standard as she holds her own, yet her critiques reflect her sense of what I’m trying to accomplish; she’s sensitive and generous in that way. I don’t think teaching is just a day job to Amy. She brings the same ethic and commitment, the same way of connecting she explores in her poetry to her work with her students.

—Justine el-Khazen, Brooklyn-based poet & creative writing instructor at Eugene Lang

I have collaborated with Amy King on several publishing projects — the magazine Esque, and the PEN Poetry Series — and we’ve also taught together at Naropa University, The San Francisco Poetry Center and Slippery Rock University. Amy has taught me so much about teaching poetry and fostering fruitful, kinetic student interaction. At Naropa, we lead a workshop on “The Trans Cyborg;” from Fernando Pessoa to Tamiko Beyer and Nicki Minaj, Amy activated the group with generative readings and viewings, and insightfully helped along students’ work with critique and exercises like “Write your own personal mythology” and “Interlace fingers / interlace lines into a hybrid poem.” Co-teaching this class was a lesson to me as well on how poetry can pass between poet-teacher and poet-student, and how empathetic, radical, disciplined engagement leads to breakthroughs in poems and poetics. As a teacher, Amy accepts nothing less. Amy was also an essential reader and editor for both of my books of poetry, and a valued poetry journal co-editor who confidently made micro and macro editorial and curatorial decisions to the benefit of every poem she was entrusted with. I recommend her as a teacher and editor without hesitation — you are lucky to have a chance to travel a while with her.

—Ana Božičević, author of Stars of the Night Commute and the Lambda Literary Award-winning Rise in the Fall

Whether you are writing about the intricacies of daily interactions or incorporating broad topics from science to philosophy to politics, Amy King’s got you covered! She writes from the street but not from a blank slate – in fact, from a broad intellectual background. Her prompts are rich in detail and suggestibility. She provides extensive supporting material and recommends a cornucopia of relevant poetry to inspire you. Her feedback is direct, insightful, and incisive but does not foreclose your options for finding your own route to improvement.

She inspired me to write my first prose poem!

—Mary Newell, Ph. D.

In 35 years of teaching Creative Writing and literature courses at the University of South Alabama and having served as Alabama’s Poet Laureate from 2003 -2012, I have never know anyone who gives a more thorough and helpful critique than Amy King. She is an outstanding poet who uses her experience to offer insightful comments and suggestions thatare encouraging and yet honest when it comes to rewrites. I have taken a couple of Amy’s courses just to have her astute feedback. It is a privilege to be in a class of Amy’s, take part in challenging and exciting exercises. and learn new ways to look at writing poetry.

—Sue Walker, Publisher Negative Capability Press
Retired Professor of English, University of South Alabama,
Poet Laureate of Alabama 2003-2012

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“Rarely have the nude and the cooked been so neatly joined” as in Amy King’s I Want to Make You Safe. If “us,” “herons,” and “dust” rhyme, then these poems rhyme. If that makes you feel safe, it shouldn’t. Amy King’s poems are exuberant, strange, and a bit grotesque. They’re spring-loaded and ready for trouble. Categories collapse. These are the new “thunderstorms with Barbie roots.” —Rae Armantrout

Amy King’s poems seem to encompass all that we think of as the “natural” world, i.e. sex, sun, love, rotting, hatching, dreaming, especially in the wonderful long poem “This Opera of Peace.” She brings these abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living: “Let the walls bear up the angle of the floor,/Let the mice be tragic for all that is caged,/Let time’s contagion mar us/until spoken people lie as particles of wind.” —John Ashbery

Amy King’s mercurial poems capture the instability of cultural, sexual, and poetic identity. In the circuitry of her illuminated, incongruous, but somehow perfectly apt details, ‘the alien befits us.’ With a nod to Gertrude Stein and Fernando Pessoa, as well as cameos by Frida Kahlo, Maya Deren, and Claude Cahun, Amy celebrates ‘the roles’ of women even as she redefines them, telling us: ‘I put on my long black dream/to live among my female brothers.’ Playful, provocative, and frenetically lyrical, this is metamorphic poetry for our times. —Elaine Equi

I love Amy King’s smile in photos of Amy King, Amy King’s exuberance and looping, bashing panache (flamboyant manner, reckless courage) in the poems of Amy King, I’m going to say Amy King every chance I get in this blurb to make you think “I gotta read me some Amy King,” especially if you’re “looking for anything/that will pull the cork, boil the blood/of displeasure,” as only the poems of Amy King can in the world in which Amy King is King (and Queen). —Bob Hicok

The first poem I read by Amy King was “MEN BY THE LIPS OF WOMEN” and it struck me with a force I had previously felt on encountering masterworks by Lorca and Dylan Thomas. I won’t live long enough to see if her poetry will continue to equal the magnificence of theirs, but the fact that she achieved it once (at least) proves to me it could. —Bill Knott

Smoke n’ hott, these poems emerge as … audible diamonds that cut, where Rock is King & candor disarms paranoia. or, in King’s case, downright dismembers it: Forgive me, I am the final/ seminary soul to check your shape/in the dress of that embalming line, Passengered adeptly under the influence of Lorea, Neruda maybe, (Buried by midnight/ I am a Warm/fly in amber.) the reader wants to shout, GO DUENDE!!! —Jeni Olin

“‘I’m portable. My mind travels / the verse and valleys of whole people’ says the poet. Correct! Readers of this book will discover their own memories. They will melt in them, amazed, lullabied, dramatized, shocked that they exist.  Amy King is a true bard. —Tomaz Salamun

Vulnerability, fragility, and anxiety are all flushed out into the open here and addressed with such strong sound and rhythm that we recognize a resilient, defiant strength within them. King puts relentless pressure on forces seemingly beyond our reach and, in bringing them closer, exposes their own vulnerable centers. This is a poetry equally committed to language as a tool with social obligations and language as an art material obligated to reveal its own beauty. King’s language does both magnificently. —Cole Swensen

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Of her most recent book from Litmus Press, I Want to Make You Safe, John Ashbery described her poems as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.”  Safe was one of the Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011, and it was reviewed, among others, by the Poetry Foundation and the Colorado Review.  King was also honored by The Feminist Press as one of the “40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism” awardees, and she received the 2012 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

I Want to Make You Safe was published by Litmus Press, 2011. Amy King is also the author of  Slaves to do These ThingsI’m the Man Who Loves You and Antidotes for an Alibi, all from Blazevox Books, as well as The People Instruments (Pavement Saw Press) and Kiss Me With the Mouth of Your Country (Dusie Press).

King serves on the executive board of VIDA: Woman in Literary Arts and is currently co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology, Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change.  She also moderates the Women’s Poetry Listserv (WOMPO) and the Goodreads Poetry! Group. She teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.  Her poems have been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and she has been the recipient of a MacArthur Scholarship for Poetry.  Amy King was also the 2007 Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere.  Check her latest blog entries at Boston Review, Poetry Magazine and the Rumpus.

She co-edited Poets for Living Waters with Heidi Lynn Staples,  co-edited the PEN Poetry Series and Esque Magazine with Ana Bozicevic and, for many years, moderated the Poetics List, sponsored by The Electronic Poetry Center (SUNY-Buffalo/University of Pennsylvania), .

Finally, King founded and curated, from 2006, the Brooklyn-based reading series, The Stain of Poetry, until 2010. Follow her here.


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Announcing the 2015 Winner of the WNBA Award (Women's National Book Association) - Prof. Amy KingAnnouncing the 2015 Winner of the WNBA Award (Women's National Book Association) - Prof. Amy King

I'm thrilled to join some amazing writers & activists, including Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, Barbara Tuchman, and Pearl Buck as the recipient of a Women's National Book Association (WNBA) Award. The award is given once every two years and is designed to honor a woman "who has done meritorious work in the world of books beyond the duties or responsibilities of her profession or occupation.”




Women's National Book Association (WNBA) Announces
the 2015 Winner of the WNBA Award

The WNBA has selected Amy King, poet, professor of Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College and Executive Board Member of VIDA—Women in Literary Arts.
"VIDA’s mission as a research-driven organization is to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing as well as further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture." (from VIDA's website

The WNBA Award is presented every second year to “a living American woman who derives part or all of her income from books and allied arts, and who has done meritorious work in the world of books beyond the duties or responsibilities of her profession or occupation.” (from WNBA's website: To learn more about this award and previous winners, please visit .

The award will be presented at a special event June 6, 2015, as part of WNBA's annual meeting, to be held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ms. King was honored by the Feminist Press as one of its notable "40 under 40: The Future of Feminism" awardees. "She is the author of I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press), I'm the Man Who Loves You, Slaves to Do These Things and Antidotes for an Alibi, from BlazeVOX Books, and The People Instruments (Pavement Saw Press). She has also received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. King teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College. Her poems have been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and she has been the recipient of a MacArthur Scholarship for Poetry. She is currently co-editing an anthology, Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoetry Thinks Climate Change, forthcoming from Blazevox.
(from her page on NCC's website: )

For any inquiries, please contact:
Penny Anna Makras Nc Weil
Communications Chair, WNBA WNBA Award Chair
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The VIDA Count 2013The VIDA Count 2013

Lie by Omission: The Rallying Few, The Rallying Masses

First, the good news:

A couple of giants in the original VIDA Count have begun to move. While we can’t call it a trend or cause for partying just yet, it is certainly noteworthy that The Paris Review’s andNew York Times Book Review’s pies have significantly baked up tastier for 2013.

The Paris Review’s numbers, previously among the worst in our VIDA Count, have metamorphosed from deep, male-dominated lopsidedness into a picture more closely resembling gender parity. While such progress is remarkable in one year, we are likewise pleased to note that we haven’t heard anyone bemoan a drop in quality in The Paris Review’s pages. Turnarounds like the Paris Review’s make it clear that with the right editorial effort, putting more sustainable gender practices into action isn’t too difficult for these magazines at the top of the major market heap. Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, also demonstrates what good can come when top tier literary outlets recognize the importance of presenting a balanced mix of voices by significantly increasing the number of female reviewers in the NYTBR in 2013.

So the mountains begin to move.

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Amy King Considers What Unrest After Conceptualism’s Institutional EmbraceAmy King Considers What Unrest After Conceptualism’s Institutional Embrace

Amy King Considers What Unrest After Conceptualism’s Institutional Embrace


At The Rumpus the other day: Amy King backs up and moves forward in her breakdown of community, capital, Conceptualism, and poetry (specifically poetry as capital as seen in the “eyes” of the newVanessaPlace, Inc.). King also invokes DadaLangpo, and other schools/movements/descendents; and remarks on the deliberate lineage-creation via celebrity trajectory that Place and Goldsmith, among others, work toward/quickly inherit (i.e., Place’s self-alignment with Warhol). “As public knowledge, this intentionality is no revelation and can even be theorized away as an institutional embrace that they will use, as the argument goes, to change the definition of poetry from within.”


Read part 2 of “Beauty and the Beastly Po-Biz” here

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38 Gifted Poets on Twitter38 Gifted Poets on Twitter
Poetry Twitterati including Robert Lee Brewer, Cornelius Eady, Alex Dimitrov, Amy King, Robert Pinsky, and Ron Silliman. read more ...

Poems on SurveillancePoems on Surveillance
AT Boston Review POETRY WATCHES YOU. Surveillance poems by John AshberyRobert PinskyCharles BernsteinRae ArmantroutAmy King, Harmony Holiday, Noelle KocotMaureen McLane, and others. read more ...

Experts are servants
to those in power who return things to "normal." Riot on.

If you don't know/adore the work of Amy King, we can't be friends. She's our poet in the spotlight for another week and a half, so be sure to check out two new poems by her. And leave her/us a comment telling us what you think, pretty please! Let's talk #poetry.

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 INTERVIEW - Amy King & Vanessa Place INTERVIEW - Amy King & Vanessa Place

48.3 coverVOLUME 48 NUMBER 3, YEAR 2014

INTERVIEW - Amy King & Vanessa Place read more ...


Authors on Artists: Amy King on Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, and Frida Kahlo

Paint Is the Abyss’ Law, Living the Accent: Marginalia on Absorption

Paint Is the Secretion of Scene on Leonor Fini’s Set    

I now confer status on you. As in, everything is as
good as the next thing. Better yet, in this season,
I am implicitly requesting your death
on a platter. That said, should I begin without
interrogating the
great mystery that separates
dark matter from the everyday? Dive into beauty untinged by
the detritus of degenerative mechanics? But...

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I cannot fathom that Walt Whitman was the first to write on a variety of controversies typically attributed to “Song of Myself,” including the complexities of slavery, the overt hand of eroticism, and the soul beyond the confines of religion, atrocities of war, etc.   In fact, a number of writers come easily to mind who preceded him on such matters (i.e.  William Blake, Phillis Wheatley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe).

It is my estimation that readers took offense to a primary feature that taste alone, presumably, should have dictated as unpopular: his form.  Whitman’s stylings were, of course, the undoing of form as tradition dictated.  As Allen Ginsberg noted, he ‘broke open the line,’ writing into the frontier, where no precedent had been set.  Whitman’s was Gertrude Stein’s notion of “contemporariness” – his form was “ugly” in its sprawling.  His non-adherence to tradition is as palpable as his lines are long utterances of street cadence.  Nothing contains them except the page’s physical limitations – and even then, they stretch over from margin to margin and margin again.  Whitman embraced the anarchy and energy of an abstracted American spirit, one that knew roots but reveled in where it could grow and co-habit with instead (“The Dude abides.”).

Despite the critics’ disdain, his work was read by the many.  Whitman is known for “cataloging” as form — the catalog that wraps arms around the crowd and enters it, gently and with force, shaking hands where they work, wiping death in soldiers’ tears and encouraging the child-like steps of people out of tune.  He asked individuals to exist aloud — for a lifetime.  His “Song” carried on for reasons beyond, but to focus on the “problem” of his lines would have been a legitimizing force…

Whitman touched the world in a fashion unsanctioned.  Or as Leonard Cohen puts such reverential reach in “Suzanne,” “Cause you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.”   For critics to make much over his blatant disregard for and implicit undoing of respected poets who laid the groundwork in “expert verse” for centuries would have appeared at once trivial as well as requiring the articulation of a vision that could inspire  – ‘You mean, anyone can set off on their own without obedience to the motherland?’ — where fear still contained many.  We were no longer Europeans, but what could we be without holding onto a history.

Thus, Whitman’s lines heralded a fantastic anarchy that was neither chaotic nor reactive – his form was simply unabashed and pressing and has since charged many with possibility where nothing has been outlined.  I have quoted this sentiment elsewhere, but as it echoes in John Ashbery’s statement after reading Gertrude Stein, it is fitting again, “And if, on laying the book aside, we feel that it is still impossible to accomplish the impossible, we are also left with the conviction that it is the only thing worth trying to do.”  Whitman, whether certain or unsure, continued publishing the catalog of as many Americans as he could fathom without respect for past guidelines — and in doing so, he articulated and determined a spirit that did not kowtow to the popularity of the day.

It is far easier to censor from moral grounds (i.e. sex and soul disrespected!) than it is to put work out of print that disobeys in a more oblique and revolutionary manner.  In other words, one may remove or re-name pieces in the game at some risk, but to change the game entirely incurs greater efforts towards returning the offender to the original board.  The critics would have none of this loose woman-man scrawling her lines in the name of America!

If Whitman had presented his catalog in rhymed couplets, his verse may have stood in line with the then-sanctioned poetry trajectory, appearing less remarkable and offensive.  His would have been less dangerous, and who knows if we would know him now or not.

Of course, I am glossing over a host of other factoids that serve to enumerate accounts of why “Song of Myself” was so problematic and not ready to be consumed by the public-at-large: it has been debated that Whitman himself was homosexual.  He wrote of slavery but was not an abolitionist.  He self-published his now-famous “Leaves of Grass.”  He published a letter from Emerson as his blurb without permission.  Goddamn his lack of reverence!  And thank the monkey-shining heavens for it.

Controversy over Whitman continues in almost-silly fashion these days, with folks like the Westboro Baptist Church protesting in his name.  Perhaps they shudder that Whitman was so effortlessly feminine in contrast with how so many attempt to exhibit their masculine energy.   The latter often flex for fear-inspired respect.  Whitman’s muscular and emotional cataloging of people evokes a farther-reaching respect that holds both gendered energies in long embrace, an embrace that conflates and intensifies as the lines build and sing crudely and wax eloquent (Shakespeare was the soap opera lyricist of his day too, no?) – no wonder the church fidgets so loudly over his name:  lines cross chasms that order the world and make sense to them.

What would happen if a conflating disorder descended and we were all suddenly able to dance across boundaries with our kilts in our hands and lady beards down to the soles of our boots – what if we entered churches, those public platforms, and criticized our leaders securing the natural order of inequality?  Who could tell which power held then?  How would essays and sense-making find their way back to security?  My lines spilleth over; I am undone and undoing …

It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of

his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist
and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more…

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Apostrophe, Odes, Ekphrasis, Oh My!


Click for Poetry Workshop Info*

The Rooster Moans:  Poetry Cooperative
Dates: July 8 – August 4, 2012

For as long as we can remember, poets have addressed the sun and moon, distant lovers and heroes, while also separately singing odes to the gods. The Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington once said, “We learn about the soul, and we have to listen to the soul.”  Just as some poets use music for inspiration, ekphrasis is not simply a description of an art work, but influenced by the art work and, sometimes, the artist’s life. Carrington’s own paintings evidence her own efforts towards querying the world she inhabited beyond the limits of perception; her life also reveals many lively, unconventional turns that inspire and provide unexpected permissions, something poets often require — consciously or not.

In the course of this workshop, we will look at a the work and lives of a variety of artists, as well as poets, and consider how ekphrasis can extend beyond mere description of the visual arts but may also be combined with address (apostrophe) or incorporate the ode as a means to reflect appreciation, and content from, an artist’s work.

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108 Beads per Rosary + 108 Poets per Esque!

Harriet @ Poetry Foundation remarks, “you’ve got to check out Esque Mag Issue 3 … It’s beautiful.”

Announcing Esque -

For the third issue of esque, REVOLUTIONESQUE, we asked you to tell us about the revolution. We didn’t define what we mean by that. Whether it lives in your home, in the financial district, or the district of your heart, you defined your revolution and told us what it is. Here are y/our findings.

108 poets talk about the revolution:

Alex Dimitrov, Alex Rieser, Amanda Deutch, Amber West, Amish Trivedi, Amy Lawless, Anja Mutic, Anne Fisher-Wirth, Annie Finch, Becca Klaver, Betsy Wheeler, Bonnie MacAllister, Brad Liening, Brenda Iijima, Brian Howe, Cara Benson, Ching-In Chen, Chris Martin, Chris Pusateri, Christina Davis, Claudia Serea, Cynthia Arrieu-King, Dale Smith, Dan Hoy, Dana Teen Lomax, Danniel Schoonebeek, David Baratier, David Brazil, David Buuck, Diane di Prima, Donna Fleischer, Dot Devota, Dustin Luke Nelson, E.C. Messer, Elise Ficarra, Elizabeth Treadwell, Emily Kendal Frey, Erin Lyndal Martin, Evie Shockley, Filip Marinovich, Franklin Bruno, Gloria Frym, Hank Lazer, Harold Abramowitz, Hugh Behm-Steinberg, J/J Hastain, Jan Clausen, Jan Heller Levi, Jared White, Jeffrey Grunthaner, Jennifer Karmin, Jennifer Mackenzie, Jessica Reed, Jocelyn Lieu, John Ashbery, John Colburn, Jon Cotner, Joshua Ware, Kate Schapira, Kathleen Ossip, Kimberly Alidio, Kristin Prevallet, Krystal Languell, Larry Sawyer, Lars Palm, Laura Carter, Laura Hinton, Lauren DeGaine, Laynie Browne, Liesel Tarquini, Lily Brown, Lisa Samuels, M. G. Stephens, Magus Magnus, Maryam Alikhani, Matt Clifford, Maya Pindyck, Meena Alexander, Megan Volpert, Michelle Detorie, Mike Palmer, Nicholas DeBoer, Nikki Wallschlaeger, Noelle Kocot, Ossian Foley, Paige Taggart, Patricia Spears Jones, Paul Cunningham, Paula Cisewski, Peter Ciccariello, Phillip Griffith, Piotr Gwiazda, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Rachel Levitsky, Ray Gonzalez, Richard Loranger, Ricky Ray, Rita Stein, Rob MacDonald, Sara Jane Stoner, Sharon Mesmer, Sophie Podolski trans. Paul Legault, Stephanie Gray, Thom Donovan, Todd Colby, Tony Mancus, Vincent Katz, Zvonko Karanovic trans. Ana Bozicevic

With a special Naropa section featuring:

Allan Andre, Angela Stubbs, Ariella Ruth, Jessica Hagemann, Lauren Artiles, Lindsay Miller, Matthew Wedlock, Meryl DePasquale

Please share widely, with gratitude,

Amy King & Ana Bozicevic

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Amy King writes:  A review once described my work as “moving between the registers of the fabulous and the mundane;” as I write, however, I don’t purposely aim to interlace tonalities – I amass, pile, and occasionally flatten as I beat my matter into text. 

Poetry needs no one new party to lead it into the fraying future; if we’re to save the world, let’s raise a revolution as shapeshifters. In other words, this book is about metamorphosis through a radical cherishing. I am ravished by the world, aren’t you?

Please support Small Press Distribution - here.  


Amy King’s poems seem to encompass all that we think of as the “natural” world, i.e. sex, sun, love, rotting, hatching, dreaming, especially in the wonderful long poem “This Opera of Peace.” She brings these abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living: “Let the walls bear up the angle of the floor,/Let the mice be tragic for all that is caged,/Let time’s contagion mar us/until spoken people lie as particles of wind.

                                                                                                    — John Ashbery

"Rarely have the nude and the cooked been so neatly joined” as in Amy King’s I Want to Make You Safe. If “us,” “herons,” and “dust” rhyme,  then these poems rhyme. If that makes you feel safe, it shouldn’t. Amy King’s poems are exuberant, strange, and a bit grotesque. They’re spring-loaded and ready for trouble. Categories collapse. These are the new “thunderstorms with Barbie roots."

                                                                                                   — Rae Armantrout 


Vulnerability, fragility, and anxiety are all flushed out into the open here and addressed with such strong sound and rhythm that we recognize a resilient, defiant strength within them. King puts relentless pressure on forces seemingly beyond our reach and, in bringing them closer, exposes their own vulnerable centers. This is a poetry equally committed to language as a tool with social obligations and language as an art material obligated to reveal its own beauty. King’s language does both magnificently. 

                                                                                                    — Cole Swensen

I love Amy King's smile in photos of Amy King, Amy King's exuberance and looping, bashing panache (flamboyant manner, reckless courage) in the poems of Amy King, I'm going to say Amy King every chance I get in this blurb to make you think "I gotta read me some Amy King," especially if you're "looking for anything/that will pull the cork, boil the blood/of displeasure," as only the poems of Amy King can in the world in which Amy King is King (and Queen).     

                                                                                                     — Bob Hicok 

The first poem I read by Amy King was "MEN BY THE LIPS OF WOMEN" and it struck me with a force I had previously felt on encountering masterworks by Lorca and Dylan Thomas.  I won't live long enough to see if her poetry will continue to equal the magnificence of theirs, but the fact that she achieved it once (at least) proves to me it could.     

                                                                                                      — Bill Knott 


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"OCCUPY ADRIENNE RICH?" Amy King @ The Poetry Foundation

Entire Poem up @ Gaga Stigmata

Violent Blossoming Cities Ask How to Hear the Song

Infected in the language with feet on the flesh-
colored linoleum floor, white tulips growl to hold
our crisp momentous maker
fully cocked and loaded,
a crash-test monument to the lion’s handshake
that resembles people of a showcase persuasion:
any trauma is an order for us to come to terms with
immanence or some tuxedo of divorcing action
that can test the bound limbs of a diffuse-but-mercurial-present.
That is why death has been cancelled:
there is no legitimate innocent event. Hear,
her claw tooth vibrates off the dust of your wig
and voice bends into your ear.


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Filmmaker, Ghen Dennis, has been to New Orleans a number of times since Hurricane Katrina destroyed many people’s homes and neighborhoods.  She has worked on rebuilding projects, rescued a few dogs, and continues to document the remaining destruction.   During her most recent visit, she wheat-pasted poems to buildings still in need of rehab.

A few photos document these efforts (click to enlarge), and her documentary film will screen on September 15th at Issue Project Space in Brooklyn, NY.

From Ghen:

The locations are in Bywater neighborhood… aka Upper Ninth Ward. An area hit hard by Katrina, but recovering faster than the Lower Ninth and New Orleans East because of its proximity to the French Quarter and the now HBO famous Fauberg Marigny and Treme neighborhoods.  It is on the Western side of the Industrial Canal from the Lower Ninth Ward.

"It's Hers, This Mine I Mine for Black Apple Butter"

Of note: I was careful to hang the posters on walls that still bear the original Katrina spray paint signs… “TFW” = Toxic Flood Water, for example.


Still from Ghen Dennis’ poem, “Oil”… an oily map of the waterways in New Orleans from Lake Ponchartrain to the Gulf

(Click to enlarge)

“F/W” indicates that pets on site were given Food and Water. The X’s indicate dates (9/10 or 9/20) that relief workers were in the area.

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The Poetry Feminaissance by Travis Nichols

Are you a poet? Do you feel overwhelmed by negativity? Feel like there’s no hope for a poet in this world? Especially a female poet? Well don’t despair. Spend some time with Amy King. She’s the author of Slaves to Do These Things (Blazevox), and, with Ana Bozicevic, she co-curates the Brooklyn-based reading series, The Stain of Poetry, and, maybe most importantly, she has ideas. Over the past few weeks we’ve been emailing back and forth about her ideas of what it means to be a poet today. Here’s a few slices of the force for your perusal. Enjoy.


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…while ultimately what I think King is concerned with here is the nature of becoming by moving against time as a sort of point of resistance, what she is not interested in is sustaining such artificial constructs as the Master Slave dialectic itself, or of the notion of dialectical development altogether. Rather, in reading this book, what I have the sense of is an attempt to collapse all such structures as inherently stultifying. King repeatedly invokes inversions of typical imagery that could be read in such a manner, for example making “gods from the dust.” And she is clearly aware as she works that there will be those readers who will try to fit her work into such a mode. Some of what she writes even seems like a direct challenge to such an attempt, at one point again returning to the notion of theft and calling “language the arm of behavior” again not so much collapsing thesis and antithesis, but denying that relationship from first principles. Instead, an almost Nietzschean demand for manumission is made…


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Amy wrote: “If every poet were to record just one book of poems that they loved for the rest of us to listen to, and not just their own poems, how excellent would that be?”  I’m picking up positive reactions to this idea in different online venues today. One representative observation:

Now that wouldn’t be so hard, would it? I mean, they don’t have to be famous poets who do the recordings, do they? It would be easy to get it disseminated on iTunes wouldn’t it? Just do it as a podcast? I’m tellin’ ya, if I were retired, I’d grab that ball and run with it. And I’d love to pick a book I love and record it — though there’d be the issue of permissions, I guess.


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“This is the beauty of the new media.  There is no way to control it.”

–Srdja Popovic

What would Woolf, Whitman, Stein, Eliot, Pound, and countless other self-published writers do in the face of the monolithic publishing industry today?  Which new and contemporary writers should consider “alternative” means to get their books into the world?

Virginia Woolf and Walt Whitman published, stomped for, and distributed their own books when it was considered “vain” to do so.  As technologies advance and access to book-making opens, that stigma is fading.  Larger publishing houses may attempt to usurp the industry and dictate taste, but emerging small presses now support a range of non-traditional texts due to lower costs and less risk.  Authors can also escape the burden of yearly submissions and long wait times by publishing their own books, thus maintaining control of their intellectual property.

Five years ago, armed with a disdain for submission fees, I jumped when a small press inquired about my work.  The offer to publish my first full-length collection came when only a few of my poems had appeared online (another formerly disreputable practice).  With book in hand a year later, I answered a review query with the caveat that my book was POD (print-on-demand).  The reviewer replied that a book is a book is a book.  It didn’t occur to me that my book should be judged on its merits, not by its means of production.   What would have happened to Leaves of Grass or A Room of One’s Own if Whitman and Woolf caved to possible disapproval?

What’s Cooking?

Your work is the main dish you’ve been preparing to serve.   It’s finally time to summon up the courage to bring your feast to the table.  But first, you’ve got to get the aroma across the airwaves to tempt your readers.

Whitman might agree:  due to its reach and increasing ease of access, the internet may serve as the next democratizing force in the world.   It provides a means for dissemination unlike any paper predecessor and should not be ignored by aspiring writers.  I’m not encouraging book burning, but I wish to open others to newer means of publishing and understanding of how new literacies are built on, in relation to and as complements to those in play today.  To ignore changing technologies and how we process literature is to be stuck, blind to the evolution from papyrus scrolls to mimeo to typeset to digital—regardless of anyone’s resistance or fondness for the good old days.   That loyalty can inform your next step; let’s consider how a writer’s wares may adapt.

Not Your Grandma’s Recipe

Apologists and the internet-fearful, take heart:  you’re not parting the seas to achieve your goal; you’re marketing your wares in a way that *is* precedented, and you’re not alone.  Getting your work into readers’ hands is feasible for every writer now, without big brother’s approval and sometimes-very-costly “helping hand.”

Intentionally or not, the big business model aims to gobble up independent booksellers, marketers, and publishers, and they’re doing so with some success.  Large online and bookstore franchises are beholden to profits.  Publishers pay big bucks for front-table placements and website “features.” They market to sell in volume and are not concerned, ultimately, with content.  A blatant example of corporate disinterest can be seen in the distribution of Michael Moore’s film, “Capitalism: a Love Story.”  Wal Mart stocked it, though the film indicts its practices, because it sells (more here).

TENDER BUTTONS by Gertrude Stein (1914)

The end result of capitalist marketing, a model increasingly adopted by the literary world, is that safe tastes rule, and authors are tempted to “water down” for popular market mentality rather than create what their own consciences dictate.  Old values are reinscribed and writing styles remain stagnant, despite writers’ efforts to present incisive views, to give voice to the ethical, and to explore atypical modes of thought and style.  We all have freedom of speech, but who gets heard is quite limited, especially when it comes to publication.

Women, still viewed as the world’s primary caregivers, teachers, and masters of the domestic realm, should especially forego stereotypes that claim only men are invested in technology while women stick to old-fashioned methods of dissemination.  These should be outmoded clichés, despite the fact that the recent cadre of iPad and e-reader reviewers has been almost exclusively male.

Consider the common trend that men typically read male authors, while women read all genders.  Women read approximately 80% of the fiction published, while men primarily read nonfiction (Messud).  If one considers the number imbalances of female and male authors on awards and “Best of” lists, what becomes obvious is that women’s views, styles, and values are not appreciated and rewarded proportionately to that of male authors (See “The Count”).

In “Do real men buy novels?” David Rothman suggests, “Perhaps the United States wouldn’t end up in wars so often if its policymakers showed a little more empathy with others and used diplomacy instead. Guess what can help build empathy. Yep: the F word [fiction].”  I submit that women’s poetry offers similar potential.  A focus on male-authored texts does a disservice to the literate world that no profit margin can remedy.  Big business publishing gives primacy to male accounts of history, nonfiction depictions of notable lives, and masculine modes of art and creation, but that same model has not made significant room for the values, interests and work by women that break the standard.  We need to radically change this model.

Publishing women’s words may be one of the first steps necessary to shift the current paradigm that disallows a *variety* of voices the visibility they’re due.   Consider this matter in relation to economics.  From “Letter from Zainab Salbi and Naila Kabeer,” “When we allow the traditionally male-dominated front-line discussions of war to be segregated from the back-line struggles of women working to ensure that there is food to eat, water to drink, and hope to spare, we only widen the chasm dividing the grassroots from the decision-making processes that affect all of society.  In this way, women’s wellbeing is the bellwether of society, and how women fare correlates directly with how the society fares overall.” In a March 2010 report from the UN Economic and Social Council, Czeslaw Walek corroborates, “The greater the gender equality, the higher the satisfaction with life.  States could not revert to ‘ancient’ behavior and customs that portrayed the obligatory private woman and public man.”  These measures conjure a similar need for gender balance via the reading of both male and female visions and values in the literary world.  As economists work to create measures reflective of the societal spectrum, writers must also work for a richer, more equitable literary landscape.

We need to make public the voices of the world’s caretakers, nurturers, and educators.  Of course, not all women fulfill or write from these roles nor are these roles only held by women, but we cannot fail to note the absence of many who inhabit these roles from the larger chorus.  Similarly, world business should not be limited to the lens of Gross Domestic Product, an inherently-flawed measure that lacks considerations necessary to fully assess well-being.

UNDER A GLASS BELL by Anais Nin (self published 1944 using a manual press)

This model, like the big business model for literature, is focused on exponential, unencumbered production growth, regardless of how wealth is distributed, how much unpaid work (domestic and volunteer) factors into community solidarity, how environmental health, sustainability, and a number of other factors feature when appraising society’s “wealth.”   The big business model for publishing, like the GDP, is soulless, neutral to the particulars that make up the health and sustainability of any population, including the literary community.  Literature can present a range of thoughts, philosophies, and lifestyles in symphonic cacophony, rather than only one homogenous segment of the population (& in only one traditionally masculine mode).

Wheels on the Meal

Various technologies can oust the books-for-profit model, providing opportunities to writers so that they need not be indebted to that model.  It’s up to those willing to forego “waiting to be discovered” to become proactive writers who push their words into the world to see what they really can do.

While there is still be debate over POD publishing, the concerns have shifted from questions of validity to the quality of publishing platforms; authors now question which company will provide the best services and end-products.  (An aside:  Issues of publication “saturation” in the marketplace hasn’t impeded a flood of well-known publishers from disseminating any number of vapid books, which nullifies the argument against “everyone getting to publish anything” — the marketplace would change in terms of how the “good stuff” rises and readers find it.)  A number of companies offer a variety of options ranging from user-friendly platforms to packages tailored to authors’ extended goals.  Services include the provision of ISBNs, barcodes, and distribution assistance right down to book specs like paper quality, size, color, etc.  One should research, and assess her own needs before confirming any deal.  Or try an online company like, which doesn’t require a package; you can simply try your hand at design and print as many copies as you wish.

The new crop of small press publishers use POD publishing too.  A few include BlazevoxNo Tell Books,CoconutWord TechBloof BooksBlanc PressSalt PressMiPOesiasShearsman, and Otoliths.  Others no longer qualify their printing means, rightfully so.  As archival paper and ink have come into use, one can no longer distinguish between digital and large company print. Noteworthy benefits of working with a small press publisher include a close rapport with your editor, who often promotes and is willing to try new marketing strategies, unlike big industry professionals who may not focus on promotion at all. Instead of waiting years for the big fish to catch you, proliferate your work by available means now.

Poets may publish an e-chapbook with presses like MoriaScantily CladBlue HourDurationDusie,CoconutMiPOesiasH_NGM_N, and others.  E-chaps offer ease of distribution, durability, versatility, and often feature audio, images, animation and other multimedia elements.

All writers should investigate e-books as more e-readers appear and draw interest.  Major writers have begun to include “e-rights” in their contracts, and some libraries, like Cushing Academy in Boston, havegotten rid of book collections altogether, replacing them with e-readers and laptop carrels.  While the arguments for hardcopies remain valid, don’t ignore the electronic realm to prove your loyalty to curling up with a good book.   You won’t reach those who find it as comforting to turn on their iPads while sipping their cappuccinos or riding the train each morning.

"The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago (Celebrating Literary Foremothers)

Setting the Places

The more the spider spins her web, the broader her reach.   Many fear stepping into the metaphorical “web” where marketing wares online can feel overwhelming—if you let it.  The web you initially weave can be quite manageable in the long run.  I’m surprised when I hear, “I see your name everywhere!  How do you do so much?”  While the initial work of establishing an online presence took many hours, maintenance requires very few.

When moving into a new neighborhood, you establish a home, reach out and integrate through schools, local groceries and watering holes, neighborhood watch groups, YMCA, etc.   People begin to know you.  The same holds true online:  you move to a “homepage” and then establish relationships.

Cultivating community should be one of your core foci; do so via blogs, listservs of topical interest, community sites, social networks, and through your own group of friends and associates.  If you have time, run a reading series, attend conferences, post photos and videos from readings, do a road trip book tour with a friend.  As with all content you post, always link back to your homepage.  Connecting with others online is one of the most effective ways of getting your work into the world.

*  Blogs – a two way street.  Start your own and post content, but be sure to link to others that speak to your interests.   Publish frequently and comment on others’ blogs to attract traffic to your own.  Link to peripheral sites such as your photo page, videos of your public readings and wherever your poems or reviews appear.  Maintain a schedule page to alert readers when you’re reading next.

*  Join listservs whose subject matter is relevant to your genre.  To keep email low, subscribe to the digest for one daily email that contains the day’s discussions.  Participate in discussions!  Women especially should forego “lurk” mode where our voices could stand to be heard.  Use your email signature, which appears as a footer every time you participate.  You might change it regularly to include a link to a recent interview, poem or article you wrote.

*  Keep a writer’s profile at Red Room and She Writes, two major DIY sites. It’s very easy to cut and paste blog posts to the templates there.  Readers may encounter your work though they’ve not visited your original blog.  The internet is fragmented; re-post worthwhile content.  Link back to your homepage whenever you can.  Open a Goodreads account, locate writers who interest you, then add your own book and “recommend” it to your network of reader friends.

*  On Facebook, stay focused and make “friends” – stats show that men reciprocate online “friendships” while women do not.  This is networking at its most basic:  connect with others who share an interest, such as your preferred genre, reading groups, academia or publishing.  Also, Facebook can import your blog posts forever with one easy link submission.

Consider Facebook an informal water cooler.  I post off-topic articles to shoot the breeze, inquire about the latest hot tunes, or ask who’s reading in the city soon.  Avoid all zombie and solitaire games; they’re time munchers!  The FB water cooler lets your personality shine through; enjoy it.

*  Keep a list of emails for “real-life” friends, colleagues, and writers to announce your latest publications, upcoming conferences and reading appearances. Regularly remind your core group that you are still plugging away and hope to see or hear from them soon.

Again, women should finally embrace these communal technologies and practice the art of unabashed self-promotion, confident that your subject matter, content, style, and voice will edify the literary landscape.  Your book creations are also children, labored over for weeks and years, to be sent into the world and fiercely promoted; we write to be read.

Final Note

I’ve witnessed enough female students leave classes, recuse themselves from public debate, avoid reading invitations, and miss opportunities men actively seek, whether their work was ready or not.  When I edited, male writers outnumbered women in submissions more than two to one.  Editors and curators can solicit women whose work they admire, but more importantly, women should also finally throw off the mantle of modesty as we master new technologies to get our words heard.

What the body politic needs now is a balance of voices and literatures so that we might truly begin to integrate, and overlap, the practices and values both men and women employ.  It may be simplistic to say the current model is not working well, but if we consider the growing gap between the world’s poor and wealthy, the continuous wars, the fact that the 20th century was one of the bloodiest in human history, then hearing a few more women’s voices in the literary realm surely can’t be any more shocking than our glaring absence on those “Best of” and notable prize lists.  If that means women and sympathetic men are to emerge from “marginal” positions of publishing, then let’s set more places for the books forthcoming.

“We’ve always been talking about 50‐50.”

–Gloria Steinem


Abel, David. “Welcome to the Library. Say Goodbye to the Books. Cushing Academy Embraces a Digital Future.” The Boston Globe. 4 Sept. 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <>.

Messud, Claire. “Guernica / Writers, Plain and Simple.” Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics. Feb. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <>

Rothman, David. “Do Real Men Buy Novels? And Could E-books Boost Male Readership?” TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home. 11 Sept. 2007. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <>.

Salbi, Zainab, and Naila Kabeer. “Letter from Zainab Salbi and Naila Kabeer”.” Stronger Women Stronger Nations: Report Series. Women for Women International, 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <>.

Walek, Czeslaw. DECLARATION ADOPTED BY WOMEN’S COMMISSION REAFFIRMS BEIJING TEXTS, STRESSES NEED. Rep. no. Fifty-fourth Session 5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM). United Nations Economic and Social Council, 2 Mar. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2010. <>.

Additional Resources

*  CWIP Self-Publishing Resources Guide


*  Library Thing


*  Red Room

*  She Writes

*  VIDA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts)

*  WOMPO (Women’s Poetry Listserv)

*  WordPress


Amy King is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently: Slaves to Do These Things(Blazevox) and the forthcoming I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press).  She is also preparing a book of interviews with the poet Ron Padgett.

King authors VIDA’s (Women in Letters and Literary Arts) “The Count” and serves as a board member, her poems have been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and she has been the recipient of a MacArthur Scholarship for Poetry.  King also moderates the Poetics List (SUNY-Buffalo/University of Pennsylvania), the Women’s Poetry Listserv (WOMPO), and the Goodreads Poetry! Group.   She teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

She is also co-editing Poets for a Living Waters with Heidi Lynn Staples. With Ana Bozicevic, King co-curates the Brooklyn-based reading series, The Stain of Poetry.  For more information, please visit

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NEW REVIEW OF SLAVES TO DO THESE THINGS by Bobbi Lurie @ Jacket Magazine”

Amy King’s poems are dense and energetically written. They are often fragmented collages of narratives which are in no way narratives in the usual sense. They express a great deal of movement of the mind, written with a strong imagination and unexpected twists.



The Ugly Americans

Last night I dreamt Maria Santiago
dissolves when she sweeps and stocks
a Manhattan bodega, her borrowed whisper
lingers on the backs of patrons,


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We Rise In the Bulbs of Night


You might say that God is in her details—not that that means what you think it means.


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A new online journal of p/oetry and man/ifesto:


*note: esque is a flash site. wait a full minute while it loads. enjoy.*


OETRY is the kitchen sink.Charles Bernstein. Bei Dao. Tamiko Beyer. Jackie Clark. Amy De’Ath. Lidija Dimkovska. Kate Durbin. Steven Karl. Natalie Lyalin. Filip Marinovich. Sharon Mesmer. Miguel Murphy. Ariana Reines. Saeed Jones. Tomaz Salamun. Evie Shockley. Heidi Lynn Staples. Leigh Stein. Cole Swensen. John Tranter. Matvei Yankelevich.

IFESTO is everything but.Jennifer Bartlett. Jillian Brall. Ching-In Chen. Ken Chen. Rachel Blau DuPlessis. Jennifer H. Fortin. Molly Gaudry. Roxane Gay. Matt Hart. Brenda Hillman. Dan Hoy. Ron Padgett & Olivier Brossard. Lars Palm. Joan Retallack. Brandon Shimoda. Anne Waldman. Franz Wright. Carolyn Zaikowski.

visit ESQUE &

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But if your contents, and the subject matter and styles they cover, feel lopsided or homogenous, they likely are.  And that’s not to say that writers can’t write beyond or outside of their seeming outward identities, but let’s not cling too closely to the idea that we should only hire sighted and hearing actors…CON’T HERE.

Is raising a human not of *the* utmost import?  Don’t the effects of nurturing and educating people ripple throughout society?  How did we come to value stories of conquering over stories of nurturing? …CON’T HERE.

Far too often, Plath is victimized as the unhinged genius/woman scorned in that “coldest London winter on record,” while her extremely rigorous, ambitious, Thesaurus-wielding poet-self is underplayed.  To boot, Sexton wasn’t just Plath’s friend; she was a fierce poet who wrote her own poetry.  We need to ask…CON’T HERE.

I can’t tell you how many of my students have read F. Scott Fitzgerald but have never heard of the equally amazing writer Zora Neale Hurston.  And the realities they represent in their work are worlds apart.  You tell me when you open the current anthologies of American Literature…CON’T HERE.

You’ll see that count shortly on the VIDA website, not-so-incidentally (  Is it because men are writing about women’s experiences, in the voices of women, with the awareness of women better than women? …CON’T HERE.

As far as language creation, word- & syntax-tweaking is concerned, a lot of poets, “experimental” and otherwise, do this already – see books like Feminaissance and Infinite Difference for such women poets – and there’s no reason why every stripe of poet couldn’t mess around with their own conceptions of how a poem or a sentence should look and sound like and what meaning(s) it points to…CON’T HERE.

As far as language creation, word- & syntax-tweaking is concerned, a lot of poets, “experimental” and otherwise, do this already – see books like Feminaissance and Infinite Difference for such women poets – and there’s no reason why every stripe of poet couldn’t mess around with their own conceptions of how a poem or a sentence should look and sound like and what meaning(s) it points to; at the very least they’ll have some fun…CON’T HERE.

How long will we have to qualify these men as special instead of simply as fathers?  The notion of a father who has never changed a diaper used to be bragging territory, but now it has become a flag of embarrassment…CON’T HERE.





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1.) It’s like being touched.

2.) You are the mother we’ve been waiting for.

3.) …amid the paper dolls we absent.

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Alone in a Crowd: A Tragicomedy of Pronouns in

Slaves to Do These Things by Amy King



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Kate Biben, Pen and Ink on Paper (2010)






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The Corresponding Society presents


Your favorite virtue.
Your favorite qualities in a man.
Your favorite qualities in a woman.
Your chief characteristic.
What you appreciate the most in your friends.
Your main fault.
Your favorite occupation.
Your idea of happiness.





It’s Hers, This Mine I Mine for Black Apple Butter

They’re just leaking ocean
carbon into the harbors of green …


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“Reading appears passive because it takes place in a chair, on a bed, at the beach, in the tub, etc. Reading is …

–Continued at The Laughing Yeti!

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May 13, 2010 at 6:46AM by Mark Warren

There’s a potential solution to the Gulf oil spill that neither BP, nor the federal government, nor anyone — save a couple intuitive engineers — seems willing to try. As The Politics Blog reported on Tuesday in an interview with former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, the untapped solution involves using empty supertankers to suck the spill off the surface, treat and discharge thecontaminated water, and either salvage or destroy the slick.

… The suck-and-salvage technique was developed in desperation across the Arabian Gulf following a spill of mammoth proportions — 700 million gallons — that has until now gone unreported, as Saudi Arabia is a closed society, and its oil company, Saudi Aramco, remains owned by the House of Saud. But in 1993 and into ’94, with four leaking tankers and two gushing wells, the royal family had an environmental disaster nearly sixty-five times the size of Exxon Valdez on its hands, and it desperately needed a solution. …

UPDATE (June 4): Nearly 50 Supertankers Are Waiting for BP (and On the Cheap)

UPDATE (June 1): BP Executives Skirt Around Supertanker Questions

UPDATE (May 27): Obama Glances Over Supertanker Question as BP, Coast Guard Fail to Respond

UPDATE (May 26): The Pragmatic Oil Spill Fix That BP’s Still Waiting On

UPDATE (May 24): Sources Say BP Looking Beyond ‘Top Kill’ with Supertanker Fix

UPDATE (May 21): Why the Supertanker Fix Works at Depth… but the Government Won’t Listen

Read more at 
ESQUIRE.  And please pass this story on!

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Poets for Living Waters – New Statements / Poems

I don’t have the answers. I barely have the questions.  But I’m not egotistical enough to imagine I can come up with a solution or complete understanding on my own.  I also don’t think sitting in front of the TV, feeling angry and impotent, is the answer. This is our Chernobyl. Our genocidal war with our own environment.  We may implode with oil and shed a tear for the dead fishing industries.  Swim among tar balls and swollen sea turtles.  We’ve done it to ourselves, grown up obeying the homegrown U.S. ethos of “Progress. Increase your wealth. Produce, produce, produce!” We panic when the GDP wanes. If we don’t have full-time jobs we spend the bulk of days doing, we feel empty and worthless.

But what are we contributing to? Americans aren’t afraid to work, no question. But we don’t seem to have our eyes on the horizon—we don’t seem to know what all of our blood, sweat and tears are building. We mourn the men who died on that oil well platform; we applaud their determination to do their jobs. But the oil – why has this lust and greed and profit-for-oil dictated how we heat our homes, run our machinery, get us around? Why do our jobs rely and focus on getting and selling the black sludge?

Why do we live with this reliance? When I note that I don’t have the answer, I am simultaneously aware that the current ways we live are inherently, and traumatically flawed. We are co-dependent users, whether we realize and admit it or not.  My children–and yours–will have to deal with the fallout of this legacy – the future? It’s finally time to change the view. Now we are forced to ask the questions in our own backyards:  How else can we carry on? How can we replace our reliance on oil? What harm have we done? How can we slow down the pace, stop working for greedy oil profit margins and think more humanely about exactly what our jobs are?

These are just a few of the questions we’ve begun to ask. We now must get other Americans to ask these questions. The media isn’t going to pose them.  Our media is owned and run by big business. They will not imagine better ways of life for us.  America has done great things; we still have the power to do more. If we can just start envisioning a different future than the one on our horizon (and TVs) right now…

Please find a number of new statements and poems linked below from regular Americans, necessarily increasing in dialogue and scope, asking vital questions – please participate, think aloud, figure out what world you’d like to be borne into and what world you’d like to leave your children living in.  Share with your friends, family, co-workers, and strangers alike. Let’s become our own “think tank” and stop giving big business the power to tell us how to live our lives.    We’re still here – it’s not “too late” to respond, to change things in small ways at first — if the effects of this spill will be felt for decades, so should our actions in response to it!  Thanks for joining this growing nationwide conversation…











































































































































































































Poets and Writers Magazine — “Poets Act on Oil Spill

Poets and Writers Magazine — “Poets Take Action in Wake of Gulf Coast Disaster

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An excerpt from James Baldwin’s essay, “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” (1979):

People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate. …

What joins all languages, and all men, is the necessity to confront life, in order, not inconceivably, to outwit death: The price for this is the acceptance, and achievement, of one’s temporal identity. So that, for example, thought it is not taught in the schools (and this has the potential of becoming a political issue) the south of France still clings to its ancient and musical Provencal, which resists being described as a “dialect.” And much of the tension in the Basque countries, and in Wales, is due to the Basque and Welsh determination not to allow their languages to be destroyed. This determination also feeds the flames in Ireland for many indignities the Irish have been forced to undergo at English hands is the English contempt for their language.

It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity. There have been, and are, times, and places, when to speak a certain language could be dangerous, even fatal. Or, one may speak the same language, but in such a way that one’s antecedents are revealed, or (one hopes) hidden.

–from James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” (1979).



An excerpt from Paule Marshall’s essay, “The Making of a Writer: From the Poets in the Kitchen” (1983):

‘’If you say what’s on your mind in the language that comes to you from your parents and your street and friends you’ll probably say something beautiful.’’ Grace Paley tells this, she says, to her students at the beginning of every writing course. …

I grew up among poets. Now they didn’t look like poets – whatever that breed is supposed to look like. Nothing about them suggested that poetry was their calling. They were just a group of ordinary housewives and mothers, my mother included, who dressed in a way (shapeless housedresses, dowdy felt hats and long, dark, solemn coats) that made it impossible for me to imagine they had ever been young. …

Later, armed with the few dollars they had earned, which in their vocabulary became ‘’a few raw-mouth pennies,’’ they made their way back to our neighborhood, where they would sometimes stop off to have a cup of tea or cocoa together before going home to cook dinner for their husbands and children. …

The basement kitchen of the brownstone house where my family lived was the usual gathering place. Once inside the warm safety of its walls the women threw off the drab coats and hats, seated themselves at the large center table, drank their cups of tea or cocoa, and talked. While my sister and I sat at a smaller table over in a corner doing our homework, they talked – endlessly, passionately, poetically, and with impressive range. No subject was beyond them.

True, they would indulge in the usual gossip: whose husband was running with whom, whose daughter looked slightly ‘’in the way’’ (pregnant) under her bridal gown as she walked down the aisle. That sort of thing. But they also tackled the great issues of the time. They were always, for example, discussing the state of the economy. It was the mid and late 30’s then, and the aftershock of the Depression, with its soup lines and suicides on Wall Street, was still being felt.

Some people, they declared, didn’t know how to deal with adversity. They didn’t know that you had to ‘’tie up your belly’’ (hold in the pain, that is) when things got rough and go on with life. They took their image from the bellyband that is tied around the stomach of a newborn baby to keep the navel pressed in.

They talked politics. Roosevelt was their hero. He had come along and rescued the country with relief and jobs, and in gratitude they christened their sons Franklin and Delano and hoped they would live up to the names. …

THERE was no way for me to understand it at the time, but the talk that filled the kitchen those afternoons was highly functional. It served as therapy, the cheapest kind available to my mother and her friends. Not only did it help them recover from the long wait on the corner that morning and the bargaining over their labor, it restored them to a sense of themselves and reaffirmed their self-worth. Through language they were able to overcome the humiliations of the work-day. …

But more than therapy, that freewheeling, wide-ranging, exuberant talk functioned as an outlet for the tremendous creative energy they possessed. They were women in whom the need for self-expression was strong, and since language was the only vehicle readily available to them they made of it an art form that – in keeping with the African tradition in which art and life are one – was an integral part of their lives.

And their talk was a refuge. They never really ceased being baffled and overwhelmed by America – its vastness, complexity and power. Its strange customs and laws. At a level beyond words they remained fearful and in awe. Their uneasiness and fear were even reflected in their attitude toward the children they had given birth to in this country. They referred to those like myself, the little Brooklynborn Bajans (Barbadians), as ‘’these New York children’’ and complained that they couldn’t discipline us properly because of the laws here. ‘’You can’t beat these children as you would like, you know, because the authorities in this place will dash you in jail for them. After all, these is New York children.’’ Not only were we different, American, we had, as they saw it, escaped their ultimate authority.

Confronted therefore by a world they could not encompass, which even limited their rights as parents, and at the same time finding themselves permanently separated from the world they had known, they took refuge in language. ‘’Language is the only homeland,’’ Czeslaw Milosz, the emigre Polish writer and Nobel Laureate, has said. This is what it became for the women at the kitchen table.

It served another purpose also, I suspect. My mother and her friends were after all the female counterpart of Ralph Ellison’s invisible man. Indeed, you might say they suffered a triple invisibility, being black, female and foreigners. They really didn’t count in American society except as a source of cheap labor. But given the kind of women they were, they couldn’t tolerate the fact of their invisibility, their powerlessness. And they fought back, using the only weapon at their command: the spoken word.

Those late afternoon conversations on a wide range of topics were a way for them to feel they exercised some measure of control over their lives and the events that shaped them. ‘’Soully-gal, talk yuh talk!’’ they were always exhorting each other. ‘’In this man world you got to take yuh mouth and make a gun!’’ They were in control, if only verbally and if only for the two hours or so that they remained in our house.

–from Paule Marshall’s essay, “The Making of a Writer: From the Poets in the Kitchen” (1983).


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A photo of James Baldwin graces the cover of Poets & Writers this month. Coincidentally enough, I was just revisiting his book of essays that I read as an undergrad, The Price of the Ticket. What an excellent book & man.

Here’s an excerpt from an essay, “Here Be Dragons,” that seems fitting for today:

“But this by no means sums up the state or the possibilities of the human being in whom the awakening of desire fuels imagination and in whom imagination fuels desire. In other words, it is not possible for the human being to be as simple as a stallion or a mare, because the human imagination is perpetually required to examine, control, and redefine reality, of which we must assume ourselves to be the center and the key. Nature and revelation are perpetually challenging each other; this relentless tension is one of the keys to human history and to what is known as the human condition.

… The American idea of sexuality appears to be rooted in the American idea of masculinity. Idea may not be the precise word, for the idea of one’s sexuality can only with great violence be divorced or distanced from the idea of the self. Yet something resembling this rupture has certainly occurred (and is occurring) in American life, and violence has been the American daily bread since we have heard of America. This violence, furthermore, is not merely literal and actual but appears to be admired and lusted after, and the key to the American imagination.

…The American ideal , then, of sexuality appears to be rooted in the American ideal of masculinity. This ideal has created cowboys and Indians, good guys and bad guys, punks and studs, tough guys and softies, butch and faggot, black and white. It is an ideal so paralytically infantile that it is virtually forbidden–as an unpatriotic act–that the American boy evolve into the complexity of manhood.

The exigencies created by the triumph of the Industrial Revolution–or, in other terms, the rise of Europe to global dominance–had, among many mighty effects, that of commercializing the roles of men and women. Men became the propagators, or perpetrators, of property, and women became the means by which that property was protected and handed down. One may say that this was nothing more than the ancient and universal division of labor–women nurtured the tribe, men battled for it–but the concept of property had undergone a change. This change was vast and deep and sinister.

For the first time in human history, a man was reduced not merely to a thing but to a thing the value of which was determined, absolutely, by the thing’s commercial value. That this pragmatic principle dictated the slaughter of the native American, the enslavement of the black and the monumental rape of Africa–to say nothing of creating the wealth of the Western world–no one, I suppose, will now attempt to deny.

But this principle also raped and starved Ireland, for example, as well as Latin America, and it controlled the pens of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence–a document more clearly commercial than moral. This is how, and why, the American Constitution was able to define the slave as three-fifths a man, from which legal and commercial definition it legally followed that a black man ‘had no rights a white man was bound to respect.’”

Whew. If you haven’t read from this collection, there’s a copy in your local library or a used copy atAmazon (new copies aren’t sold anymore). Baldwin goes on to relate these ideas to his personal experiences growing up as a black man in New York City, specifically Harlem, who initially had sex and fell in love with men, white women, and a few black women. He was something of a self-declared “freak” because of the back-and-forth beatings and embracings by the same men struggling to assert their masculinity as well as find some relief from it. Baldwin’s considerations of race, gender, and sexuality are astute, personal, and applicable to all.

One of the topics I discuss with my expository writing classes is gender. Though there is an occasional snicker or sigh, there is more often a hunger to discuss issues of masculinity, and inevitably, homosexuality, that I can barely control at times. It’s as though these recent high school grads have finally been given permission to talk about such sordid topics as adults and are finding a way to articulate their thoughts without falling prey to the usual behavioral checks. No one has to call someone else a “fag” simply because he says he doesn’t have a problem with gays. This leads to a discussion about the limitations of living up to one’s masculine potential and how we learn to control (& threaten with misogynist or homophobic name calling) each other when a guy isn’t fulfulling his proper role. The best class I ever had where this particular discussion went full confession was a class made up of almost all young men. The first time I walked into this class, I was totally initimidated. And they turned out to be one of the most respectful and open groups I’ve ever had. But I’m waxing nostalgic here…

Get the book. Thank Baldwin later.

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But does it detract or distract from other poetic devices and effects? Is being memorable the beat-all, end-all of a poem’s intent? Not that this should be an either/or question. Sent via Jilly:


03 Aug 2008

From nursery rhymes to Shakespearian sonnets, alliterations have always been an important aspect of poetry whether as an interesting aesthetic touch or just as something fun to read. But a recent study suggests that this literary technique is useful not only for poetry but also for memory.

“In our experiments, concepts presented early in a poem (or prose passage) were more available when alliterative sounds overlapped between lines than when there was no overlap,” the researchers reported.

Continued here.



Poetry: better than texting!

By Patrick Buckridge

'Slimy things did crawl with legs, upon the slimy sea'.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: ‘Slimy things did crawl with legs, upon the slimy sea’.


It’s a strange thing, but in the current enthusiasm for creative writing courses in Australian universities, poetry – the oldest of the literary art forms – has been left out in the cold.

Continue here.


From Jubilat:

Peter Gizzi: For me film language is closer to lyric poetry than it is to fiction. Most likely because I’m interested in both modes of expression. Film language is unavoidable—it’s part of our unconscious, our desires, memories, etc., and is very captivating and powerful. I went to NYU in my twenties to study film but quickly changed my major to literature and then ancient literature. Maybe now looking back I can see that the connection to ancient language and film has to do with origins of expression. Film is a relatively new language technology of our recent human history (i.e., we are in its early phases), and if silent film is like cuneiform or hieroglyph, we might say classic film language of the thirties and forties is like Greek and Latin. I don’t know—it’s just something I can see now.

Like poetry, film tells a story by compressing time, and through an emotive, image-based structure. There is a syntax of images, a rhythm. And it works with light—a material light. Not a major observation, but still an endlessly fasinating medium—light I mean. It gives relief to a void or a darkness, opacity of being. In some way it makes a reality out of the darkness. I love the opening to Beckett’s late novel Company, too: “A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.” That the book is titled Company but the voice comes to “one.” It’s a wonderful description of how it is to be in a cinema, an inherently public experience—to be alone together connected by images and phantasms of light and shadow, dreams. But it’s also a wonderful correlative to being alone in one’s room, in one’s library, memory, alone together in one’s books, and a voice comes to one, and then a poem begins. A world comes to one. And for a moment you are your self and another becoming another thing, a poem.

Continue here.

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I’ve Loved You So Long

Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, but when it comes to testing the acting chops of any thespian, I’d say French cinema is the primary place to go about such measures. No fancy props. No extreme special effects. A lot of close up, careful camera work that relies on the actors knowing how important executing pauses, facial and bodily expressions, and the delivery of their lines are. Of course, beautiful scenery is helpful, and is usually plentiful, whether filming in Paris or in the south of France.

Novelist-turned-director, Philippe Claudel, embraces this cost-efficient tradition in “I’ve Loved You So Long” in such a way that he damn-near executes a masterpiece. Foremost, he mines the talent of British actor, Kristin Scott Thomas, so thoroughly that one walks away understanding, beyond the scope of the story, how acting certainly does have its geniuses, and Scott Thomas is among the top. The premise of the film itself is quite simple: We meet Juliette, a sullen, chain-smoking woman, played by Scott Thomas, upon her release from prison, where she has spent the last fifteen years for murder. Her sister, Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), takes her into her home, enthusiastically and unwaveringly in the face of her husband’s initial resistance, to give her a place to re-enter society and renew their relationship, which was cut short when Lea was still a teenager.

Prison has done a number on Scott Thomas’s Juliette, a former doctor, as have the details of the murder, and so Scott Thomas presents us with a woman who is intelligent and sensitive, yet hardened and withdrawn. The balance Scott Thomas pulls off throughout the film is impeccable. Her disinterest in make-up and lack of concern for attire, and other niceties the world might provide, are mere superficial indicators of the struggles Juliette experiences even within the most uneventful situations. That Scott Thomas often allows us to see this tumultuousness solely through her facial expressions and body language is an art to behold. That Scott Thomas manipulates silence as a serious craft warrants the French equivalent of an Oscar and a note that this may be, so far, the best performance of her career.

While Claudel relies heavily on the talents of his cast, he also uses the traditional suspense tact of withholding exactly why Juliette killed as well as brilliantly building on numerous succinct scenes to fill out the progress made between the characters over weeks and months. He also has a keen eye for omitting unnecessary moments that may provide dramatic fodder (i.e. the melee that might follow the husband rushing home when he discovers Juliette has been left alone with the children) or build suspense, but instead expects the viewer to be sophisticated enough to fill in the gaps as he moves on to show us more productive key scenes.

The subtle, uneasy tone of the film propels this story’s development and our investment in it. Even as we are set up to settle in and sympathize with Juliette’s slow efforts to readjust to the world while our heart strings are simultaneously tugged by Lea, who desperately strives to love and help her sister, we are haunted by not knowing why Juliette was capable of the heinous murder she refuses to discuss, and so a question of motive unsettles the viewer until the very end. Juliette is at once a haunted Hamlet we suspect may be a little crazy and ill intentioned, and she is also the pained son who needs, but cannot find, alleviation in what’s left of the world. The only grace that may save her is Lea’s faith in their bond, a faith that surpasses the scope of expectation.

I’ve Loved You So Long” deftly handles a range of emotions and characters, anchored by Scott Thomas’ seemingly “absent” Juliette. Despite her quiet resistance, many regularly come to seek Juliette out, including her parole officer, one of Lea’s university colleagues, and Lea’s older daughter, Lys. Though these relations do slowly draw her out, it is the primacy of the sisters’ relationship that makes this film special. One might expect, especially of a Hollywood-driven film, which this certainly is not, that Juliette’s redemption would come in the form of some romantic potential providing her with a clichéd reason to live and love again. But the love that is renewed and eventually finds Juliette is that of her sister’s, a love between siblings that surpasses the self-imposed desolation Juliette has inhabited and turned into a habit for so long. When Juliette utters the final words of the film, “I’m here,” the weight of that love is spoken, as is Juliette herself, and we are all left knowing her potential.

* Of special note to bibliophiles, Claudel subtly connects many characters through their relationships with books.


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Free Presse?



Hello -

Below is the list of presses and publishers I’ve been able to compile (with the help of some awesome poets), that do not charge reading fees for chapbook or full length manuscripts. Unfortunately, it is a short list in the scope of the poetry community. What is also obvious is the tendency to have free reading periods amongst those presses whose aesthetic leans more towards the post-avant or experimental. It seems those of us who write more linear/narrative poetry are stuck in a poetic time warp of some sort. I will be posting this list very shortly to the Tilt Press website and blog, where it will stay forever, (for-eva, eva?)- yes. Short list or not - I think it’s important for poets to know that there ARE presses that read manuscripts for free. As important, I’m hoping that more people will support these presses by purchasing their books. I will do my best to keep the list updated on a continuing basis. I welcome anyone to email me at if they wish to be added to the list.

Tilt Press (chaps/print)

Small Anchor Press (chaps/print)

Paper Kite Press (chaps/print)

Wyrd Tree Press (chaps/print)

Rope-a-Dope (chaps/print)

Shadowbox Press (chaps/print)

Beard of Bees (chaps/web)

ungovernable press (chaps/web)

Dusie (full length & chap/print)

Trainwreck Press (ditch) (chaps/print)

Gold Wake Press (chaps/web)

Dancing Girl Press (chaps/print)

the greying ghost press (chaps/print)

Scantily Clad Press (chaps/web)

Maverick Duck Press (chaps/print)

Taiga Press (chaps/print)

Blood Pudding Press (chaps/print)

blossombones (chaps/web)

BlazeVOX (full-length print & web)

WordTech (full-length print)

Red Mountain (chaps/print)

Ugly Duckling Presse (chaps & full-length/print)

Steel Toe Books (full-length/print)

Melville House Publishing (full-length/print)

Coconut (full-length & chap/print)

No Tell Books (full-length/print)

Magic Helicopter Press (chap/print & web)

The Cupboard (Prose chaps/print)

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Poetry Is To Money As Ice Cream Is To Mud

Poetry Is To Money As Ice Cream Is To Mud


You will not have roses thrown at your feet. You will not make money. You will not become the celebrated guest poet at universities & bookstores coast-to-coast. You will not be invited to read your poetry all over the world. You will not have multiple book release parties. You will not be discovered and heralded as the next John Ashbery or Billy Collins or Elizabeth Bishop or Sylvia Plath or Ubermensch or Charles Bernstein or Susan Howe or Maya Angelou or John Cage or Lyn Hejinian or Rae Armantrout or Alice Notley. You simply will not.

If you still want to write poetry despite those warnings, spend as little as possible on getting it out there. I’ve wasted enough cash on contests “placing” but never “winning” — I finally wised up and recognized the role these dice throwing games play: NONE. Well, the contest-makers make money off of people’s hopes that they’ll hit hardways on the “come out” roll (some do noble things like run their presses with the proceeds; which presses would you like to make a donation to?). But ironically, that’s the ultimate beauty of Poetry — it’s the enemy of money.

Or more specifically, it’s the one art that no one truly banks on to hit the big time; you go at it for the love of other possibilities & outcomes. Painters may somewhat-feasibly hope the canvas will raise a dime; songsters can push for the my-demo-made-the-charts payload; & even videographers can hold out for minor-Tarantino status. But poets? Living poets, even those with lots of books, rarely–and only later in life–hit the payload. Your chances of riding the wave of poetry-paychecks-for-sustainable-living are akin to those of becoming a lotto millionaire, for real. And most lotto winners end up broke again, ever-more unhappy.

Within this privileged position of no-chance-for-payouts, poetry can do things like critique and raze the powers-that-be and stall the myriad ways they make us less human, turn us into automatons, and condition us against our soul-plucking consciousness. Poetry can strike weird & sometimes stupidly killer chords, turn an unheard phrase, raise an image and pique our slumbering wanderlusts in such a way that the cogs and wheels of the capitalist disease we sleep and breathe are slowed, even just a little, for just a minute or a second or an inkling of a breath. Who wants to breathe freely for the length of a song? The truth I know, over and over, is: Poetry is the stuff that makes light unfold.

Poetry doesn’t work in visible & immediate ways; rather, it takes its time and winds through those money-grinding machinations, hinting at what else may be, stirring dissension in ways we’ve labeled Surrealist, Situationist, Postmodern, Avant-garde, Artaudian, Battaileian, Lynchian, Subversive, Dada, Fluxus, Anti-Art, etc etc. Its power relies on its near-immunity from the motivations money inspires. So why feed the beast in its name by sending money to contests? Avoid it, if possible. Go small press. Go online. Don’t be prideful. Do your own promotion, get your friends and fellow poets involved in production and distribution. Check out the methods of DIYers. Kick some ass.

I know I’m simplifying and romanticizing the role of poetry here, but only in an effort to get those writers who don’t have expendable income (are there any that do?) to avoid prostituting your poetry in vain efforts. I mean, if there is a contest with a press that you are in love with or they’ve employed a “judge” whose work you call your heritage, then sure, pop that twenty dollar check in the mail. Hopefully, it will get through the interns’ and students’ first reading, then the professional staffs’ weeding, and make it into that judge’s lap. Fingers crossed!

But if you don’t have a free-flowing bankroll and you’ve got a killer manuscript-seeking-book form, check out these sites, stolen and credited, I gleaned from ye olde internet:

From Steven D. Schroeder


List of presses with reading periods for poetry manuscripts, plus notes:

Open: BlazeVOX Books
Persea Books
Red Morning Press
Eastern Washington University Press (query/sample)
Counterpath Press (query/sample)
Coffee House Press (sample, not first books)
Mayapple Press ($10 fee)
Etruscan Press ($20 fee)
January & June:
Milkweed Editions
BkMk Press (sample)
Ghost Road Press (query/sample)
Graywolf Press (query/sample)
CavanKerry Press
January-? (not first books):
BOA Editions
March 1-May 1:
Ahsahta Press
Feb. 1 - June 1:
Carolina Wren Press
Waywiser Press
May & June:
Black Ocean
Four Way Books
Ausable Press (not reading 2008)
Steel Toe Books (you have to buy one of their previous books)
Sarabande Books (sample) (not reading 2008)
University of Pittsburgh Press (not first books)
Carnegie Mellon University Press ($10 fee)
C&R Press ($10 fee, $15 to received published book)
November-December: the various
WordTech Communications imprints (not reading 2008)


POETRY PUBLISHERS: NON-CONTEST [from Rachel Dacus' site]

Hoping to reverse the trend of poets paying to have their books published – one poet I know reports having shelled out more than $1,000 in contest fees – I’m posting this list of small presses that publish poetry books outside of contests. Some of these presses also run book contests, but all consider books of poetry outside of contest parameters. If a small reading fee is charged, I’ve noted it. Feel free to email me presses to add.

Please support these presses by buying their poetry books. It’s the only alternative to paying contest fees. Each of their poetry books usually costs less and offers a better read than a form rejection letter!

Ahsahta Press

Alsop Review Press

Apogee Press

Ausable Press

Carnegie Mellon University Press (charges $15 reading fee)

CavanKerry Press

City Lights Books

Coffee House Press

Eastern Washington University Press

Graywolf Press

High Plains Press

Litmus Press (July 1 - Sept. 1)

Mayapple Press Contact: ($10 reading fee for full-length book; no fee for chaplet book consideration)

Milkweed Editions

New Directions

O Books (closed for submissions until 2005)

Ocean Publishing

Omnidawn (month of February)
Orchises Press

Pecan Grove Press

Sarabande Books (September only)

Sixteen Rivers Press (San Francisco Bay Area collective press)

Soft Skull Press

University of California

University of Illinois Press

Wesleyan University Press

WordTech Editions


Quickly & in brief, a few other worthwhile publishers (not exhaustive!):

* Tarpaulin Sky [fee]

* Tilt Press (chapbook)

* Pudding House (chapbook) [fee]

But hey, don’t take my word for it:

* Laughing Bear

* Winning Writers’ Contest To Avoid

* Poet Beware by Victoria Strauss

* Interesting Debate @ Seth Abramson’s Blog

* Wha? An article on an online spot, Narrative, that charges for regular submissions!






13 responses to “Poetry Is To Money As Ice Cream Is To Mud”

17 09 2008

Hi, Amy. There is a way forward through independent publishing. I publish myself through Lulu but there are others. It’s free, fairly easy and I retain all the rights. This way I don’t have to rely on masses of social networking or meeting the tastes of ‘editors’. Also, congratulations on having the world’s longest blogroll, haha. Hope you are having a fantabulous day full of tiny miracles like unexpected flowers blooming,

17 09 2008
Collin Kelley

I have read at universities and in Europe — as well as coast to coast — and been paid for it, but I still have to keep the day job.

17 09 2008
Barbara Jane Reyes

Hi Amy, thanks for this post.

I have to shout out Susan Schultz and Tinfish Press, who published my second book, as well as one of many of Linh Dinh’s books, and Craig Santos Perez’s first book:

BOA Editions reading period ends around the end of April. Thus far, communication with them for me has been very straight forward; the editors there are quite energetic.

17 09 2008
Alex Dickow

Bravo, Amy!! Always telling the truth :)

17 09 2008
rachel mallinio

Hi Amy! Thanks for mentioning Tilt Press (btw - we don’t have a fee!!!!) I heart ya. - Rachel

18 09 2008
Shann Palmer

Amen, sistah!

This is an amazingly useful post.

Thank you so much!


19 09 2008

Excellent post, and a wonderful resource. Thanks!


19 09 2008
Peter Joseph Gloviczki

Hi, Amy,

I agree with you that poetry does not make much money, but I think the picture that you paint is much too dire. There are (and have long been) avenues for poets to gain exposure. These include, and are not limited to, websites, readings, blogs, interviews, online radio shows and yes, even book contests.

Granted, there are only a handful of winners every year. However, new (and wonderful) poetry is getting out into the world. And some of these poets (admittedly, the lucky few, but still) are getting the temporary and sometimes tenure-track positions.

I’m not saying the world is easy for the scholar-poet. Far from it. However, there are opportunities (especially for those with a book (or two) and an MFA to begin to make some money–usually in the form of teaching composition at small colleges or universities.

Poetry surely will never make you rich, and the system is far from perfect, but painters, sculptors, photographers and others face similar challenges–ones which have been, and will continue to be, present for the foreseeable future.


19 09 2008


Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Exactly. I’ve done the websites, run a reading series, promote other poets, interviewed and have been interviewed, etc. Lots of venues. I’m sure my work with poetry and the books I’ve published played an role in my own tenured-security. But, many of these “contests” are suspect. Young poets tend to see these “contests” as an only means, when they most certainly are the *least* of their means! They should be an after-thought to the real work of getting one’s work out there. They are a gamble, at best, and while some are legitimate as far as what they promise (we’ll publicize as much as possible to get as many submissions/entry fees as possible, and then we’ll publish one book), I’d say invest your hope and energy — and cash — in the other resources for promoting your work! Research real publishers and the methods they use to determine what gets published, how much, how often, etc. Put your work out there in the “respectable” and “low” places. Where else does poetry belong? Put it there, if you can. But entering a lottery for poetry, well, you know.

And as for those latter artists you note, actually, they make art — yes — but the capitalist machinery has a much easier time absorbing those art pieces as products and putting a price tag on them. People want to hear music, they want to decorate their office buildings and houses, etc., but a poetry book is one of the least marketable of all of those art “products”. In this culture, one can survive as a musician, sculptor, photographer. But not as a poet. Every poet I know has a “real” job. Is it challenging to get your work out there and survive on selling it? Sure. But when it comes to poetry as a solo money-making venture, or just for sustainability, it’s pretty much nigh-on-to impossible.

Be well,

20 09 2008
Glenn I

I was labeled the next Maya Cagejiniantrout.

Just a minute ago.

By myself.

When I thought it up.

That’s pretty good, I told myself.

You should write that in comments, I replied.

Nah, I said. That would be crass.

20 09 2008
Peter Joseph Gloviczki

I think we agree, Amy. It is pretty impossible to make a living writing poems–but the architecture around poetry writing (especially teaching and publishing) does make it possible for the lucky few (the published and esteemed) to become, at least in some sense of the word, professional poets.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to do something and write poems in addition to that. Good presses and journals will continue to treat writers very well, though, and to publish fresh, exciting new work. I’ve always thought that the rewards of poetry writing and reading had little to do with making money and more to do with satisfying my creative goals and connecting with a broader audience of likeminded individuals.


22 09 2008

per usual, i’m late to the show. thanks for mentioning tilt press, amy! great post, as always.

9 10 2008
Clare Tanner

Hi Amy
I thought you might be interested in our (no fees) poetry competition over at
Free entry, $2600 of prizes. Performance and written poetry.
Kindest regards

 read more ...

When Lightning Bolts From My Chest …

When Lightning Bolts From My Chest …

15 04 2008

A Few Random Poets Speak on National Poetry Month -

And We Eat …



“God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.” —Anne Sexton

Jerome Rothenberg“As for poetry ‘belonging’ in the classroom, it’s like the way they taught us sex in those old hygiene classes: not performance but semiotics. If it I had taken Hygiene 71 seriously, I would have become a monk; & if I had taken college English seriously, I would have become an accountant.” —Jerome Rothenberg

On Clouds – “…what primitive tastes the ancients must have had if their poets were inspired by those absurd, untidy clumps of mist, idiotically jostling one another about…” —Yevgeny Zamyatin

“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” —Carl Sandburg

“For each letter received from a creditor, write fifty lines on an extraterrestrial subject and you will be saved.” —Charles Baudelaire

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.” —Zora Neale Hurston

“The purpose of art, including literature, is not to reflect life but to organize it, to build it.” —Yevgeny Zamyatin (The Goal, ca. 1926)

Elizabeth Bishop“One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire one could probably hear it turning to marimba music.” —Elizabeth Bishop

“If the poet wants to be a poet, the poet must force the poet to revise. If the poet doesn’t wish to revise, let the poet abandon poetry and take up stamp-collecting or real estate.” —Donald Hall

Zora Neale Hurston “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person. That is natural.” —Zora Neale Hurston

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” —Sylvia Plath

“In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.” —Paul Dirac

“Heaven is not like flying or swimming, but has something to do with blackness and a strong glare.” —Elizabeth Bishop

“Poetry is a rich, full-bodied whistle, cracked ice crunching in pails, the night that numbs the leaf, the duel of two nightingales, the sweet pea that has run wild, Creation’s tears in shoulder blades.” —Boris Pasternak

Anne Sexton“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” —Anne Sexton

“Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket.” —Charles Simic

“The composition is the thing seen by everyone living in the living they are doing, they are the composing of the composition that at the time they are living is the composition of the time in which they are living.” —Gertrude Stein

“Apparently, the most difficult feat for a Cambridge male is to accept a woman not merely as feeling, not merely as thinking, but as managing a complex, vital interweaving of both.” —Sylvia Plath

“There is no single face in nature, because every eye that looks upon it, sees it from its own angle. So every man’s spice-box seasons his own food.” —Zora Neale Hurston

“She even had a kind of special position among men: she was an exception, she fitted none of the categories they commonly used when talking about girls; she wasn’t a cock-teaser, a cold fish, an easy lay or a snarky bitch; she was an honorary person. She had grown to share their contempt for most women.” —Margaret Atwood

“Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.” —Gustave Flaubert

Allen Ginsberg -- Nude“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.” —Allen Ginsberg

“I did not believe political directives could be successfully applied to creative writing . . . not to poetry or fiction, which to be valid had to express as truthfully as possible the individual emotions and reactions of the writer.” —Langston Hughes

Gertrude Stein“A diary means yes indeed.” —Gertrude Stein

“I think one of poetry’s functions is not to give us what we want… [T]he poet isn’t always of use to the tribe. The tribe thrives on the consensual. The tribe is pulling together to face the intruder who threatens it. Meanwhile, the poet is sitting by himself in the graveyard talking to a skull.” —Heather McHugh

“Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.” —Carl Sandburg

Virginia Woolf“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet. . . indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” —Virginia Woolf

“This cop told me, furthermore, that it had been difficult for him to follow me because I had signaled too soon. I told him that, because I didn’t know there was anyone else in the world, any signaling was an act of faith.” —Kathy Acker

“Even in the centuries which appear to us to be the most monstrous and foolish, the immortal appetite for beauty has always found satisfaction.” —Charles Baudelaire

Frank O Hara“I am ashamed of my century, but I have to smile” —Frank O’Hara









4 responses to “When Lightning Bolts From My Chest …”

16 04 2008

what an amazing blog!! i’m so glad i found it. i feel as though it’s the blog i’ve been looking for. (tear).


16 04 2008

Great collection of quotes, Amy. Thank you.

17 04 2008

Glad you enjoyed them, Helen!

And thanks for liking the blog, lil’ bird!

21 05 2008
When Women Criticize … « Amy King’s Alias

[...] someone actually wanted to post the following comment on this post, “hello were did u get the old man from? get more of hot man like [...]

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Daisy Fried’s Poetry Exercises

Daisy Fried’s Poetry Exercises

2 04 2008

Daisy Fried on Poetry:

* I’ve never found an explanation for why poetry, apparently alone among the art forms, is asked to do more than be itself.

* But poetry’s the High Art which is also democratic: inexpensive, portable, reproducible, quickly consumed (except for epic and very difficult poetry), requiring only literacy to participate. So maybe it’s good that poetry carries this extra burden, even if it means that the idea of poetry is more necessary to people than individual poems, and that people tend not to pay attention to what’s happening on the page. But this doesn’t explain why the superfluous demands are often made by educated poetry experts. I doubt most poets, good and bad, political or not, put these demands on their own work. Why should we make them of poetry in general?

* Words matter. Use is not function. War and Peace makes an excellent paperweight; I’ve used it that way myself, after reading it. The function of War and Peace is greater than its many uses. So too poetry. Bad poems are often more useful for healing, persuasion, and celebration than good ones. They lack that rich ambiguity which Keats called negative capability, and so fail as poems. Take, for example, bad 9/11 poems, at which I do “sniff the air.” There are good 9/11 poems. The degraded Romanticism of the mass of bad ones often amounts to decorative displays of the poet’s own sensibility. Such displays may be emotionally or politically useful, but who needs them? They seem to claim authenticity for individual experiences derived from watching TV—and fail to ask the question, why do these people want to kill us? Good 9/11 poems sustain the possibility that America was both victim and guilty. I believe 9/11 solace poetry has given support, however indirectly and unintentionally, to the Bush administration. Solace poetry is to serious poetry as pornography is to serious art. Sex pornography has its uses, even positive ones, but nobody confuses it with serious art about love. The difference between solace porn and sex porn is that solace pornographers seldom seem aware that they’re making pornography. Shame on them.* Poetry matters. Great poems don’t always fit categories of usage: Martial’s hilariously filthy invectives, Dickinson’s apolitical lyrics, and, despite their stupid fascism, Pound’s Cantos, all function as great poetry. Meanwhile, the four of us write poems. We might begin by intending to be merely useful (I never have). But at some point the poem takes over, makes requirements of us instead of vice versa. That’s the moment of poetry; poems exist to let readers share in that moment. So our focus on mere use strikes me as odd: is this really all we know about our poems? Why exclude ourselves from our own readership?

* Enjoyment matters. Poetry is fun! I mean this seriously. In “Lapis Lazuli,” Yeats insists on the gaiety of human existence alongside its tragedy. Yes, there is terrible suffering; we are all going to die. And when, on the carved lapis lazuli, a man “asks for mournful melodies;/Accomplished fingers begin to play;/…their eyes,/Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.” The gaiety of great poetry reinforces and deepens our humanity. That’s personal—and therefore social. Forget that, and we forget poetry’s true function.

–from “Does Poetry Have a Social Function” @ The Poetry Foundation


ALSO, listen in on a conversation I had with Daisy Fried HERE: powered by ODEO



1. Write a ten-line poem in which each line is a lie.

2. Write a poem that tells a story in 18 lines or less, and includes at least four proper nouns.

3. Write a poem that uses any of the senses EXCEPT SIGHT as its predominant imagery.

4. Write a poem inspired by a newspaper article you read this week.

5. Write a poem without adjectives.

6. Ask your roommate/neighbor/lover/friend/mother/anyone for a subject (as wild as they want to make it) for a ten-minute poem. Now write a poem about that subject in ten minutes; make it have a beginning, a middle and an end.

7. Write the worst poem you possibly can. Now edit it and make it even worse.

8. Poem subject: A wind blows something down. Or else it doesn’t. Write it in ten minutes.

9. Write a poem with each line, or at least many of the lines, filling in the blanks of “I used to________, but now I_________.”

11. Write a poem consisting entirely of things you’d like to say, but never would, to a parent, lover, sibling, child, teacher, roommate, best

friend, mayor, president, corporate CEO, etc.

12. Write a poem that uses as a starting point a conversation you overheard.

13. First line of today’s poem: “This is not a poem, but…”

14. Write a poem in the form of either a letter or a speech which uses at least six of the following words: horses, “no, duh,” adolescent, autumn

leaves, necklace, lamb chop, Tikrit, country rock, mother, scamper, zap, bankrupt. Take no more than 13 minutes to write it.

15. Write a poem which includes a list or lists-shopping list, things to do, lists of flowers or rocks, lists of colors, inventory lists,

lists of events, lists of names…

16. Poem subject: A person runs where no running is allowed. Write it in ten minutes.

17. Write a poem in the form of a personal ad.

18. Write a poem made up entirely of questions. Or write a poem made up entirely of directions.

19. Write a poem about the first time you did something.

20. Write a poem about falling out of love.

21. Make up a secret. Then write a poem about it. Or ask someone to give you a made-up or real secret, and write a poem about it.

22. Write a poem about a bird you don’t know the name of.

23. Write a hate poem.

24. Free-write for, say, 15 minutes, but start with the phrase “In the kitchen” and every time you get stuck, repeat the phrase “In the

kitchen.” Alternatively, use any part of a house you have lots of associations with-”In the garage,” “In the basement,” “In the bathroom,” “In the yard.”

25. Write down 5-10 words that sound ugly to you. Use them in a poem.

26. Write a poem in which a motorcycle and a ballerina appear.

27. Write a poem out of the worst part of your character.

28. Write a poem that involves modern technology-voice mail, or instant messaging, or video games, or… 29. Write a seduction poem in which somebody seduces you.

30. Radically revise a poem you wrote earlier this month.




5 responses to “Daisy Fried’s Poetry Exercises”

2 04 2008
Angela G.

Thanks for posting these, Amy, and for talking about the playfulness of poetry. Here’s a wild example of #18, a poem I wrote made up entirely of directions — from MapQuest. To make it even more tricky, it was a sestina. Talk about a brain buster! But fun!

3 04 2008
Jim K.

Good exercises!
I need to dig up a list on the get-started part…my block.
It occurs to me a lot of it is similar to
“practice talking to yourself as someone else”,
all the revising, the role-playing.
Which must be why some juicy
catch-phrases hit me in the dreckiest corners
of the Walmart. I start talking to myself there,
and having beside-myself experiences.

12 06 2008
Poetry Exercises Wanted! « Amy King’s Alias

[...] That’s the gist of it. I’d love to hear about exercises that worked well for you! I am well aware of Charles Bernstein’s list of experiments, Bernadette Mayer’s Writing Experiments, and Daisy Fried’s Poetry Exercises. [...]

14 06 2008
how love begins « Baroque in Hackney

[...] were other various other things today too, but what were they? Daisy Fried’s poetry exercises, on Amy King’s blog. That’s all I’ve [...]

17 06 2008
Homegrown Poetry Retreats : Writer’s Resource Center

[...] book. Online you can find a number of prompts including Daisy Fried’s 30 Poetry Exercises Daisy Fried’s 30 Poetry Exercises, this one from Kalliope Kalliope, and a random line generator. These exercises are great to use in [...]

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Movies With Poetry

Movies With Poetry

11 08 2008

Dear Poets,

I’m looking for a few good films that offer up poetic content, to put it vaguely, or a representation of a poet that doesn’t completely romanticize the poet, disintegrating the person in the process… films with a poetry angle, please!



Gysin’s “The Cut-ups” of course trumps
Cronenberg’s take of “Naked Lunch”
“Sleep” featuring John Girono!
Mary Ellen Bute’s “Finnegan’s Wake”
Abigail Child’s films
–From Danny S.


“Pandaemoniu” — really good movie about Wordsworth and Coleridge
Chaucer in “A Knight’s Tale”.
“Gothic” about Shelley and Byron
“Tom & Viv”
–From Jason Q.


“Charge of the Light Brigade”
”The Barretts of Wimpole Street”
Christina Rossetti in “Kiss Me Deadly”
Ken Russell, Dante’s Inferno
Parker’s “Smash Up”
“A Star Is Born”
HD’s film criticism, too
–From Catherine D.


“Stevie” about Stevie Smith, starring Glenda Jackson
Away from biographical representation, for pure film as poetry, look for any of the films by Maya Deren.
“Borderline,” 1930 silent experimental film, with H.D. and Paul Robeson, is available as DVD. The film was made by HD’s then companion Kenneth Macpherson, and also features Bryher in an interesting role.
–From Charlotte M.


“The Business of Fancy Dancing” Sherman Alexie.
–From Patricia F.


“The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca”
”The History Boys”
–From Beverly R.


“A Month in the Country” based on the novella by J. L. Carr
–From Ellen M.


Maya Angelou’s TV movie, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”. And what about “Looking for Langston” by Isaac Julien
–From Mendi O.


“An Angel at My Table” — the life story of Janet Frame
–From Diane L.


Errol Morris film, “Fast Cheap and Out of Control“
–From Connie V.


“Eternity and a Day” (Mia aioniotita kai mia mera,1998) is a hauntingly beautiful film about a fictional ageing poet by Theo Angelopoulos, for whom poetry is “a creative medium that he still considers to be the most important artistic influence in his life.”
–From Ann L.


Altman’s “Short Cuts” is based on Raymond Carver stories.
“Cooley High” — one of the characters is a poet/writer, who’s writing gets stolen and mocked.
If it’s literature in film, “Finding Forrester”, based loosely on JD Salinger. And isn’t that our Charles Bernstein’s big screen debut?
–From Eric D.


“The River Niger” starring Louis Gossett Jr., James Earl Jones, and Cicely Tyson. All’s framed by James Earl’s character composing a single poem, which he finally reads. If I’m remembering right the poet’s a commercial painter.
–From Jared S.


Sergei Paradjanov’s “Color of Pomegranates”
–From Alex D.


Knut Hamsun’s “Hunger”.

“The Kiss of the Spider Woman”. At first blush, this is not be about writing or a writer at all. But one of the inmates in jail in that movie spins a fascinating Nazi love story (a gay sado-masochistic fantasy) to pass time. To me, “The Curse” is one of the best films about the process of writing, how writing is associated with creating a style and how writing’s relationship with political and personal events is often tangential. It is a great movie about the fusion of politics with art.

“Under the Volcano”
–From Murat N.


Dear Amy

Favorite topic for me. I can suggest a few, you could check’em out to see if they suit your need. Are you seeking films on poets or films with poetic content ? Or both?

I worked on an article in the recent past discussing certain poems of John Ashbery comparing them with films or sections of certain films or simply scenes that came reeling back to me while I read those poems. Discussed some of them with Ashbery. Quite an intriguing conversation. You could try “Run Lola Run” (by Tom Twyker) if you have not seen it already. JA liked that one the most - in the metaphorical context of his work. He said that the structure reminded him some of his early pantoums and centos.

I thought some of Theo Angelopoulos’ films are intensely poetic -

a. Landscape in the Mist
b. Eternity and a Day
c. Ulysses’ Gaze

Ingmar Bergman’s
d. Wild Strawberries
e. Persona

and the above all the master of film poetry, as Scorcese calls him, Satyajit Ray

f. The Apu Trilogy - 3 films, Pather Panchali, Aparajito, The World of Apu
g. Days and Nights in the Forest
h. The Lonely Wife

John Ashbery and Peter Gizzi told me about filmmakers Jorgen Leth and Guy Maddin. Haven’t had a chance to try them. Check them out. They might spell wonders.

i. Kaveh Zavedi’s “In the Bathtub of the World” - a film titled after JA’s poem - you might know this one.

Films on poets -

j. Tom & Viv (T S Elliot & his wife)
k. The Color of Pomegranate (Parajanov’s classic film on Armenian poet Sayat Nova)
l. In Custody - a brilliant film on the life of an ageing fictitious poet.
m. Attenborough’s Shadowland - a film on the love affair between C S Lewis and Joy Gresham.

Hope this helps.


Aryanil Mukherjee


The Last Clean Shirt,” which is a collaboration between the filmmaker Alfred Leslie & Frank O’Hara, from 1964.
“Henry Fool”
–From Charles A.


Diane Middlebrook’s interpretation in her fine biogrtaphy of their marriage, “Her Husband”
“Four Weddings and a Funeral”
–From Alicia O.


“Mrs. Parker and Her Vicious Circle,” 1994
“Rowing with the Wind” (Remando con el viento)
–From Diane K.


Before Night Falls (2000) by Julian Schnabel, the life of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas;
Basquiat by Julian Schnabel, is worth a vision
Talking of poetic films, what about Jules et Jim by Truffault
–From Anny B.


There was a Norwegian film a few years ago (2001? 2003?) called “Elling.” It’s the story of a man who lived with his mother all his life; when she died he was moved to a home for the insane where he has a roommate who becomes his family. When Norway closes their institutions, the two men are placed in an apartment with a social worker who is to help them live in society. One day Elling wanders into a bar and there’s a poetry slam or reading going on….and he discoverers that he is a poet! It’s a delightful movie, both about social issues and about poetry, and the need poets have to get their words out to the public. It’s funny and touching and could be a great movie to watch and discuss with students.
–From Priscilla H.


There is a wonderful film about a variety of responses to art, called Le Gou’t des autres. Specifically it has a scene from Racine’s play Be’re’nice–but done in “modern way” that has satirical overtones. It might cause some argument about how people “should” behave.
–From William S.


Amy, the recent film “Reprise” from Norway is about writers–painful to watch in many ways/ lots of it felt stolen from Jules et Jim–but it certainly does focus on writers–in a pretty horrible way but it’s playing now so…thought I’d suggest it though don’t recommend in sense of “good film” since it’s not since there was no viewing “pleasure” on my part–but students might relate—
–From Bobbi L.


There’s a short film (less than 10 minutes) by the Kumeyaay filmmaker Cedar Sherbert based on James Welch’s poem “Gesture Down to Guatemala,” which I’ve taught in both Native lit classes and in an advanced workshop. In the workshop, it was linked to an assignment for students to script one of their own poems. It’s easiest to buy the film directly from Cedar. Here’s his website:
–From Janet M.


The Great McGonagall, with Peter Sellars as Queen Victoria
–From Sam G.


“Possession” another Paltrow film — At the heart of the story are two Victorian poets and their writings, and their story is told through two modern academics. It’s a good tale of “reading into” and interpreting meanings.
–From J.P.B.


–From Maria D.

Beautiful Dreamers (1990)
In an insane asylum, Dr. Maurice Bucke, meets poet Walt Whitman, his life and that of his…

Before Night Falls (2000)
Episodic look at the life of Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas…

BOMgaY (1996)
Based on the gay poetry of R. Raj Rao…

Disparus (1998)
1938… In that year, Alfred, worker and poet, is politically active in a Parisian …

En compagnie d’Antonin Artaud (1994)
May, 1946, in Paris young poet Jacques Prevel meets Antonin Artaud…

Fat Man on a Beach (1973) (TV)
A poet of forty wanders about the beach, changes his clothes when he feels like it, reads his poetry, reminisces engagingly, and reflects…

Falsk som vatten (1985)
John and Carl have a small publishing company. One day John meets the poet Clara who recently made her debut …

Fine Madness, A (1966)
Samson Shillitoe, a frustrated poet and a magnet for women, is behind in his alimony payments, and lives with Rhoda, a waitress who stands by him through all his troubles. Samson becomes belligerent when he cannot find the inspiration to finish his big poem so Rhoda tries to get him to see the psychiatrist Dr. West, who claims to be able to cure writer’s block….

Freddy & Victor blind date (1997)
… in Rome and London. He is an actor and poet, lives in Rome and gets by “doing the….

Great McGonagall, The (1974)
The tale of an unemployed Scotsman, William McGonagall whose ambition was to become England’s Poet Laureate. One minor drawback is that his poetry is terrible.

Harms Case, The (1988)
Based upon the life and writing of literary visionary Danil Harms, a Russian avant-garde poet of the 1920s who was persecuted and ultimately silenced by the Soviet authorities.

Hedd Wyn (1992)
A young poet living in the North Wales countryside competes for the most coveted prize of all in Welsh Poetry - that of the chair of the National …

Hoggs’ Heaven (1994) (TV)
Having won a small poetry competition, William Hogg invites his parents to his apartment for a simple, celebratory dinner. Clearly, he’s forgotten his family’s penchant for drunken, kleptomaniacal lunacy. A high-spirited comic nightmare.

Iddy Biddy Beat Boy (1993)
A parable about art, propriety, and politics. A hip beat poet, who looks a lot like a child, reads poetry at the Ad Hoc Cafe; he’s a success and Mr. Hipster, a powerful promoter, gets Iddy Biddy Beat’s career moving with TV appearances, where the poet is a sensation.However, his poetry scandalizes Dr. Proper and his uptight wife, who arrange for Beat’s arrest and imprisonment.

Joe Gould’s Secret (2000)
Around 1940, New Yorker staff writer Joe Mitchell meets Joe Gould, a Greenwich Village character who cadges meals, drinks, and contributions to the Joe Gould Fund and who is writing a voluminous Oral History of the World, a record of 20,000 conversations he’s overheard. Mitchell is fascinated with this Harvard grad and writes a 1942 piece about him, “Professor Seagull,” bringing Gould some celebrity and an invitation to join the Greenwich Village Ravens, a poetry club he’s often crashed.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1997)
Gordon Comstock is a copywriter at an ad agency, and his girlfriend Rosemary is a designer. Gordon believes he is a genius, a marvelous poet and quits the ad agency, trying to live on his poems, but poverty soon comes to him.

Kleine blonde dood, De (1993)
The poet Valentijn Boecke meets his former teacher Mieke. They have a short relation. After a while Mieke appears to be pregnant.

Lado oscuro del corazón, El (1992)
Oliveiro is a young poet living in Buenos Aires where sometimes he has to sale his ideas to an advertising agencie to make a living or exchange his poems for a steak. In Montevideo, he met a prostitute, Ana, with whom he fell in love. Back in Buenos Aires, he accept a contract with a publicity agencie to get the money for three days of love with her.

Leonard Cohen, Spring 1996 (1997)
The film shows the daily life of the poet and singer Leonard Cohen at the Mount …

Lichnoye delo Anny Akhmatovoy (1989)
look at the life of Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova, 1889-1966. It begins and ends with footage from her funeral, and includes readings from her diaries and of her poems. Also included are passages of official Soviet criticism. She was born near Odessa, married and published her first volume of poetry in 1912, was a friend of Blok…

Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, The (1993)
the life and work of the greatest poet of the Beat Generation. Along with the usual biographical details, we also get to experience the poet’s readings of his work such as his…

Looking for Langston (1988)
…are framed by voices reading from the poetry and essays of Hughes and others.

Los Enchiladas! (1999)
…… and the “Chef” has jumped ship to join a beatnik poet’s group which specializes in exotic menu-writing….

Love Jones (1997)
Darius Lovehall is a young black poet in Chicago who starts dating Nina Moseley, a beautiful and talented photographer. While trying to figure out if they’ve got a “love thing” or are just “kicking it,” they hang out with their friend, talking about love and sex.

Love Lesson, The (1995)
Seventeen years ago Camille, a gallery owner, and Grace, a civil servant, made a verbal adoption agreement: Grace would raise Camille’s son Christopher with the provision that all three live in close proximity, and that the existence of the arrangement be kept from the child forever. This triangle changes drastically when Christopher, now a heterosexual teenager, becomes HIV-positive through sex and drugs and is thrown into maturity much too early. Camille lives her life in the New York art world, and poets and writers regularly gather at her apartment to read their work. The poets’ voices echoing across the common courtyard to Chris become the continuous physical bridge between
their lives. Via courtyard windows and the resonance of sound, a mystical link forms as Camille steps into a role in his life that she never really wanted nor would have imagined.

Luces de bohemia (1985)
In the empty house of his family, Ramon, a poet, remembers the last day of the life of his master: the last time he went out with his friend don Latino de Hispalis…

Lunatics: A Love Story (1991)
A delusional and paranoid poet hallucinates and almost becomes a serial killer, but saves a beautiful girl from street-gang members and becomes a hero.

Mail Bonding (1995)
“Mail Bonding” is a romantic comedy about a struggling poet who takes a humorous but dangerous route by falling in love with his mail carrier, a woman with a troubled past. Told in the silent film style with digital effects.

Middle of the Moment (1995)
The film is a documentary or even a cinepoem which follows the life of nowadays nomads: The Tuareg in North Africa, a circus company and the American philosopher and poet ‘Robert Lax’.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Deeds a simple-hearted greeting card poet…

North of Vortex (1991)
A gay poet heads west from New York City in his convertible. He picks up a muscular sailor ….

Nostalghia (1983)
The Russian poet Gortchakov, accompanied by guide and translator Eugenia, is traveling through Italy researching the life of an 18th century Russian composer. In a ancient spa town, he meets the lunatic Domenico….

Pesma (1961/I)
An influential Serbian poet decides to leave Nazi-occupied Belgrade and join partisans in the country. A young resistance activist, however, is not so thrilled with the idea because the old and womanizing intellectual doesn’t fit in with his strict moralistic standards.

Piñero (2001)
“Piñero” tells the story of the explosive life of a Latino icon, the poet-playwright-actor Miguel Piñero, whose
urban poetry is recognized as a pre-cursor to rap and hip-hop.

Poetry in Motion (1982)(1998)
…20 contemporary North American poets recite, sing, and perform their work. Several also comment.

Pratibha (1937)
The poet Prasad (K. Date) lives far from the city in a forest, enjoying only the company of his wife Pratibha (Khote). The court poet Kaveeshwar (Phatak) of a neighbouring kingdom discovers Prasad’s poetry and….

Puisi tak terkuburkan (2000)
Tells the true story of the didong (a style of ballad) poet Ibrahim Kadir. He was in prison and was present during the mass killings of an estimated 500,000 suspected communists when Indonesian President Suharto came to power in 1965. His humanistic poems recreate that era.

Sånger från andra våningen (2000)
A film poem inspired by the poet Caesar Vallejo….

Shadowlands (1985)
…agrees to marry the divorced American poet Joy Davidman Gresham, to allow her and…

Siekierezada (1987)
A young, idealistic poet, turns his back on civilization and goes to small, backwood village, rents a bed in the house of an old woman, and decides to make his living as a lumberjack.

Stevie (1978)
This movie portrays British poet/author Stevie Smith (Glenda Jackson)

Student Nurses, The (1970)
…One falls for a poet…

Swann (1996)
…life of Mary Swann, an obscure Canadian poet who was brutally murdered by her lover…

Tongues Untied (1991)
from other gay Black men, especially poet Essex Hemphill, celebrates Black men loving Black men as a revolutionary act. The film intercuts footage of Hemphill reciting his poetry…

Ulysses (1967)
…Dedalus, who fancies himself as a poet, embarks on a day of wandering about …

Wesele (1972)
…century, the story concerns a Polish poet living in Cracow who has decided to…

Wilde (1997)
The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man.

Winter Meeting (1948)
Spinster poetess Susan Grieve lives in a Manahattan …

Yakantalisa (1996)
…choreographer, multi-media artist, and poet who died of AIDS in 1994…

Zerkalo (1975)
The director mixes flashbacks, historical footage and original poetry to illustrate the reminiscences of a dying man about his childhood during World War II, adolescence, and a painful divorce in his family. The story interweaves reflections about Russian history and society.

–From Maria D.


–From J for James

”Eternity and A Day” with Bruno Ganz as a Greek poet whose life is in a drainswirl. He meets a young Albanian street urchin and they go on a journey. About a 1/3 too long for its own good; but some beautiful, evocative and existential scenes.

Based on Pat Barker’s novel of the same name, ‘Regeneration’ tells the story of soldiers of World War One sent to an asylum for emotional troubles. Two of the soldiers meeting there are Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, two of England’s most important WW1 poets.

“Il Postino”
Lonely island postman develops friendship with exiled Pablo Neruda, and learns how to live.

“Before Night Falls”
This powerful glimpse into the life of famed Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem) spans several decades in his eventful life. Although vilified for his homosexuality in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Arenas finds success as a writer but must eventually emigrate to New York City to enjoy unfettered creative freedom. Johnny Depp appears twice: as a transvestite inmate and as a warden.
Starring: Andrea Di Stefano, Javier Bardem Director: Julian Schnabel

“Total Eclipse”
The self-destructive relationship between 19th-century teenage French poet Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his older mentor Paul Verlaine (Alan Thewlis).

“Petrified Forest”
The Leslie Howard character a despondent poet who rises to the occasion and faces down the snarling gangster Duke Mantee (Bogie)

“A Man in Love” Peter Coyote, playing an actor, finds a new romance in the Italian countryside while on location shooting a movie about the life of Cesare Pavese.

“A Merry War” Richard E Grant as adman who quits his good job
to become a poet (not a good career choice); Helena Bonham Carter co-stars.

Deborah Winger and Anthony Hopkins star in this emotionally moving romantic drama adapted by William Nicholson from his own acclaimed play, based upon the real-life romance (during the 1950s) between the British writer C.S. Lewis and a divorced American poet named Joy Gresham.

“Tom & Viv”
TS Eliot and troubled relationship with first wife (?).

“HeartBeat” (with Notle & Spacek as the squablling Cassadys; John Heard plays
Kerouac; the Ginsberg part was minor, as I recall)

“Belle of Amherst” (Julia Harris as ED)

“Stevie” (Glenda Jackson as Stevie Smith)

“Beautiful Dreamer” (Rip Torn as Walt Whitman, but more about a doctor trying to reform an asylum in Canada and trying hold onto the his wife’s love.)

“The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca” (Andy Garcia as Lorca; Lorca portrayed in flashbacks that try to tell the story of Spain in the time leading up to his death.)

“MindWalk” (John Heard, as a poet, Liv Ulmann, a scientist w/ a humanist streak and Sam Waterson, as a jaded politician, make conversation as they walk along the sandflats at low tide toward to Mt.-St.-Michel.)

“A Fine Madness” (Sean Connery as hard drinking/womanizing poet at odds with the social milieu of the literary life he finds himself in.)

“Ruben, Ruben” (Tom Conte as a poet who is loosing his teeth)

“Tales of Ordinary Madness” (Ben Gazzara as Charles Bukowski, lots of hard drinking and tough talk)

“Poetic Justice” (Janet Jackson & Tupac Shakar star)

“Haunted Summer” — The plot summary from IMBD: In 1815, authors Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley get together for some philosophical discussions, but the situation soon deteriorates into mind games, drugs and sex. Why would this be considered a deterioration?


“The Barretts of Wimpole Street” — charting the courtship of Elizabeth Barrett by Robert Browning.

“Dead Poets Society” — Robin Williams stars

–From J for James



Oddly no one seems to have noted Cocteau’s “ORPHEE,” which inspired Jack Spicer’s receiving poetry from the radio, or Cocteau’s “Le Sang du poete” (Blood of a Poet) probably the first film to take place entirely between an opening of a building collapsing and a final “scene” of the conclusion of the building’s collapse—-a play on the “film within a film” and also an expression of the speed of poetic thought traveling faster than a building collapsing, the “film of the imagination” NOT shown in the “documentary”–yet existing simultaneously–”mental trajectories” within a “jump cut”–

a lot of films made beginning with Feuillades’ serials (“Les Vampyrs,” etc)– France culminating in the work of Jean Vigo, “L’atalante” esp and the Dali/Bunuel “l’Age d’or” & Chien Andalu–(one could add Buneul’s “Los Olvidados” also)

Pier Paulo Pasolini -a great poet who made many superb films–including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales-

Robert Frank’s “Pull My Daisy” with spontaneous prosody voice over narration by Kerouac and “starring” Ginsberg, Corso & Larry Rivers-

The Howard Hawks western “El Dorado” which includes recitation of lines from the Poe poem of that name–

Samuel Beckett films done with Buster Keaton

Antonin Artaud’s astonishing screen appearances and film writing–

Eisenstein wrote essays detailing the influences of Chinese calligraphic poetry and influences of literature in his works

Dziga Vertov’s films influenced by the art and poetry of Russian Futurism and Constructivism and also Mayakovsky’s starring roles in some films–

the poems and prose of Poe inspired lot of avant-garde French cinema of the Twenties and of course the Roger Corman cult classics of early 1960’s–

there’s even a pretty silly Hollywood “bio-pic” of Villon–

Bertolucci’s early film “The Spider Strategem” is from a great Borges story–

Susan Howe in Writing 19 wrote a really interesting essay on Olson’s “seeing in a poem” and cinema of Pudovkin and others–

Stan Brakhage influenced by many of the poets he encountered-for example, -in Film Culture’s Brakhage issue of Fall 1963 , Brakhage writes long letter to his wife Jane re his first encounter with Olson–

there must be thousands more considering how many films in so many languages from so many cultures there are! many come to mind but at moment can’t recall the tiles clearly enough–from, Japan and India alone—

–From David Chirot


And I might add the poetics of Chris Marker’s “La Jetee” — a film Susan Howe shared with us, along with the Vertov, in one of her poetics classes.

Which leads me to the Clarice Lispector novel-turned-film, Hour of the Star — a film I can add since Lispector’s fiction was poetry.


A Few Quickie Last Minute Additions

Japanese films from the quartet - Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu, Toru. Its worthwhile to check out the much forgotten Ritwik Ghatak and Buddhadeb Dasgupta, an acclaimed poet himself.




Also Andrei Tarkovsky, to me an arch poet of film, especially in Stalker. He quotes poems in most (if not all) of his film, mostly those of his father, Arsey Tarkovsky. I wrote an essay on Stalker – “Tarkovsky’s Stalker: A poet in a destitute time” - last year, if anyone is interested.

–From Alison Croggon



To the “Canterbury Tales” you should add “Decameron” (taken from Giovanni Boccaccio’s homonymous work) in which the same Pasolini appears with Giuseppe Zigaina (painter and most important friend of the poet), the movie was also shot in this town at the Civic Museum defined by Pasolini “the most beautiful museum he has ever seen”, and “A Thousand and One Nights” (the original title is “The Flower of the One Thousand and One Nights”) a sublime poem by itself.

Later on these three movies will be defined “The Trilogy of Life”. Moreover, Pasolini chose his actors from the paintings of the masters and reproduced the same scenes directly from the paintings. He preferred Mannerism to all other styles, and his favorite painter was (if I am not wrong) Andrea del Sarto. He studied at the University of Bologna, one of his professors was Roberto Longhi (main Italian art critic, no wonder he started out from Art).

–From Anny Ballardini






18 responses to “Movies With Poetry”

12 08 2008

Thank you Amy for gathering all the inputs, this is such an incredible list.

12 08 2008
Larry Gross

Re-poetry on Film:

The great Welles adaptations of Shakespeare, Othello, Chimes at Midnight, his lesser Macbeth,

Recently, Sally Potter’s Yes, dialogue entirely in rhyming Audenesque couplets.

I think I saw it up there already, but Jane Campion’s biopic of Janet Frame, Angel at my Table, her best film. And arguably, though the dialogue is nominally, prose Duras/Resnais Hiroshima Mon Amour, esp. the opening Q&A and arguably, the Rilkean angel-monologues by Peter Handke in Wenders’ Wings of Desire.

The entire output of Brakhage output in the 50’s 60’s is in a dialogue with Olson, Creeley, Kelly.

12 08 2008
Larry Gross

Some others I forgot:
Geography of the Body, Willard Maas and Marie Menken, contains poetic voice over attached to erotic extreme close ups of human anatomy
Derek Jarman’s Last of England makes significant use of Virgil and Eliot among others.
All of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s films cross-reference his career as a poet, most significantly his Gospel According to St. Matthew which contains no language other than the original text, and notably his adaptations of Boccaccio and the Decameron
John Ford on occasion has character’s recite poetry, in My Darling Clementine, in
They Were Expendable,
Godard’s characters quote poetry constantly: Mayakovsky in Les Carabiniers, Eluard “Capital of Pain” in Alphaville, Rimbaud the climax of Pierrot Le Fou, Appollinaire in Weekend,
Gus Van Zant’s My Own Private Idaho intermittently has the character’s dialogue become the Shakespearian verse of Henry IV

12 08 2008
Tad Richards

Here’s an odd variant for you — films based on poems.

The Set-Up, starring Robert Ryan, based on Joseph Moncure March’s masterpiece novel in doggerel, about a washed-up prizefighter.

Mongol, directed by Sergei Bodrov. Bodrov drew from an epic poem, “The Secret History of the Mongols,” written in the century after Genghis Khan’s death and rediscovered in China in the 1800s; but as the director admits in his notes, “You can’t trust a poem for 100% historical accuracy.”

Shinbone Alley, based on another work of genius from the same era as The Set-Up, and like The Set-Up, outside of the canon: Don Marquis’ Archy and Mehitabel.

12 08 2008

What a remarkable list and on the very day I was wondering if the internet would produce anything else of lasting value (not that there’s anything wrong with amateur police brutality videos). I thought I had a unique title to offer, but I see somebody else beat me to “Ruben, Ruben.” I see “Pinero” as portrayed by Benjamin Bratt, but not the film “Short Eyes,” screenplay by Pinero, from his most enduring work.

13 08 2008
Poetry News For August 13, 2008 | Poetry Hut Blog

[...] Movie Review — Patti Smith: Dream of Life [and a big list of movies with poetry] [...]

13 08 2008
matt rotando

Just thinking around this lovely topic, I came up with a few movies that I’d only very tongue-in-cheekily categorize as having a “poetry angle”:

Here’s a link to C. Thomas Howell, as Ponyboy, reciting Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in Coppola’s “The Outsiders,” based on the Hinton novel:

A D.H. Lawrence poem, “Self Pity,” is a fairly central recurring motif in Ridley Scott’s “G.I. Jane” (

Sean Connery is hilarious in the 1984 “Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” based on the Middle English poem. Here’s the funny trailer:

In Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers,” King Theoden’s recitation before battle, beginning “Where is the horse and the rider” ( is based on a Latin verse tradition called “ubi sunt” (”where are”) that occurs in the 10th Century Old English poem “The Wanderer.”

Like the recent animated blob, “Beowulf” (, “The 13th Warrior” ( is loosely based on the poem, Beowulf.

The Coen Brothers’ “O Brother Where Art Thou” is based on The Odyssey of Homer. Here’s the “Sirens” clip:

13 08 2008
Jane Holland

There are moments on the cyber surfboard when, trawling through sites and discovering some amazing gem, I find myself wondering what on earth I ever did before the internet really took off.

Thanks for this, Amy. Much to read and discover!

Re the above comment, my husband loves ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ by the way. And it is an excellent film.


14 08 2008


The recitation of the Lady Gregory translation of the anonymous poem/ballad known as “Donal Og” (which begins “It was late last night and the dog was speaking of you”) in John Huston’s film version of James Joyce’s “The Dead.” Quite powerful.

It famously concludes:

“You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me.”

Auden could have used a footnote in his “Funeral Blues” back to this source poem.

Don @ Lilliput Review

14 08 2008
Vicki Lawrence

Here at the Michigan Quarterly Review we published an essay by Stacey Harwood on poetry in movies, which included a list that we have posted on our website and have continued to update:

Check it out if you’re interested.

15 08 2008
K. Silem Mohammad

Mr. Wrong (dir. Nick Castle, 1996), with Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Pullman. The best scene in the movie occurs when Pullman and DeGeneres are in bed together after their “first time” and she asks him to recite some of his original poetry. He does, and she gets her first inkling of how very wrong he is indeed. I wish I could find the text of the poem, or even remember some of it–the only part I can recall is something about ET phoning home.

In The Man with Two Brains (dir. Carl Reiner, 1983), Steve Martin recites his “Pointy Bird” poem (”Oh pointy bird, oh pointy-pointy / Anoint my head, anointy-nointy”).

In Don Siegel’s spy thriller Telefon (1977) with Charles Bronson, lines from Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” are used to activate hypnotized Russian sleeper agents.

I always remember this one episode of Taxi where Louie (Danny DeVito) tells Elaine (Marilu Henner) that he wrote a poem for her. She drops her guard for a moment, thinking he has a soul after all, and then he recites it: “Me and you … naked, on a rock.”

17 08 2008
Karen Alkalay-Gut

Let’s not forget Jane Campion’s “In The Cut” which warns you about the dangers of poetry and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” which is a quote from Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard.
Oh my, this is fun.

18 08 2008
David Chirot

Drive, he said–Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut and a Cannes entry of 1971–

i have always imagined the title to come from the famous Creeley line/poem–though the film is from a novel by Jeremy Lerner–i haven’t seen that film in so long –and what i recall, it’s quite possible the line is from Creeley–

Basketball Diaries from the book by Jim Carroll, also songwriter/musician band leader (the Jim Carroll Band)and poet

and i keep thinking about William Blake being quoted in The Horse’s Mouth and William Blake as the name of the character (played by Johnny Depp) in the film Deadman who, while is NOT William Blake the poet, the American Indian who finds him wounded and escorts him to the “waters of oblivion” keeps speaking to as though he IS William Blake the poet–the spirit of him–

an extraordinary film in which there is also a “case of mistaken literary/cinema identity” is the magnificent The Spirit of the Beehive directed by Victor Erice with the astounding Anna Torrant–in which a young girl, greatly moved by the sadness of the Frankenstein in James Whale’s film version of Mary Shelley’s book, enlists her young girl friend in helping a tramp in whom they see the qualities of Frankenstein which so greatly affected them–

the film leaves open the “obvious” ambiguity of the Frankenstein in the film, who kills a young girl he tries to befriend, as what the young girls “read onto” the tramp is the “good” Frankenstein who they see as wronged and sad and in need of a caring hand–

hovering in the air is also the recent Spanish Civil War and the WW2 in which Spain is neutral–this “background hum’ as it were permeating the repression of national and cultural trauma by the Franco Regime–

( a person who intends Good to more extreme tramp figures is treated in an entirely other way, as the repressed cancers that Franco’s Spain produces explode in violence, murder and attempted rape on the former Novice Viridiana in Bunuel’s film of that name)

there are a number of film versions also of writings by Dylan Thomas—A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Under Milkwood–

as well as the films from Lorca’s plays and poetry including the flamenco ballet of Carlos Saura’s Blood Wedding –

a “reverse engineering” of poetry and cinema exists for me in a lot of my work done this year, which had inspiration from a person and images in the film Battle of Algiers, which i saw yet again, with a very young audience–as always the film inspires a great enthusiasm for the fight for independence and justice in the face of the Oppressor-in the audience-what was s striking was that in the hall after the film had let out, it was hitting as in a wave al the people discussing what they had seen–that the roles of the French in the film are now those of the US and its allies–torturers, creators of outdoor prisons made of entire city areas, mass arrests, detentions–

a great many techniques, images, lines from the cinema have affected those in poetry– that is, in many cases, the cinema and its formal and technical devices have had a great many effects in poetry, as well as the other way round–

Kerouac called it “book-movie, the original American Form”–and in Philadelpho Menezes’ Poetics and Visuality A Trajectory of Contemporary Brazilian Poetry, sonority is presented as the next problem facing an experimental poetry (for Menzes this means Concrete, Visual, Sound and Inter-sign Poetries) which has “in its undeclared project” the “rejoining” of the the verbal, visual and sound, with sound NOT being the oralization of the written word/sign. To point in this direction, Menezes gives examples taken from the cinema, in which the sounds being heard are not those of the object being shown/read. This embraces such techniques as uses of music, voice-over narration and the like.

To give a sense of each Visual Poem being at once a “movie on a page” and as a series which the “presence” of an “imagery” in all senses of the term is moving through, the flikr gallery “Cinema of Catharsis” is the name given to a long series of new and recent pieces which began in finding in an old (1963) Life Magazine a huge color photo of Vietnamese inside a wire fenced area watched over by guards and shippers aloft in small towers, being show an American film designed to “win hearts and minds”–

the “Serials” of Louis Feuillade made in the 19 teens in France greatly inspired the Surrealist poets and visual artists– “harking back” (as Max Ernst makes explicit in his Visual-Collage-Serial-Novel creations) to the serials of th first half of the 19th Century and their illustrations, mass distributed in the competing newspapers and magazines of the time which effected Poe and his uses of the “short story” and his (reverse engineered AFTER the fact of the composition of “The Raven” it details) “Principles of Composition” which proposes that only the short poem (one that can be read in one sitting) is now really valid in such speeded up times–

Poe’s emphasis on the “short story,” the “short poem,” as simultaneously “discrete and complete” makes of each work a metynomic device which “points towards” that all encompassing enigmatic Cosmos of his “Eureka” which so greatly inspired the mathematician-poet Paul Valery.

In his film esays, Eisenstein explores the cinematic image as a metynomic device, so that one ship made be made to stand for a fleet, and so “leap over” both a too literal “realism” into a poetic one and also the image as metaphor–

montage is the order in which the discrete elements are assembled to create the :”effect”–which Poe argues is the “starting point” for the composition of the poem–yet for Eisenstein is what emerges from a dialectical method of assemblage–

in both examples, the “effect” “overall” of the assemblage of discrete elements is to be “greater than the sum of the parts:” for Poe the effect is to create an emotional meditation which points to his Cosmos (”mournful and never ending remembrance”) and for Eisenstein it is to point to the dialectics of revolutionary thought as/in action–

this use of “short” stories, poems, metonymic images also produces a sense of “focus” which in strange way is what Ezra Pound was able to perform when editing Eliot’s sprawling mass of ms materials for “The Wasteland” yet unable to sustain in his own Cantos–

(Eliot via LaForgue, Corbiere and Baudelaire’s translations, is a rhizomatic descendent of Poe, ironically enough shown by the then contemporary Anti-Eliot W.C. Willaims as The Pioneer of American Writing in his attention with language, in the final chapter of’ “In the American Grain”)

At the same time as Poetry is being broken down in terms of its focus, from poem, to line to word to letter in avant-gardes of the first 20 years of the 20th Century, the cinema was also on the one hand swelling into the Epic and on the other into ever more focus on the discrete element of the single frame as THE element of composition, though a frame which at the time is being show (at that time) 16 frames per second–making of each instant a series–

(Fordism and Taylorism are stimulated in their developments of techniques made possible by the anaylsis of movements provided by the cinema, as a technology which “synthesizes” those of Muybridge already literally employed in such a manner by the Kings of Time made manifest in the ever increasing efficiency of the “assembly line”–which in a sense is the “original” of what the Surrealists break down into the writing game of the Exquisite Corpse– which “recaptures” the Dream elements associated from its introduction with the Cinema and the experience of the spectator inside the darkness opening “inwardly outward” into the projected imagery of the “unconscious” on the screen– echoing the opening of that great favorite of the Surrealists, Gerard de
Nerval’s “Aurelia ou Le Reve et La Vie”

*”Our dreams are a second life. I have never been able to cross through those gates of ivory of horn which separate us from the invisible world without a sense of dread.”*

The “portals of ivory” which seem to have inspired the architecture and decor of so many of the first “Dream Palaces”–

or the entrances to “Caves of Lascaux” and so many others, continually being discovered as a series moving further and further “back” into the historical-archeological records/recordings/notations/images” of human consciousness/the unconscious–

which, with images viewed by flickering light on the walls of caves, are a cinema which precedes the finding of Plato’s Cave– a Visual Poetry whose Sonorities as Menezes writes–lie ahead– yet which at the same time may already have been “sounding” for tens of thousands of years– only in a sounding which, paradoxically, by having been anchored on stone in caves, has endured so long that the while the images are still visible and “seen” as “signs of a writing”–their sounds have been “lost” to the contemporary ear– although in the sound chambers of the caves they may be sounding and resounding, echoing a poetry which has outlasted its listeners– or– perhaps, is the poetry Jack Spicer is writing of in declaring “nobody listens to poetry anymore”– making it possible to wonder in turn if perhaps in some ways “poetry listens to no one anymore”–a cinematic sonority found in caves that goes unheard– and an experimental poetry(Menezes means by this Concrete and Visual Poetry, Sound Poetry)–that will learn by listening to the cinema’s sonorities– an acoustic dimension which echoes Emerson’s “Perhaps the blank and ruin we see in Nature is in our own eye.”–a “non Poetry” one “does not hear” which is in one’s own ears– as a poetry “nobody listens to anymore”– which in turn may suggest a poetry which does not listen–anymore– to that which emerges out of the rocks marked in the notations of a time which moves at a different speed—- a sounding-not as an object, but like Robert Smithson’s “Look of the Artist,” something that is a “glance” “taking place” in time– not bound to the word alone, as Menezes proposes– (something which in effect cannot be owned)– in a sense, “nobody listens to poetry anymore” understood differently, as “nobody” listens to poetry anymore- being that “nobody” owns it anymore– a “Utopian” nobody which means “everybody”– hears it– (Rimbaud’s vision in poetry of the entrance into the “Splendid City” and “Christmas on Earth” in which everyone and everything is poetry–and Menezes’ of the ‘Utopian” arrival via his vision of the “undeclared” mission of a poetry questioning every aspect of society including language, habits, values, “’sensibility itself’” as the manifestations of the structural bases of the dominant ideology-in both Rimbaud and Menezes is the desire and work to overcome the “separations” which are continually being constructed to keep poetry from the “world” via the “word”– -)

21 08 2008
denis j. dunn

i would like to add “love lion” with michael mcclure & ray manzarek & the “voices in wartime” documentary, — a stunning documentary– thanks, denis

25 08 2008
Collin Kelley

Jill Godmillow’s brilliant 1988 film “Waiting for the Moon” about Stein and Toklas is like one long poem. Beautifully written and filmed.

31 08 2008

these two films may be stretching it a bit, but i would add:

“port of shadows” directed by marcel carne. probably one of the best examples of the poetic realism tendency in french film of the 1930s, although definitely at the depressing end of the scale. and, as and added plus, it offers one of jean gabin’s best performances ever.

“last year at marienbad” directed by alain resnais with a script by alain robbe-grillet. a completely non-linear narrative shot in a set that could have been designed by max ernst or giorgio de chirico, this is one of the few films that realizes the dream-like nature of film itself. the only other film i can compare it to is maya deren’s “meshes of the afternoon.”

4 09 2008

Interesting that someone in an above comment mentioned that Ashbery turned them on to Guy Maddin. Maddin’s 2006 film Brand Upon the Brain! was a silent film with narration. During a multi-night run in a NYC theater, various “celebrities” were invited to provide the narration, including Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and John Ashbery. Ashbery’s and Anderson’s narrations are included on the DVD. Personally, I think Susan Howe would have been the perfect narrator.

9 10 2008
Jan Hope

What movies has Invictus by Henley, been in.

 read more ...

Poetry Exercises Wanted!

Poetry Exercises Wanted!

12 06 2008

I am teaching a Writing Poetry course this July, and while I have a curriculum in place, I’d like to change things up a bit and try out some exercises that have worked well for others, which is where you come in. Plus, there are PRIZES!

* My students will range in age from 18 - 84 (it’s true!). The average age is about 20.

* The students have taken a basic Creative Writing course in the past, so they have a working knowledge of the basic elements of poetry.

* The two standard texts I use for reference are Ron Padgett’s Handbook of Poetic Forms and Sleeping on the Wing by Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell.

* I always bring in supplemental material and am easily able to photocopy materials suggested.

* This course will result in the production of a chapbook for each student, so exercises that are geared towards that feat are helpful.

That’s the gist of it. I’d love to hear about exercises that worked well for you!  Additionally, I am aware of Charles Bernstein’s list of experiments, Bernadette Mayer’s Writing Experiments, and Daisy Fried’s Poetry Exercises, so no need to point me in those directions.  I want your personal successes!


Please add your poetry exercise suggestion(s) as a comment on this post. I have a few rewards to send out if I end up using your exercise. Gifts to choose from:

* Rod Smith’s audio CD, “fear the sky“, compliments of Narrow House Records.

* Anselm Berrigan’s audio CD, “pictures for private devotion“, compliments of Narrow House Records.

* Matthew Rotando’s “The Comeback’s Exoskeleton“, compliments of UpSet Press, Inc.

* Amy King’s “I’m the Man Who Loves You“, compliments of moi.

* Kate Greenstreet’s “case sensitive“, compliments of moi.

Thank you in advance!





50 responses to “Poetry Exercises Wanted!”

12 06 2008


12 06 2008
Catherine Daly

I call it Renga, Renga, Renga. Basically, for the number of students in the class, print out the rules for each renga link (in season) next to the link, and then all of the allowed season words, etc. Give everybody one; when each person finishes one link, they pass it, as in a renga party, and receive a new renga to write the “next” link.

12 06 2008
Chris Toll

I like cut up exercises. have your students take a book of poetry they love (by a dead person, preferably) and have them copy out words from the poems. these would be words they like for one reason or another. when they have a page or two filled with words, then have them make a poem out of those words (they can add their own prepositions and articles).

I write this way myself - I steal constantly.

12 06 2008

How about this one: this object is to write a good political poem. Give the students a task of writing a poem that’s a love or hate story featuring two people they know (they can be one of the people), with as much detail as possible. When they’re done writing tell them to substitute the names of those people with names of presidential candidates.

12 06 2008
Christophe Casamassima

1. have students “steal” lines from their favorite poems, then ask them to build poems around these lines
1.1. have students steal their classmates’ lines and build poems around them
2. Cento - create a poem using only stolen lines
3. Ask students to find poems they like, usually poems with end rhymes. Have them make a list of these words then use them in a poem. But ask them not to use these words as end words but middle words. This will give them a sense of internal rhyme-rhythm.
4. cut up sonnets then put the lines in a box. ask students to build chance-sonnets by blindfolded selection.

12 06 2008
Christophe Casamassima

i love ana’s suggestion. i’ll use that one myself!

12 06 2008
Anny Ballardini

Hi Amy, great course, if I were nearer I would be very interested in taking it!

12 06 2008

Found you tag-surfing; that is, I was tagsurfing and found this post . . .
Hi Amy. I’m David.

Two things work very well for me:
1) paintings [I write sonnets on nudes mostly - and use public domain images of 16th-19th century paintings]
2) write a poem in response to a poem [in blogging, I call this surf-by poetry and generally write in sonnet form]

I recently read an article on sonnets in which the author challenges poets to re-interpret anthologized poems as sonnets. Same thing with news articles. Those sound like pretty good exercises, but I haven’t taken the time to attempt it.

Best of luck!

12 06 2008
Susan Rich

Hello Amy,

Here are two:

I have examples of this one as well - I call it “What Work Is: For You” and it has nothing to do with the Philip Levine poem.
In the past, great and not-so-great poets have spent much time contemplating the stars and the sea — this assignment changes all that! Write about a job you have had, whether you loathed it or loved it - it doesn’t matter. Write about picking grapes, pouring coffee — write about teaching an eleven year old how to ski or stealing tea bags from your boss. Write from your own experience. However, you are encouraged to go beyond the literal!

Keep the poem in the present tense, and BE SURE THERE IS A PHYSICAL ACTION INVOLVED such as scrubbing floors, dissecting chickens, helping someone use the toilet. The job should be one you have some experience with - but the poem might work well in the third person. He or she or they - that’s for you to decide.

Another fun one is a poem of exaggeration. I’ve had students introduce themselves telling the group a food they love or loathe. There assignment is then to write a poem about their relationship to that food using wild exaggerations. The one I remember is a great one about “I am in love with a wild salmon.” Very enjoyable and good work

Thanks for posting this on Wom-Po.

12 06 2008
Julie Carter

1. Not exactly an exercise, but for the last couple of years when I’ve done NaPoWriMo, a friend and I have come up with 30 weird titles beforehand, so we have to write to suit the title. It results in some very interesting poems. Silly titles can make fabulous poems (and of course the title can be discarded later).

2. One thing I think many poets have to train themselves to do is really listening to a poem, so read a poem aloud (or a student could read one aloud) and have everyone in the class try to translate the poem into their own poem without the text in front of them.

3. Depending on how long the class will be meeting and how familiar with each others’ work everyone can get, do a poetry identification contest where people try to match up poems with the students who wrote them. Some people are astonishingly good at this, but everyone can benefit from close reading that tries to find patterns.

12 06 2008

I have students write down the first line that comes into their head; what they’re thinking that moment. Then, I call our their names, going around the room at random. Each time I call a name that “name” says their line. Sometimes I repeat…but always at random. I use this to show students how to position lines, and how lines change with context. Most are delighted (teacher too, in my case) when we turn something “banal” into a poem. Ex. “I hope he doesn’t call on me” takes a whole new meaning when placed next to “and why am I wearing this sweater?” in our poem.

12 06 2008

Two things I’ve been doing recently:

*Take an old, crummy poem of your own and rearrange the lines in alphabetical (or reverse alphabetical) order. This works best with skinny (short-lined) poems.

*Take a bad poem (however you define “bad”) by someone else, preferably someone who is still alive, and “improve” it by rearranging lines, phrases, or words (without adding or deleting anything).

12 06 2008
Jack Kimball

Hi Amy,

A few years ago while still in Japan I put together a number of poetry writing exercises for students of English. The exercises have been used for teaching native speakers as well as language
learners. The later exercises — featuring Moore, Creeley, Stevens, Wieners, Towle — are the more challenging; parts of the earlier ones — Williams, Bishop, Ceravolo, Schuyler, O’Hara — though easier, could be adapted for native speakers as well. Here’s the url –

– Jack

12 06 2008

I don’t have any prompts (I don’t teach) but have fun with your class.

12 06 2008
Andrew Levy

Hi Amy,

see below an excercise we’re at right now in a course I’m teaching this summer - Writing that Matters - in Ruth Danon’s program at NYU. I won’t know what happened until next week… best, Andrew

STEP ONE: Read Freud’s “The Creative Writer and Daydreaming,” and the following 28 steps on *How to Become a Blues Musician*:

1. Most Blues begin ‘Woke up this mornin’…’
2. ‘I got a good woman’ is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, ‘I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town.’
3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes… sort of: ‘Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and she weigh 500 pound.’
4. The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch - ain’t no way out.
5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don’t travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the running. Walkin’ plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.
6. Teenagers can’t sing the Blues. They ain’t fixin’ to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, ‘adulthood’ means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.
7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the blues in any place that don’t get rain.
8. Breaking your leg cause you were skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg ’cause a alligator be chomping on it is.
9. You can’t have no Blues in a office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.
10. Good places for the Blues: a. highway b. jailhouse c. empty bed d. bottom of a whiskey glass. Bad places for the Blues: a. Nordstrom’s b. gallery openings c. Ivy League institutions d. golf courses
11. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, ‘less you happen to be a old ethnic person, and you slept in it.
12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if: a. you older than dirt b. you blind c. you shot a man in Memphis d. you can’t be satisfied. No, if: a. you have all your teeth b. you were once blind but now can see c. the man in Memphis lived d. you have a 401K or trust fund.
13. Blues is not a matter of color. It’s a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the blues.
14. If you ask for water and your darlin’ give you gasoline, it’s the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are: a. cheap wine b. whiskey or bourbon c. muddy water d. nasty black coffee. The following are NOT Blues beverages: a. Perrier b. Chardonnay c.Snapple d. Slim Fast.
15. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken down cot. You can’t have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.
16. Some Blues names for women: a. Sadie b. Big Mama c. Bessie d. Fat River Dumpling
17. Some Blues names for men: a. Joe b. Willie c. Little Willie d. Big Willie
18. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Debbie, and Heather can’t sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.
19. Make your own Blues name Starter Kit: a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.) c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.) For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jakeleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not ‘Kiwi.’)
20. I don’t care how tragic your life — if you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues.
21. People with the Blues eat barbecue, corn bread, beans, and their last meal.
22. Good blues instruments: guitar, slide trombone, saxophone, and harmonica.
23. Bad blues instruments: everything else, especially the flute, oboe, french horn, and violin.
24. You got the blues if you have lumbago or a bad back. You don’t have the blues if you have a mental disorder ending in ’syndrome.’
25. Black Jack is a good blues game. Bridge is not a good blues game.
26. Blues jobs include working on the railroad, picking cotton, musician, or just got fired.
27. Blues animals include the junkyard dog and mule (not donkey).
28. Epitaph on a blues musician’s tombstone: ‘I didn’t wake up this morning’.

STEP TWO: Write an autobiographical fiction, poem, play, children’s story, or some combination thereof (the choice of genre is your own) about the biggest BLUES that’s happened to you within the past 10 months. You are free to make full use of self-deception, distortion, repression of painful experiences and memories, self-aggrandizement, difficulty with chronology—yet implying a “blues story” vs. a seemingly random collection of images and anecdotes. Disrespect any of the above 28 steps that get in your way. Consider remembering and analyzing conversations you’ve either been a participant in and/or overheard. Think about using sensually specific images (experiential) vs. recording your cognitive experience. Perhaps you’ll desire to compose some combination of the two. Remember – embellish your blues interests.

12 06 2008
Hugh Behm-Steinberg

This exercise might be more useful later in the class. Take a book or chapbook, photocopy it, then remove the table of contents and page numbers. Photocopy again (one copy per participant), clip the poems apart and shuffle, so that each person has a randomized packet of poems. Next meeting, each student brings their own reassembled version of the book, and be able to explain why they picked which piece to go where. Contrast with author’s version of the book.

This exercise is really helpful in sparking discussions of book structure and coherence, strategies for turning a pile into a book.

13 06 2008

On Big Window, I do a series of writing prompt posts called the Open Series. Some are original; others are borrowed. Here’s the link:
Enjoy the class!

13 06 2008

We had to write poems on an assigned random object such as a lemon. Then we were given a list of words we could not use such as yellow, sour, bitter, fruit. It was challenging and fun. We also had to read our poems aloud, made for a good time. Ü

13 06 2008

A few writing exercises I’ve used with EFL university students:

1) Write from the perspective of an object you own. (The example I give is of my alarm clock complaining about me yelling at and hitting it.)

2) I have them write cinquains, but before introducing the form, I have them choose a subject and brainstorm related adjectives and verbs

3) I take them outside and have them focus on each sense in turn (usually combining smell and taste) and write notes on each. Then, we return from the site and have them choose an organizing idea to turn their notes into a poem.

13 06 2008
Chris Hansen-Nelson

After giving students a prompt based on a poem we’ve just read, I break them into smaller groups (4 or 5) and then ask them to make a column down the left side of the page with the first initial of each of their first names in alphabetical order. This is hard to explain in the abstract but easy with examples. Each of these letters must be the first letter of the first word in each line of the poem. This is just a good way to get beginner’s writing without thinking about how to start. After sharing in groups, and then picking one from their group to share with the larger group, we continue by having each of them go back to their poems and revise the order of the lines to see what effect if any this change might have. They can tweak a word or two, if necessary. It gets them to think about the possibilities of discovery in playing with syntax. The same sharing takes place within the smaller group and then the larger group and then the final part of the exercise is to have them take one line of the poem and play with the word order in the line, again allowing for minor tweaking. A variation of this exercise is to have them switch poems within the smaller group before playing with the line order/word order. It’s a simple exercise series but one I found useful with newer-to-the-trade writers.

13 06 2008

Make a word list together in class. Then write poems using as many words as possible.

13 06 2008

My favorite exercise is ridiculously simple but actually hard. It’s best for the journeyman poet, probably not for beginners:

Rewrite your favorite famous poem without using any of the original words in a poem of no more than 12 lines.

I look forward to seeing your list evolve. This is fascinating stuff.

13 06 2008

Bernadette Mayer has a wonderful list of exercises available on-line. As does Charles Bernstein and most of the Teachers and Writers publications have tons of stuff.

14 06 2008

John Tranter sent along “John Ashbery in conversation with John Tranter 1985” —

And “John Ashbery in conversation with John Tranter 1988” —

Some helpful thoughts on process and writing in both interviews:

¶ The surrealists used and abused it a lot, didn’t they? They talked a lot about the unconscious and the subconscious, and letting things happen in a random way. People have often said that some of your writing looks like automatic writing.

Yeah — I don’t think the surrealists really did that, even though they claimed it was what they were doing, because there’s something so classical and planned about French surrealist poetry. In my own experimental phase in The Tennis Court Oath I was probably closer to that kind of thing … but those poems are quite ungrammatical and their language is very disjunct, whereas with French surrealist poetry you can always expect the subject to be followed by the predicate …

¶ They kept to the rules of grammar when they broke all the other rules.



¶ And do you revise much? Do you go over and over things?

Well, when I’ve finished writing I go over and make a few changes, but usually nothing very extensive: I either decide this is not worth bothering with, I’ll write something else; or I just make some minor revisions.Then I put it away and let it sort of ferment for a while, and take it out later, maybe make a few more changes then, but usually not very much.


¶ That’s remarkable. Most writers, I think, go through five, ten maybe, drafts of a poem.

Well, I used to, but I think it’s something that with practice you …

¶ You get better and better.

Me, at any rate. I don’t like working on something once I’ve done it, so I’ve trained myself to either write something that I like or something that I will simply forget about and then go onto something else. One poem I hadn’t read in a long time, by the way, that I liked a lot, was the translation of a poem by Arthur Cravan in The Double Dream of Spring.

¶ And what was it that still appeals to you about it?

Ah, well … it was written in purposeful doggerel alexandrines.

¶ A difficult line in English.

Well, it turned out to he very easy to preserve those limping rhymes in English just by making all the inversions that you’re not supposed to. I discovered that it had a very nice quality as a result of that, a sort of combination of high-flown rhetoric and a very limping, bad, patched-together quality. And I liked that damaged would-be nobility of the language.


¶ Your work is so oblique at times that it might be difficult for the reader to see clearly that’s what you were doing.

Well, if my poetry is oblique, it’s because I want to slant it at as wide an audience as possible, odd as it may come out in practice. Therefore, if I’m writing a love poem it won’t talk about specifics, but just about the general feeling which anybody might conceivably be able to share. And ‘A Wave’, in my last book, is really a love poem. And ‘Some Trees’, which I think is the earliest poem in that first book, was definitely written about somebody I was in love with.

From “John Ashbery in conversation with John Tranter 1985″ —


¶ Whereas now you must think with each poem you write that it will appear in print, it will be examined by tens of thousands of readers.

Well, I did that at that time to shake my mind up, to get out of my habitual ways of thinking and writing. I had intended at some point to go back and put things together again, and indeed I began doing that while I was still living in France, even before The Tennis Court Oath came out. Since that time I have written things I hoped would be presentable to anyone who cared to read them, and I don’t think that I’ve been conditioned by the success I’ve had in the past decade or so to write differently than I would have otherwise. It might have happened if I’d been an overnight success as a young poet but this didn’t happen. And being an art critic too I saw what happens to some of these young people who become nine-day wonders and then burn themselves out very quickly. It’s something you really think about, and you know that you mustn’t write either for or against somebody’s expectations about your writing. You have to tread a narrow path between two things.


“The title ‘Europe’ was suggested to me by the title of one of the stations of the Paris Metro which is in a section called ‘Europe’, where all the streets are named after European capitals.
These were… experiments which I thought would perhaps lead to something, but I didn’t really intend them to be finished poems. I didn’t at that point know how to write a finished poem in the way that I felt I had done so before, at least in the new way that I wanted to write. And quite unexpectedly I had an opportunity to publish another volume. So I used what I had.
My intention was to be after… kind of… taking language apart so I could look at the pieces that made it up. I would eventually get around to putting them back together again, and would then have more of a knowledge of how they worked, together.”


“Yes, I think it did. My idea probably was ‘Well, if nobody’s listening, then why not go ahead and talk to myself, and see what I get out of it.’”


“Oh yes. I am obliged to give a final examination in my poetry writing course, which I’m always rather hard put to do, since we haven’t really studied anything. The students have been writing poems of varying degrees of merit, and though I give them reading lists they tend to ignore them, after first demanding them. And the way the course is set up there is no way of examining them on their reading. And anyway they shouldn’t have to pass an examination because they’re poets who are writing poetry, and I don’t like the idea of grading poems.
So in order to pass the examination time I had to think of various subterfuges, and one of them is to use one of Malley’s poems and another forbiddingly modern poem — frequently one of Geoffrey Hill’s ‘Mercian Hymns’. And asking them if they can guess which one is the real poem by a respected contemporary poet, and which one is a put-on intended to ridicule modern poetry, and what are their reasons. And I think they are right about fifty per cent of the time, identifying the fraud… [the] fraudulent poem.

¶ I was going to ask you if you’d like to talk about how you actually write a poem each day. What do you do?

I postpone it as long as possible, which is probably why I write in the late afternoon. I also think that my mind in the morning — though it might be fresher and have more ideas in it — is not as critical as it is later on in the day.”


“I used to think that it wasn’t good for me to write very often. I thought one a week was perhaps the maximum. Otherwise it seemed as thought it was coming out diluted, or strained.
However I seemed to have changed my mind about this, and am writing just about every day. And feeling okay about what I am writing.
Also I think the fact that the older one gets — for many people, at least — the more prolific one gets, realising there aren’t the oceans of time that seem to be stretching ahead when one was young. And one learns to use it, and realise how precious it is.
I also used to think that I had to wait until I was ‘inspired’ before I could write, and then I realised that I hardly ever was inspired, so that I’d have to come up with something… something else.
So usually my poems, when I write, I’m just in a sort of… everyday frame of mind. Which is all I know, really, I suppose.”

From “John Ashbery in conversation with John Tranter 1988″ —


14 06 2008
Sue Walker

When One Can Become Two or More

We do this on the board — students list things that have “touched” them in some way during the past 21 days. This can be a lost cell phone or a parental divorce. It can be a beating that has occupied the local / national news. We make a list of these things. Then I ask the students to write for 10-15 minutes about one of the items on the list. Next I ask them to consider what was vibrant and strong about what they just wrote, ask them to exchange their accounts and ask for the reader’s comments. Following on this 10 minute writing “opportunity,” I ask them to write a poem in free verse. We discuss what works in this poem and what might be added. After this, I ask them to write a sonnet (it doesn’t have to rhyme–and we discuss this, looking at older and newer ways sonnets can be written. Then, I ask the students to use the same initial material and write a villanelle and then a sestina. In the process, we discuss how sound can be employed, color, taste, dialogue, etc

– and finally, we look at how the differences that occur in each rendering.

Sue Walker
Stokes Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing
University of South Alabama
Mobile, Al 36688

14 06 2008
Ricky Garni


1) Read the same poem, silently, three times in a row. Then close the book and rewrite the poem, using your own language as well as language appropriated (recalled) from the author. You may emphasize style or content or theme or even simply one word. This works particularly well if it is done in series (using collections that are thematically linked, like Rilke’s ‘Sonnets to Orpheus.”

2) Visit a graveyard. Use the most curious, alarming, incomprehensible, or passionate epitaph as the first line or title of your poem. Invent a life and praise it. Or a death, but don’t praise it.

3) Write a series of odes based upon the names of forgotten artifacts from cultural history. For example: odes to the characters of GOOFY GRAPE (ROOTIN’ TOOTIN’ RASPBERRY, for example, or narrative poems based upon images on 1960’s cereal boxes (I am partial to Puffa Puffa Rice, myself:–why, even the Bond Girls could work ( actually–probably not. It’s like writing about Elvis. Perhaps one of the best sources for this general period can be found in the Prelinger Archives (an exhaustive resource of Industrial Films from the ‘40s-’70’s.) Even if you do not write directly about what you see, they are crazy-filled with inspirations. (

4) Write a series of haikus based upon all of the proper nouns listed in Cole Porter’s YOU’RE THE TOP (

5) Return to a spot: inventing a weekly pantoum or sestina, for a year. Sit in the same spot each week, and observe and record all the impressions about you. The pantoum (or sestina) form is particularly effective here because by returning to the same spot many of the same images and impressions (nouns and verbs) will be a constant in your poems. And yet the order, place, and actions upon these images and impressions will, in all likelihood, change over the course of a year. In a way, it’s time lapse photography for poetry.

6) Write about what you don’t know: The Web is a smorgasbord this way. You can use either an image, a fact, an event, a period, a word (antiquated) to compose a flash fiction or small narrative poem. Emphasize orderliness, structure, coherence, sense, and use the less familiar/unknown/obscure frugally, letting whatever surreal may be just seep slightly into the work. For example: a short narrative poem about breaking up with a girlfriend that references Elizabethan hatwear–the toque and muffin cap perhaps? You never know.

7) FIND A COPY OF BILL ANTHONY’S BIBLE STORIES: published by the late great Jonathan Williams. In this work, Bill Anthony tells the story of the Bible in about, I believe, roughly, 30 single line pages. Mr. Anthony’s work eerily resembles Beavis & Butthead stuff, although he predates that considerably–in case you get a chance to see it.

Since he only did the Bible, you are free to rewrite (and illustrate) your own. Try THE AENEID for example, or one that has always tempted me: BOSWELL’S LIFE OF JOHNSON. The futility of this sort of exercise can be really liberating.

I also recommend that the author do his own illustrations. Particularly if he or she says “But I can’t draw.”

14 06 2008
John Korn

I would get them out of the classroom. Either you take them out as a group, but maybe more effectively ask them to go out on their own in their free time. Maybe suggest that they go some place they don’t go often. Or possibly in manner of travel they normally don’t use. Like if they normally drive, they could take the bus or bum a ride off a friend etc. To a town, city, park, anywhere. Ask them to maybe pretend (only to themselves) that they are someone other than themselves. The reason for their travel? Ask them to pretend they are going to see an old friend, lover, the grave of someone close to them. Maybe they are going to pick up a pound of heroin, or something ordinary even. In reality they will just go on a trip on their own, taking in the scenery and observing their own experience of simply going somewhere they don’t go often. They could mix the fiction story they create in their head with what they actually do and see, and create poems that are sort of scenes that could make up a chap book. Of course you want them to be careful, so make sure to stress that the intense imaginary fiction side stay fiction and that what they really do should be pretty mundane or at least safe.

I think you could get interesting and creative responses to this.

14 06 2008
David A. Kirschenbaum

Here’s a bunch (most of which you’ve seen from my project emails):

–I had Arielle Greenberg and I swap each other’s dreams and then turn the other poets dreams into poems. A good one to get you out of your own head and learn how to collaborate.

–anne tardos once had us do 7 x7’s, something I’m sure everyone does, whatever the numbers, but I dug the restrictions, always do

–I used a sheet of star wars stamps and wrote short little poem songs based upon each stamp. Each poet could instead pick their own artistic source material. The good thing with those stamps, though, was that on the back of the sheet they each had a descrip that you could riff of. So if they do pick their own art one with some source material, however tiny, would be cool.

The July Project is finished. Last month I saw the Star Wars stamps at the post office and thought of my friend Brian Robinson. I bought a sheet of the stamps (there are 15 to a sheet) for starters.

Once home I went through my cardboard box of cardboard to see what cardboard I had enough of to use for the 31-day project, and picked my Goobers boxes. I ripped 16 of the old design boxes on the seam, and alternated fronts and backs until I had 31.

I then placed the stamps on the cards in descending order as to how they rested on the stamps’ sheet (see link below). This is why, for example, there are three cards with Darth Vader stamps.×600_570140.jpg

I would then write little poem songs, most of which ripped off pop songs, about the Star Wars stamps (and using the text on the back of the sheet about each stamp—can’t locate that online, apologies).

And here they are, The July Project, for Brian Robinson:

So the poet Christina Strong and I did a February Project last month, with me writing the first poem each day, her responding to my poem, me responding to hers, and so on, and so on.

And I was enjoying myself and wanted to continue writing this month, but I thought I needed a little kick start. So I called my good friend and frequent collaborator Sean Cole and asked him to give me a first line, which I then made an epigraph. Each day since, Sean has been giving me a new epigraph to begin a new poem. You can see The March Project 2008, in progress, here:

**The February Project 2005
A month-long poem inspired by the postcard stamp of late track star Wilma Rudolph. I used her autobiography, dividing it by the 29 days in February, and turning each day’s seven pages into a section of this work.

**The January Project 2006
I wrote a one-line poem on the 1st, a two-line poem on the 2nd, on through to a 31-line poem on the 31st.

**The March Project 2006
The following poems are rewrites of im’s composed each day to different people (perhaps you).

**The October Project 2006 with Sean Cole
The first poem each day is by Sean, the second by me.

14 06 2008
Janet McCann

Fun exercises. I have one I use for undergrads that they seem to like–I have them write down all the cliches they can think of in 5 minutes. Then they pick the one that seems to them to have intriguing multiple meanings–and they freewrite for five minutes jotting down all the images and ideas that the cliche calls forth EXCLUDING the one that is the traditional meaning of this cliche. Then they pick through the bits and pieces and create a poem from them.

14 06 2008
Susan Rich


These are part of a talk I gave at the It’s About Time Writing Series in Seattle, WA

The web address for the talk that goes with these three exercises is:

A Poem of Exaggeration

This is an opportunity to play. Write a poem exaggerating your appreciation or distaste for a food you know well. Permit yourself to go wild. I began a recent workshop asking participants to introduce themselves by naming a food they loved or hated. “I’m Stan and I loathe lobster” one older man proclaimed, “I’m in love with a wild salmon,” a nursing student confessed. “A cheddar sharper than I am ought be outlawed,” another participant offered. The results included a poem where a salmon stood in for an erotic lover and an aged cheddar cheese began a meditation for one woman’s self-reflection.

Try a historical appreciation of the eggplant or an ode to an artichoke.

This poem requires research. How fun to delve into the history of what we eat. For a poem still in progress I’ve learned the lurid past of the eggplant and why the Imam fainted, as in the fabled Middle Eastern eggplant dish. While researching a poem concerning the fantasies of a lonely baker, I found one website that listed over eight hundred different kinds of cake. Intersperse historical fact with your own taste sensations to create thirteen ways of looking at an artichoke.

Challenge yourself to write a political poem that uses food as a central image.

There was a common joke among Palestinians in the early 1990’s before the creation of the Palestinian Authority that referred to the fact that the red, green and black colors of the Palestinian flag had been outlawed by the Israeli government. “Did you hear,” the joke went, the Israelis have outlawed watermelons! It’s a common site to see farmers selling watermelons in late summer by the side of the road. In Gaza, watermelons were political. Write a poem where a food is inextricably linked with a social cause.

14 06 2008
Millicent Borges Accardi

Line Break Exercise.

Provide a mini-lesson about the importance of line breaks and enjambment, etc. Provide examples.

Pick three poems and type them up as a paragraph. Give them to your students in groups or individually to rearrage into poetic stanzas. Ask them to explain their line break choices and discuss the double meanings created by line breaks.

I Know a Man
by Robert Creeley

As I sd to my friend, because I am always talking,–John, I sd, which was not his real name, the darkness surrounds us, what can we do against it, or else, shall we & why not, buy a goddamn big car, drive, he sd, for christ’s sake, look out where yr going.

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos William

so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens


We have all been in rooms we cannot die in, and they are odd places, and sad. Often Indians are standing eagle-armed on hills in the sunrise open wide to the Great Spirit or gliding in canoes or cattle are browsing on the walls far away gazing down with the eyes of our children not far away or there are men driving the last railspike, which has turned gold in their hands. Gigantic forepleasure lives among such scenes, and we are alone with it. At last. There is always some weeping between us and someone is always checking a wrist watch by the bed to see how much longer we have left. Nothing can come of this nothing can come of us: of me with my grim techniques or you who have sealed your womb with a ring of convulsive rubber: Although we come together, nothing will come of us. But we would not give it up, for death is beaten by praying Indians by distant cows, historical hammers by hazardous meetings that bridge a continent. One could never die here never die never die while crying. My lover, my dear one I will see you next week when I’m in town. I will call you if I can. Please get hold of please don’t Oh God, Please don’t any more I can’t bear . . . Listen: We have done it again we are still living. Sit up and smile, God bless you. Guilt is magical.

I Know a Man
by Robert Creeley

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,–John, I

sd, which was not his
real name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.

The Red Wheelbarrow
By William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

By James Dickey

We have all been in rooms
We cannot die in, and they are odd places, and sad.
Often Indians are standing eagle-armed on hills

In the sunrise open wide to the Great Spirit
Or gliding in canoes or cattle are browsing on the walls
Far away gazing down with the eyes of our children

Not far away or there are men driving
The last railspike, which has turned
Gold in their hands. Gigantic forepleasure lives

Among such scenes, and we are alone with it
At last. There is always some weeping
Between us and someone is always checking

A wrist watch by the bed to see how much
Longer we have left. Nothing can come
Of this nothing can come

Of us: of me with my grim techniques
Or you who have sealed your womb
With a ring of convulsive rubber:

Although we come together,
Nothing will come of us. But we would not give
It up, for death is beaten

By praying Indians by distant cows historical
Hammers by hazardous meetings that bridge
A continent. One could never die here

Never die never die
While crying. My lover, my dear one
I will see you next week

When I’m in town. I will call you
If I can. Please get hold of please don’t
Oh God, Please don’t any more I can’t bear . . . Listen:

We have done it again we are
Still living. Sit up and smile,
God bless you. Guilt is magical.

14 06 2008


Two more for you:

1) Ask students to choose a common noun and then quickly rattle off every descriptor that comes to mind (e.g., tomato: red, round, juicy, ripe, vine, etc…) until all the obvious choices are exhausted. This will take all of 60 seconds, for you, writing these words down on the board. The assignment is then to write a piece titled after the original noun. But using none of the descriptors you’ve just written on the board. With any luck you get 20 more Tender Buttons in the world.

2) Alphabetize (tip: use an online alphabetizer) the words of one of your fave short poems. Then have students write poems using only those words, or as much as they can manage it. The results are often mindblowing, but for widely varying reasons.



14 06 2008

Alas, my parenthesis above was transformed into a winking “emoticon”!

14 06 2008
Tad Richards

Hand out strips of paper. Have each person in the class write a simile on his or her strip. Have them read the similes aloud and discuss why they work — what connection they find between the two parts of the simile.

Then collect all the similes. Cut them in half. Mix them up. Tape them back together (color code them so you’re sure you’re not taping anyone’s simile back together).

Pass the strips out again. Have each person read the new mix-and-matched simile aloud, and have the class discuss how this new simile works. The human mind is a connection-making machine. Your students will always find something, and they’ll be opening up their minds to wider possibilities of image-making.

14 06 2008
Tad Richards

Mill — I’ve used that one, and had excellent results with it. I always stress that it’s not about a right or wrong way, it’s about them discussing their decisions, and the class discussing how different line break decisions affect the poem.

Here are a couple I’ve had good results with:

On The Death Of Friends In Childhood

We shall not ever meet them bearded in heaven nor sunning themselves among the bald of hell; if anywhere, in the deserted schoolyard at twilight, forming a ring, perhaps, or joining hands in games whose very names we have forgotten. Come memory, let us seek them there in the shadows.

Donald Justice

On The Death Of Friends In Childhood

We shall not ever meet them bearded in heaven
Nor sunning themselves among the bald of hell;
If anywhere, in the deserted schoolyard at twilight,
forming a ring, perhaps, or joining hands
In games whose very names we have forgotten.
Come memory, let us seek them there in the shadows.

Donald Justice

Or this one, which is a can’t miss for this exercise:

William Carlos Williams

To a poor old woman munching a plum on the street a paper bag of them in her hand they taste good to her they taste good to her they taste good to her you can see it by the way she gives herself to the one half sucked out in her hand comforted a solace of ripe plums seeming to fill the air they taste good to her

William Carlos Williams
To A Poor Old Woman

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

And of course, if you’re doing Williams and plums, you can have a lot of fun, and really break the ice for a class, with a parody of the old Williams chestnut about apologizing for eating the plums.

15 06 2008
Donna Pecore

Hi Amy
I have been following the new poetry digest and the wom po recently and find both stimulating. I love all the ideas and have had little experience in teaching but did a bit with younger folks last year. The first thing I did that excited them was a collaborative poem. each elaborated on I dream… There is a book with lots of collaborative examples that give many more examples of collaborative work “The Saints of Hysteria” David Trinidad editor.
You can team the students in pairs and have one write a line in response to something of interest,a news article, a picture post card, a color etc, some object that is hard to identify. After each line is written,pass it back and forth between the two,folding the paper to cover the last line about 7 times. They will be surprised and delighted at their combined results.

Then I continued with Haiku’s but suggesting that they not be nature oriented but give a sense of the cityscape-still with the sylabic count and seasonal hints.

16 06 2008
JP Craig

English 251 Introduction to Poetry, Spring 2008
J.P. Craig

Creative Writing Assignment 2: A Procedural Poem & Essay #8: Analysis of Your Poem
For this project, read the two poems below. The first is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. The second, “Dim Lady,” is Harryette Mullen’s alteration of Sonnet 130 (Western Wind 71) using a procedure similar to the Oulipo n+7 procedure. Figure out what it is you think Mullen did or a way you can achieve something like what she did, and then use that method to alter one of the sonnets in Western Wind that I’ve listed below. Then write about 350 words explaining what Mullen did and why, your method, the poem you chose to work with, how that poem changed as a result of your procedure, and what you think we can learn from the transformation. This assignment is due on Monday, 4/21.

Sonnet 130
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Dim Lady
My honeybunch’s peepers are nothing like neon. Today’s special at Red Lobster is redder than her kisser. If Liquid Paper is white, her racks are institutional beige. If her mop were Slinkys, dishwater Slinkys would grow on her noggin. I have seen tablecloths in Shakey’s Pizza Parlors, red and white, but no such picnic colors do I see in her mug. And in some minty-fresh mouthwashes there is more sweetness than in the garlic breeze my main squeeze wheezes. I love to hear her rap, yet I’m aware that Muzak has a hipper beat. I don’t know any Marilyn Monroes. My ball and chain is plain from head to toe. And yet, by gosh, my scrumptious twinkie has as much sex appeal for me as any lanky model or platinum movie idol who’s hyped beyond belief.
— (From Sleeping with the Dictionary, 2002)

Sonnets you can choose from:
Donne. “Death Be Not Proud” (380); Shakespeare: #18 (374), #66 (210), #116 (374), #129 (375), #73 (374), #29 (312); Sidney “With How Sad Steps, O Moon” (373); Spenser “One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon the Sand” (373).

16 06 2008
JP Craig

English 251 Introduction to Poetry, Spring 2008
J.P. Craig

Creative Writing Assignment: A Repetitive Poem

For this assignment, write a poem of 175-250 words that emphasizes some form of repetition. Some forms of repetition you might consider using: rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, anaphora, and assonance. You might look through chapters 7-9 of Western Wind for more possibilities as well as for examples of poems using repetition. Be sure to give your poem a title.
After you have written your poem, write another 200-300 words that describes what you were attempting to do in the poem. Tell what the poem is about. Tell what forms of repetition you used and where you used them (referencing line numbers) and how you intend those repetitions to work with the meaning of your poem. You might also address how successful you believe your poem to be.
Grading: I’ll evaluate your poem on how accomplished it is technically and aesthetically, and I’ll evaluate your discussion of the poem based upon how thorough and thoughtful it is. This is due Wednesday before spring break.

17 06 2008
Christopher Kit Kelen

some poetry exercises by Christopher Kit Kelen

first thing I remember

first thing I remember was
first thing I saw
my first smell
first taste
first steps

before that
but I can’t remember

after that
who knows?

my father’s first memory
and my mother’s

first human
or that of the oldest animal
the oldest memory of all…

the poem finds you if it’s there
words travel on the page

the tree run

the bridge catch

the ship turn

the sea spin

is I

as you

for it

why moon

my hands bare

my feet tight

so that belonging

and yellow

since blue

book breeze

ink last

sky ten

see down

go up

into tomorrow

out then

today as it always was

connect the words as you see fit or read them where they’ve fallen

listen and write
a walk in the woods

you – the body
in the picture
so you won’t see yourself

see out

you’re in among the trees
give colour, light, density –
eyes up, eyes down
what do you see?

you’re on a track
what kind, how wide
and where does it go?

you come to a house
how’s it made?
how’s it seem?
and who’s in there
when they’re at home?

no one today
on the table
there’s something you open –
describe it
inside it –
what would you say?

out in the fresh air again
but the forest is gone
there’s blue in the sky
what else can you see?

follow the track
say where it goes

the water you come to
has to be crossed

the wall you get by
tell me how

and do we get home
in the end?

things and happenings
arrows between
(change noun or verb forms to agree as appropriate)

my feet
come unexpectedly
the planet
dance with
dog’s breath
take me for granted
a ship
cousins of the king
turn on
a round

add to the lists till the arrow takes shape
then let the poem go

the day has a hundred pockets

in the outermost pocket I put…

then under the first fold, cloth, I see…

in the skin also…

clock in the pocket
but speaks to me

inside a locket
my love as described…

tick tock of the heart beneath

in the place innermost I find…

folk morphing
(with the Propper apologies)

somewhere – where?
not just any magical forest, but the place has a name

now you’ve named it, original magic applies
and with this thing gained, something is lost

someone goes – who? – it’s one you love

before you get over this
there’s something that’s not allowed –

then you do it, of course you do

it’s just at this point
the villain sticks his/her nose in –

what does the wicked one want, find out?

you’re taken in and you don’t mean to
but still you help that devil along

so someone you love is hurt
feels a loss, or wishes for what won’t come

and now everyone knows about it

they know that only you can fix things
… but of course you can’t

so you set out hopeless
eager for a lucky break…

along the way you meet the main magic

the magic tests you first

a trial

you pass the test, the magic’s yours

and now you’re led to what’s required
how did you get there?

no time to worry about that
the evil one is there before you
and there to be faced

you fight
and it looks bad for you
at first and for a while
but in the end you win

they chase you back
through all disguises

home again
but no one knows you

there’s even someone claims to be you

and now there’s something tough to do
you’re up to it this time

the fake’s exposed

you get your reward

throne and a shiny new wedding

now yours is the kingdom
yours is the glory

time to start telling again


before we decide on the magic of the day
we need a list of possibles –

magic glasses which can…
a magic watch which…
fish in my ear to…

I drive an invisible car…

in my wallet one note which brings me change in any currency

then there’s the coin – heads takes me to the future
tails back to the past… there’s never knowing which way it will fall

I bring my talking dog with me
tour guide, worldly-wise advisor –
s/he says…

there’s a camera takes me back to wherever I’ve pictured
lets me run the scene again

with this
and my rewind TV
I can improve on life
but there’s one scene I fancy
I can’t get right ever

I’ve a mindpod to read my neighbour’s face –
surprising what’s under there

reverse the polarity
and it gives face when needed
for instance when

magic thermometer measures their love
and it can cool the heels as well

a magic pen writes all my poems – there’s no need to think

a flying dragon takes me higher
and when I tire stroking its luxury
I curl into a magic ball
and roll

there’s a folding door I keep in my pocket always gets me where on time

magic shoes bring me home in the wink of an eye

and when I wake I cry to dream

and mine are magic tears

time stops

hands of every clock come still
and with them every body, machine

no one sees this

it’s only I have still the freedom of…

so this is where I go

and this is what I do

time stops
and I go out on the street

nothing moves but me
not a breath out of mouth
not a breeze to the tree

but I can

time stops
and I step into the machine

take it all apart

time stops
and the sun hangs stupidly waiting

and all of the stars on the world’s wrong side

and the groom at the altar waits

time stops
and I look in the mirror

only then do I learn that
I was a dinosaur

this is the only immortality available

how will I start time again?

20 06 2008
Tim Peterson

“Create a Movement” (a writing exercise)

1. Come up with a list of “bad” qualities that you see in contemporary society. These are usually “feminine” or “weak” qualities.

2. Draw totally bizarre paranoid connections between these qualities and certain formal characteristics in poems that are “unsuccessful” (ie, long lines represent a failure to “get to the point”)

3. Make a list of “good” qualities. These are usually silly, heroically naughty, and hyper-masculine, a little like Elvis Costello’s song “Pump It Up” but without the irony.

4. Make sure the list of “bad” qualities and the list of “good” qualities are totally unrelated. This will keep people too busy scratching their heads to argue with you (ie, we represent “a poetry of concentrated emotion” as opposed to “a poetry of the unkempt”)

5. Write a manifesto in the form of “talking points.” These should be koan-like and obscure, yet also simple and memorable. If possible, the manifesto should be stated ironically so that if you run into problems you can say you were “just kidding.”

6. Read your manifesto to a classmate and have them play devil’s advocate. If they win the argument, rewrite the manifesto to ensure they will NEVER WIN THE ARGUMENT EVER AGAIN.

23 06 2008
Grace Cavalieri

I ask that writers enter the building of their lives, take the elevator up each floor which represents eachyear of their lives.If you are 40 years old, you have 40 floors.If you are 5, you have 5. The writer gets out of the elevator and looks down the hallway wherever the elevator stops. Most likely s/he will see an episode from the past not emotionally finished. Just run that film and commit it to paper, margin to margin, Later comes the voice phrasing and vertical stacking of the lines. It is a good place to begin. I like this site, Amy. Come see me when you are in Baltimore this summer. please.

25 06 2008
Annie Finch

Fun Meter Exercises:

Metrical Dada Hat A metrical version of the Dada hat game. Each student writes a dozen of their favorite words, I cut them all up and put them in a basket
and they pull out a bunch of words in small groups. Then each group needs to rearrange their words into a line of trochees, then dactyls, then iambs, then anapests. They write the lines on the board and all the ones in a certain meter combine into some pretty cool poems. Meter is a lot less scary/boring when the pressure to “make sense” is removed. Look at Lisa Jarnot.

Sound of Sense I assign syllable by syllable rhythmic imitations of nursery rhymes, and the rest of the class has to guess which one it is–sometimes I
bring in a drum to drum out the beats.

Meter Hunt They scan their names, and they get assignments to go on field trips and look for found poems in a specific meter.

Call and Response I read a line and they need to write a line to go with it in the same rhythm

sometimes we do metrical talking, dancing—I encourage them to feel
the beats and not worry about logical meaning–

When I posted this elseswhere, someone asked:
How do you keep them from counting on their fingers and
writing mechanically to get the beats and the counts right? Or is that
simply a stage they need to go through?

My answer: yes, it’s a stage some of them need to go through—I don’t worry
about quality at the beginning, just tell them to get the beat down
even if it’s mechanical (if they think it is frustrating I just
remind them that it is a lot quicker to learn than playing the guitar
or the piano, and there aren’t any complaints after that).

Once they have clear ears for the basics, then we work with
variations and turning it into a “poem” for those who need it–of
course many of them write wonderful poems from the start; meter
really opens up a lot of their imaginations, especially, in my
experience, trochaic and dactylic meter. They turn in many drafts of
each poem–Nothing like meter to make them so attached to a poem, and
clearly aware of their goal with it, that they are willing to go
through multiple drafts–

You know, they almost always say it was the most useful and valuable
thing in the class, and that they had been so afraid of meter before,
and are so relieved.

1 07 2008
Lesley Wheeler


I taught from Letters at the end of a term on modern poetry. The
students had to go to a local reading by some of the poets, and then
read around in the book, pick out poems they liked, and teach them to
the class in pairs. No duplications–their choices were fun (I posted
about them here in early April). It would be good for a creative writing
class, too, because there are SO many different modes to consider as


Lesley Wheeler, Professor
English Department Head
Payne Hall 23
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, VA 24450

15 07 2008
Audrey Friedman

Write a poem in which you ask a fairy tale character an important question.

Thing of something you are very afraid of and write a poem to it in defiance.

Collect words or phrases that interest you from either a single poem or a book of your favorite poet or other text and create a cento using your collections in new and innovative ways. My students did this with “Night” and the results were powerful!

Write a poem in which you write words only using the vowel “e.” (saw this at an Oulipo workshop at the AWP)

Take a poem you adore and substitute each word with one of your own, a noun for a noun, etc.
The poem will serve as a template for yours and will force you into different syntactical constructions and perhaps yield other surprises as well.


16 07 2008
Audrey Friedman

Another great exercise I learned from Tad Richards at a Ct. Poetry Festival was to enter the text (might be from any source) into a foreign language on-line translator like Babelfish. Translate text, for example, from English to French, then French to Swedish, then to Italian and back to English. Of course the syntax will be a bit mixed up which will provide great raw material for poetry.

26 07 2008
David Wakeling

I am foeced to pray to God,Gentle Jesus and any Ancient Saints still able to use their powers because this is a disaster. The pathetic attempts at “getting” people to write poetry is exactly what is wrong.
Point 1: It is important to first realise that Poetry writing is not FUN. It shouldn’t be FUN and you will fail if you try to make it fun. Do you honestly think that Shakespeare wrote
“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious Summer by the Sun of York” and went godamm that’s comedy gold!
Please listen to me before it is too late. If you are going to get people to write poetry they have to “respect” it first. Read the classic out loud. The students shouldn’t write more than a couplet for ages. If they can master the metre of two lines then let them go further.
Here’s what I am talking about:
Death will come to me as gentle as a wind swept cloud,
But disappointment will surrounded me like a shroud.
You have to count the syllables to be sure of the metre.Exactly 13 syllables per line.
Now that’s poetry.
Point 2: Great poetry comes from PAIN. For the most part it is the voice crying in the wilderness. Get the students to talk about the painful experiences in life. Suicide attempts;Child birth;lost love. etc
Now write a couplet that expresses that event.
I’m not talking about Sylvia Plath here although I love her work, I am talking about taking it seriously and coming writing from sorrow.
Anyway I have know doubt you are incapable of grasping what I am saying and will go ahead and turn another class of poetry forever.

26 07 2008

Um, David - I have “know” doubt that you are in “another class of poetry forever.” I also have no doubt that you haven’t read any of the comments posted above nor have you actually studied poetry, except to romanticize it in the name of “Gentle Jesus.” Good luck with that.

18 08 2008
Mississippi Writers Guild Conference

[...] Sue Brennan Walker led groups of about 10 at a time in mini-writing workshops. After each volunteer read, Walker pointed out nuggets of strong writing. She showed us how we could identify stronger beginnings and suggested we write several different beginning for our stories: trying out dialogue, action, setting, etc. Besides writing her own work, Walker runs a small publishing company called Negative Capability Press. She suggested we check out poetry exercises on Amy King’s blog so here’s a link. [...]

13 11 2008
karla Hardaway

Bad Country Song Ballads
A ballad is a poem that tells a story. It is often sung and has a very musical quality. The theme is often tragic—a love gone bad—and it may contain dialogue or a refrain.
The following is a list of country song titles for real songs. The teacher should copy these and cut them apart into strips. Allow each student to draw a song title to use in writing a poem. The poem must be at least sixteen lines and tell a story. The poem may rhyme or be free verse.
1. How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?
2. She Made Toothpicks out of the Timber of My Heart
3. How Can You Believe Me When I Say I Love You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life?
4. I Changed Her Oil; She Changed My Life
5. I’ve Got the Hungries for Your Love and I’m Waiting in Your Welfare Line
6. I Keep Forgettin’ I Forgot about You
7. If My Nose Were Full of Nickels, I’d Blow It All on You
8. I’m Just a Bug on the Windshield of Life
9. Her Teeth Were Stained, but Her Heart Was Pure
10. I’ve Been Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart
11. If You Leave Me, Can I Come, Too?
12. Oh, I’ve Got Hair Oil on My Ears and My Glasses Are Slipping down, but Baby I Can See Through You
13. I Flushed You from the Toilet of My Heart.
14. Mama Get the Hammer (There’s a Fly on Papa’s Head)
15. They May Put Me in Prison, but They Can’t Stop My Face from Breakin’ Out
16. I Fell in a Pile of You and Got Love All over Me
17. If Love Were Oil, I’d Be a Quart Low
18. You Can’t Have Your Kate and Edith, Too
19. You Were Only a Splinter As I Slid Down the Bannister of Life
20. You Done Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat
21. I Wouldn’t Take Her to a Dawg Fight, Cause I’m Afraid She’d Win
22. Thank God and Greyhound She’s Gone
23. My Wife Ran off with My Best Friend, and I Sure Do Miss Him
24. When You Leave, Walk out Backwards, So I’ll Think You’re Walking In
25. You’re The Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly
26. If You Don’t Leave Me Alone, I’ll Go and Find Someone Else Who Will
27. I Would Have Wrote You a Letter, but I Couldn’t Spell Yuck
28. Here’s a Quarter; Call Someone Who Cares
29. If the Phone Don’t Ring, Baby, You’ll Know It’s Me
30. I Don’t Know Whether to Kill Myself or Go Bowling

Here is an example:
I Changed Her Oil; She Changed My Life
By Harmon Carson

She pulled up to the station
Doin’ a Faith Hill imitation.
She wore cowboy boots and a Stetson hat,
And she drove her Chevy up to where I sat.
She had a blue tick hound just like mine.
Both of ‘em together looked mighty fine.
She stepped out of the truck, and with a southern drawl
Said, “Excuse me, sir, could you change my oil?”
I said, “Yes, ma’am,” and went to where she stood,
Pulled the switch, then opened the hood.
I looked at her and she looked at me.
Right then and there it was meant to be.
I changed her oil and that was that.
Then we both got under her Stetson hat.
It was paid in full by that big kiss.
That’s one oil change I’ll never forget.

27 03 2009
Christa Hirsch

Hi Amy,

This is a great page! I’m teaching a grade 7 literacy class and all of these suggestions are just completely inspirational! Thanks to all your contributors - there was “know” idea that was boring or banal… only one that was seriously hilarious. I could write a mind-blowing poem with that kind of vocabulary!


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The Fluff That Fills Our Heads

While the elites are focused on their own fluff stories like “The World’s Most Secretive Billionaires,” the rest of us might watch a little t.v. I do. I wish I could have a full time critical mind. I don’t. I engage in “mindless” activities that often include sitting in front of an electrified box that shows me a story, and I take it in. Try to guess what will happen next due to overused plot formulas. Note inconsistencies. Being slightly OCD has always meant a possible future job as a continuity director. Alternately, I sip on a nice red wine in the backyard and imagine the birds that will flock to my yard, once I find the most lovely of seed mixes. We’ve had quite a bountiful populace over the last few months, though despite our sugary gifts, the illusive hummingbirds never made it to our sandy side of the island.

When I am “disengaged” in my frivolous American way, I like to be comforted and see some hint of my life reflected, in an optimistic light, through these boob tube stories. Who doesn’t? So why am I, like so many others, drawn to the popular detective/cop show genre? “Law and Order” is an easy scene because it’s always on. I took in the Baltimore show, “The Wire,” for its entire run. “The Shield” dominates the screen if I can find it. And oh, “Dexter,” with its lovely criminal twists wins every time.

So not so long ago, a male friend laughed when he heard I had turned Ana on to “The Closer” and now thinks of us when those Kyra Sedgwick “confessional” commercials cross his screen. I wonder if he’ll ever watch it. Today, I graduated to wondering how many men go beyond “JAG” and watch “The Closer.” I’m optimistic in thinking that, likely, quite a few do. Why? Because the times, they are a changin’. I mean, I mean it. I’m sure we’ll get our backlash, and may even be in it as evidenced by the recent woman hating crap seen through generic Hillary-bashing, but still, I think there are a lot of men who really want something more egalitarian, or to put it in a less p.c. way, relationships that allow them to appreciate aspects of womanhood that have traditionally been denigrated in the not-so-distant past. And to be risque about it, I think some of these men are grateful that they can even embrace and enact a few of these feminine behaviors, thanks to one of the most important movements in America, the multi-cultural women’s movement, and assume some of those nurturing responsibilities, whether in relation to raising their children or simply as a means to supporting and encouraging their lovers through real tangible and emotional help.

Two nights ago, I decided to give that stupid-looking show, “Saving Grace,” a whirl. I knew the premise had something to do with a female cop and a lurking angel who was trying to help her with her fiery temper, or a variation on Grace’s lack of tameness. It just seemed dumb. But TNT has been promoting the hell out of that show and simultaneously my favorite show, “The Closer,” which I love, primarily because Sedgwick’s character, Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson, is a good old southern girl raised in the conventional ways of Southern Belle-dom. Her family’s notions of respectability smack a little of my own, though the racist threads within the spoken culture are tidily excised for TV. Sedgwick’s character, however, doesn’t comply with the push: she hasn’t had a child and likely won’t, is unmarried at the ripe old age of late thirty-something, doesn’t adhere to familial obligation (my mother would have me nursing her pre-elder years if she could), and above all, she’s used her mind to get to one of the highest positions the L.A.P.D. force can offer. She’s in command of a group of mostly men and has the respect (and oft times reluctant compliance) of her commanding officer. She doesn’t “do things by the book” or, as the south would have her behave, with grace and demureness.

In fact, she mocks these conventions by giving them lip service, “Thank ya’ll VERY MUCH!”, but when something needs to get done, Sedgwick delivers a command and commands her will be done with the earnestness of a … of a mother who runs the home with a firm and happy hand. I was going to say like a “general,” but that seems too much like she’s adopted a man’s style of power. She hasn’t. If anything, the writers, director, and producers of this show want you to recognize that Sedgwick’s character has her “weak” or flawed human side. She gets sick (early onset menopause has wreaked all kinds of havoc), makes big P.R. errors, makes mistakes in her personal life (esp with her fiance), and oh, deals with all sorts of other “female” issues and challenges. But. None of the men, except one typical guy who is part-time out to get her job (he alternately can’t resist supporting her as one of the team for he does follow the male competitive model), see these flaws as the sum total of her character. They allow her to make mistakes and be human without rubbing her nose in it. In fact, they often take up the slack. They help her when she most needs it (and will allow it). They respect and admire her talent and see her as a — for lack of a better word — good person. She’s not someone to defeat. She’s to be supported, and she provides support. It’s an interesting model, this cooperative model, that doesn’t often find women in the leading role on a major network. Instead, we usually find the competitive ethos that makes women prove “they are as good as men,” or usually more aggressive, if they want to be successful on that channel for any period of time.

Which leads me full circle back to “Saving Grace.” Granted, I’ve only seen one episode, so bear with me. Like “The Closer,” Grace enjoys the room allowed her to be irrational at times and also to feel in charge of herself and her decisions as a woman and as a cop. She acts impulsively and struggles with “doing what’s right.” She gets mostly-unconditional support (O Ideal World!), though her honey gets frustrated as does Sedgwick’s fiance, but ultimately, patience wins out, and her beau can be seen backing off when she needs room and doing things to help her out of whatever literal or emotional hole Grace struggles within. These characters’ primary men are unusual in that they are paired with women who seem to have more power than them and command a greater presence (and have more people under their command), and yet, they are not threatened. They do their own jobs and have momentarily separate lives (one is an FBI agent; Grace’s is also a detective) and enjoy watching their lovers do theirs, helping, as noted, when they can offer assistance without the help seeming to be a comment on these women’s capabilities. Call me simple, but I am hopeful as I watch these men, who are masculine and feminine, strong and flawed, just as their partners are — and they recognize these conditions and respond humanly.

This morning I got to wondering about why these two shows get the most commercial push on TNT. I don’t have the true answer nor do I really want to spend time researching Ted Turner’s mystique. But Ted Turner it is who makes the final decisions for TNT’s programming. And he is known to have been with at least one very notably strong woman for some period of time. Remember Jane Fonda? That vocal anti-Vietnam spokesperson who was arrested and took a lot of flak for posing with an NVA crew to make a statement? Did she make mistakes? Likely (& is still dubbed a “traitor” by many), but I’m not debating that point at the moment. I will note that Fonda could be commended for taking a public stand when it wasn’t the “safe” thing to do and to note that she might be characterized as a woman who isn’t afraid to take risks and has been active beyond her acting career for a good while. Moreover, Turner didn’t marry pretty arm candy; he married a woman who has been celebrated for promoting feminist causes, speaks out often, and was profiled in ABC’s A Celebration: 100 Years of Great Women. Turner might be divorced now, but his selection of, at least this partner, leads me to wonder how this southern man was fine for many years being married to such a woman. And then I have to ask, if pop culture reflects the conversations we’re having with society, what’s Ted Turner trying to tell us? Detective Grace Hanadarko and Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, and their creators, might have a clue or two. Stay tuned.


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On Greatness & Them That Do It

On Orr Off

In a culture where “greatness” is measured by face time via t.v. shows such as “American Idol” and the growing trend of killing people to make your fifteen minutes on the evening news, it seems the factors for “greatness” have devolved into measures I’m not sure poets ought to be distracted by, or rather, remotely invested in.  Nonetheless, David Orr in the NYT Sunday Book Review asks about the conditions by which poets might be “great” today and, indeed, if greatness is possible for poets, post-Ashbery, ever again.

A few notions impatiently gleaned from manly Orr’s efforts:

* People will play golf, even if they aren’t Tiger Woods, but longevity isn’t sustained in poetry.  Poets won’t write for a lifetime if they can’t see themselves as the next Ashbery?  Except, poets certainly do write for lifetimes, with or without Orr’s knowledge, and they do so without worrying about winning the gold cup or whatever prize golfers aim for.  There is no set goal in the “game” of poetry, though Orr’s comparison sets the terms as such (i.e. John Ashbery’s Library of America collection).  How do sports metaphors of the competitive masculine variety so often wiggle their way into measuring poetry and her cultural cache?   What team am I playing for again?  Where’s the goal line?  Who do I have to smear to get there?   Are my subjects suitably dainty as I take up the stick?

* Orr cites Samuel Johnson “exquisiteness in its kind” as a sign of greatness– pretty circular in kind.

* Orr notes, in lots of little ways, how the person’s lived life contributes to the aura of greatness the masses attribute.  I.e.  Biography is something of destiny in poetry.  Such consideration is one distracting way of perhaps indirectly getting at just what the poet’s aims and her stamina/dedication/devotion to the craft are via the usual bio-mythology of just how much she’s willing to sacrifice, study, consider, risk, etc., to the point that alcoholism, who one hangs out with,  suicidal tendencies, etc.–tend to overshadow and get conflated with her image as one of “greatness.”   The quiet poet with a steady life is not typically so “great” (though there are exceptions, especially when mystique is placed upon them a la Emily Dickinson-style).  Following this prescription, I might become a mystery or anomaly or develop a strange air about myself to pique attention and thus encourage my audience to project wild notions upon my persona if I were good at such drama and inclined towards sowing for greatness.  Even poetry movements are doing it these days …

poetry-great1* Ultimately, I like the first bit of Hall’s statement, cited by Orr, “It seems to me that contemporary American poetry is afflicted by modesty of ambition …” [and just a few paragraphs further is where I lost patience with Orr's article -- apologies!].  Ambition in poetry?  I’m all for it.  But we should want to be Dante?  Um, no.  Just as the task of determining greatness should not be left up to one man in a NYTimes article.  Not by a long shot.  If poetry is great, and it certainly has been and can be, then poets should be the ones to set the stage and play the game of promoting greatness in all its technicolor shades and mediums. But is naming “who” really where greatness is?  Must greatness be a signature assigned to one human?  Ashbery is great because of every tenth worthwhile poem he wrote gets attention?   Rimbaud is great because he wrote a few good ones and is followed by a crazy mythology that high school boys take to and movies are made from?

Greatness Exists

So let’s assume greatness exists.  Because it is a concept and does exist.  But it is not synonymous with “popularity,” though the standard miserably leans towards books sold and audience numbers.  Greatness is entirely subjective, despite that conflation with the democratic principle of majority rules.  Are those who don’t agree that Ashbery is great in the wrong?   Does the majority really decide who is great?  Does the majority pronounce what greatness is via the expression of their dollars?   Why does Orr’s essay not question, “What are the duties and responsibilities of greatness?  Who assigns it?”

check-great-or-no1This concept of greatness, as Orr speaks of it, is just too simple and conservative.  “Poetry needs greatness,” yes, but not the kind Orr haphazardly defines, even that of the historical variety.  We can use but are not stuck in the past.   Great role models exist, but they need not be emulated in total.  They are models, flawed and mostly gone.   The world’s scene can no longer sustain such an atrophied vision of greatness as the one Orr investigates.  We need new greatness that dismantles the status quo, opens up towards more kinds of inclusion (see Barbara Jane Reyes’ take), behaves beyond beautifying and heralding myths in the making.   What a stupid old project this making of masculine heroes has become.

And then there’s this near-definition Orr presents, “When we lose sight of greatness … we stop assuming that poems should be interesting to other people and begin thinking of them as being obliged only to interest our friends –”  I know I’m coming off as just blanketly contrary here, but what?  We must seek Orr’s loose version of greatness or our poetry will only be reduced to dull insular verse written specifically for friends?  I don’t get the presumption–at all.  I think most people who put pen to paper are attempting to “interest people”, whether they are successful or not, regardless of whether they are motivated by the “greatness” Orr has outlined, which is misguided and outdated.

Of course, practically speaking, most poets don’t want to write away in obscurity, but how many of us truly require — as motivation — the masses to pat us on the back for our greatness?  None of the poets I know expect a Tiger Woods’ trophy or his following, nor do they write while holding out for such nonsense.   Poets who have something of the greatness factor in them exhibit a stick-to-it-ness over time, a curiosity for others’ poetics, attention to craft, deep concern with the world, serious engagement with that world in other non-poetic but typically political (small “p”) ways–sans Library of America tome or even the promise of one.

picasso_guitaristOrr’s essay doesn’t deserve but needs a response–many responses– for even as golfers are folowing their game’s rules, poets are making their own ways, similarly and separately, differently and communally, as multitudes and as individuals, sans a set standard of formulas and rules.    Golf goes after stroke counts and a finish line.  Poetry goes after life and everything the concept entails.  Greatness certainly is not the little box declaring a winner vis a vis book publication or any golden laurel leaf.  Poetry is not merely words on a screen/page or how dramaticaly the poet lived her life.

The Call to Greatness

My version of greatness –the subjective one I work to promote– (& in the abstract) is the poetry that strives to confound expectations and create new awareness, esp of the social and political–however strange or discomfiting–so that from seeming “ugliness,” beauty is fostered and permitted to renew.

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I was reading an article in The Week debating the pros & cons of Dove’s new ad campaign. The ads depict women who are not models and wear the dress sizes of average American women. The Week is pretty good about offering up a few different perspectives on each issue they decide to cover. One of the remarks struck a chord, especially today. Here is the excerpt:

In the long run, when people thumb through Glamour or Vogue, or glance up at a billboard, they don’t want “to feel as though they’ve stumbled into the ladies’ locker room, or caught their neighbors in their skivvies.” Hear, hear, said Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times. If I want to see plump posteriors and lardy legs, I can always visit my local shopping mall. “If that makes me sound superficial, shallow, and sexist–well, yes. I’m a man.”

Lovely. Richard Roeper’s snide response is naturalized in our culture, along with countless other similarly degrading comments on a daily basis. If I challenge his sweeping disdain for the female form in any way, I risk becoming the prude and proverbial bitch. This is not a question of first amendment rights. Of course Roeper has the right to make his statement, but if I exercise the same first amendment rights and question his statement, an anger flares that is quite revealing about the hierarchical pyramid of society today. No one likes authority to be challenged, and men and women alike will let me know I’m out of line. After all, good girls should be seen and not heard…

Which brings me to the seemingly harmless cousin of this kind of male commentary, “cat calling,” as it is so cutely dubbed. When I worked in Manhattan, I was the recipient of some form of cat calling on a daily basis, simply by walking from the subway to my midtown building. If I challenged the calls of “Hey sweetheart” or the “Give me a smile” commands in any fashion beyond the prescribed return smile, the tone changed from pseudo-friendly to one of anger (”Don’t be such a bitch” or “Suck my dick”) that was meant to punish me for not playing along.

This abuse of the first amendment carries with it a very real imminent, albeit mostly undiscussed, threat that, I fear, only some men are able to imagine and sense. It is this kind of free speech that collects payment from women. I mean, how many women typically cat call? How many women physically threaten men? I’m certain there are exceptions, but overall, it is women who learn to put on a street face if they don’t want to be bothered. It is women who learn not to respond to the baiting that happens every few blocks. It is women who will walk a block out of the way if they know there is a construction site nearby. It is women who are conditioned to restrict their own mobility on the streets.

I know I am not alone in such behavior. And yes, after growing up in Georgia, roaming the woods and neighborhood freely under the guise of boyhood (I was a tomboy), I admit, I resent not being able to set out in the name of adventure down certain streets. I don’t like that travelling alone on a train or bus marks me as a target for strange men to approach me with seedy or not-so-seedy-but-unwelcomed requests. And here’s a second yes: I do have male friends. I’m not a man-hater. I hate specific, costly behaviors.

Unfortunately, I believe it is the innocent-enough perpetuation of the mentality that “boys will be boys” that Roeper exercises above that leads to more dangerous behaviors. To be “superficial, shallow, and sexist,” as Roeper touts, means he has the license to ignore the possible implications of his statement, he can forgo empathy, and he can gleefully ride the wave of his unexamined designs for the world-as-he-desires-it — because, as he boasts, “I’m a man.”

And who am I to challenge that?

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Not Thinking Alike

“It is not best that we all should think alike, it is differences of opinion that make horse races.”

–Mark Twain


A few new poems written by my non-pseudonym in Jacket Magazine:

* The Arm of Eden
* Where Bullfinches Go to Defy
* Two if by Land, I Do
* A Martyrdom Should Behave Us All

This is an early appearance as Jacket #35 is still under construction though you’ll find a little action there already.

Please enjoy!

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Poet’s Bookshelf II

101 poets list books that have been especially important in their artistic development, and offer commentary.

Sandra Alcosser * Jack Anderson * Philip Appleman * Ivan Argüelles * Mary Jo Bang * Luis Benítez * Robert Bly * Amy King * Daniel Bourne * Andrea Hollander Budy * Mairéad Byrne * Nick Carbó * Maxine Chernoff * Tom Clark * Joshua Clover * Andrei Codrescu * Shanna Compton * Stephen Corey * Alfred Corn * Barbara Crooker * Catherine Daly * Linh Dinh * Edward Field * Forrest Gander * Sandra Gilbert * Diane Glancy * Kenneth Goldsmith * Noah Eli Gordon * Stephen Herz * H. L. Hix * Anselm Hollo * Janet Holmes * Kent Johnson * Marilyn Kallet * Ilya Kaminsky * Robert Kelly * Jennifer L.

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Two years ago, Susana Gardner tirelessly invited and organized poets from all over the world to join the * a dusi/e-chap kollektiv.   Those chapbooks were also made available online here: [ ]
THIS YEAR’S efforts multiplied and are now available here [ ], including chapbooks by:
Susana Gardner
Adam Fieled  
Tim Armentrout
Anne Heide
Drew Kunz
Chris Pusateri
Elisabeth Workman 
Amy King
Hugh & Mary Behm-Steinberg   
Joseph Cooper
Dana W 
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I'm Obsessed!

Well, Rob McLennan asked me some fun questions, so I had to think about me, me, me. I think I had fun with me. Visit me here.

Or go to the complete archive and have fun with lots of other poets like Juliana Spahr, Adeena Karasick, William Allegrezza, Matthew Zapruder, Rosmarie Waldrop, Maxine Chernoff, Cole Swensen, Mairéad Byrne, and about a hundred others!

Industrious much? Thanks lots, Rob!

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Date Last Updated: 9/27/2010

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