Poetry

The Spontaneous Overflow of Powerful Feelings: Poetry as a Political Response

After listening to failed prosecutor Bob McCulloch debase the English language for 15 minutes on Monday night, repeatedly exculpating himself in favor of blaming social media, I felt ready to turn to the language of poetry. But I have to admit that I wasn’t (emotionally) ready for Tuesday’s post-Ferguson outpouring of what I’ll just call, for the sake of shorthand, response poems. Thankfully, as yesterday proved, response or reaction poems don’t have to be politically reactionary. … Read More

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10 Famous Poems That Appeared in Film

For decades, Hollywood has looked to the annals of literature for inspiration. Literary adaptations are more popular than ever, but poetry is still largely untapped. Films like Ken Russell’s Gothic and Jane Campion’s Bright Star center on famous poets, and there are some great movies based on poems, but we’re looking at the appearance of poetry in films — instances where characters and narratives are reflected in poetic works, recited in the movies themselves. Here’s a video scrapbook of poetry in movies. Feel free to continue adding to the list with your own video examples, below. … Read More

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Body Unlimited: The Incredible Poetry of Samuel Beckett

The Samuel Beckett we’re taught in America is solitary, dryly humorous, and existentially distressed: basically, he’s an absurdist playwright from a Charlie Kaufman movie. Beyond this, we may know him as a writer of unerringly spare and despairing prose — of the sort that literally gives Salman Rushdie a headache — or as James Joyce’s assistant, or as the guy who drove Andre the Giant to school each day. But we do not, generally speaking, appreciate him as poet. This is regrettable, not only because Beckett began his career as a poet in Paris — and continued writing poetry for the rest of his life — but also because his poetry strips down and by some means intensifies the qualities that imbue his drama and novels. And by this I mean that Samuel Beckett’s poetry wrests a negative infinity out of words without appearing to do much of anything at all. … Read More

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10 Creepy and Haunting Poems About Ghosts, Madness, and Fairy Abductions

With Halloween coming up and spookiness in the air, it seemed like a good time to share ten of the most haunting, uncanny, and unsettling poems — that are also the most beautiful. … Read More

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Claudia Rankine’s ‘Citizen’ Should Win the National Book Award for Poetry

“I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.”
—Zora Neale Hurston 

The cover of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric throws the hood of a sweatshirt against a sharp white background. The hood is threadbare; its symbolic weight is considerable: it immediately brings to mind images of young black life and its execution, as well as the deliberate, systematic imprisonment of millions of black citizens. And juxtaposed with the uppercased title — CITIZEN — this hood, torn from its body, is shot through with consequence: it becomes a metaphorical citizen, with alienable rights, ripped from the body politic and hanged — in a gallery. As a political maneuver that fronts a book of poetry, the placement of the hood beams with the contradictions of our historical moment — Trayvon Martin wears a hoodie and is ruthlessly murdered; Mark Zuckerberg wears a hoodie to the launch of his IPO and earns a billion dollars. So it’s all the more shocking when you realize that the hood is actually an artwork (“In the Hood”) by David Hammons from 1993, exhibited one year after the LA riots. … Read More

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It’s National Poetry Day: Links You Need To See

Everybody, it’s National Poetry Day! What does that mean? Nothing, really, other than that people who probably identify as “definitely uninterested” in poetry — and this is probably most people, sadly — are once again reminded of its existence. So, hey. Here’s a poem by James Schuyler called “The Bluet.” And here is a good not-really-poetry book by Maggie Nelson called “Bluets.” Oh, there’s also a poetry quiz, in case you need to be called back to junior year of high school. Hurrah, poetry exists. Now read it. … Read More

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Bad Poets of Pop Culture: A Brief Survey

Are you a bad poet? Are your rhymes ridiculous? Your meter mediocre? Your enjambments a joke? Well, take heart, gentle friend: you’re not alone. Some of the best characters in fiction of all kinds also happen to be terrible poets — whether their deficiency is played for laughs (or tears) or whether they’re actually so bad they’re kind of good. Hey, something to aspire to! After the jump, a brief survey of some of the best bad poets in pop culture. Add any favorites missing here to the list in the comments. … Read More

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Glamorous Women with Surprising Hobbies

Former Bond girl Honor Blackman celebrated her 89th birthday this week. Her most famous character, Pussy Galore, one of 007’s most interesting opponents (depicted as a lesbian in the Ian Fleming novels and the leader of an all-female team of aviators in 1964’s Goldfinger), was riveting to watch in action. Blackman, the oldest actress to play a Bond girl, has always been full of surprises. In the 1960s, she learned Judo for her role as Cathy Gale in The Avengers. Following her role in Goldfinger (by then, an expert in martial arts), she penned a self-defense book for women. Blackman’s proto-feminist beliefs, penchant for strong female characters, and physical prowess in a male-dominated sport eschewed stereotypical notions of women. Here are ten other glamorous female celebrities who excelled in activities and quirky hobbies that surprised the public (often quick to pigeonhole women). … Read More

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Is an Ironic Review of James Franco’s Poetry the Best ‘The New York Times Book Review’ Can Do?

In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, the poetry columnist David Orr writes an excellent piece on James Franco’s poetry. Orr reviews Franco’s newest collection, Directing Herbert White, released by Graywolf Press in March — and instead of judging Franco’s work through the scrim of the cult of celebrity, he takes it, generally, at its worth: “Directing Herbert White is the sort of collection written by reasonably talented M.F.A. students in hundreds of M.F.A. programs stretching from sea to shining sea.” He compliments the good wordplay: “‘This despair is nice': The tone is neatly judged,” and he goes in on the bad lines: “He’s prone to phrases that sound good at first but collapse under scrutiny (‘Webbed by a nexus of stone walkways’).” … Read More

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Passionate Pablo Neruda Quotes to Inspire Your Summer Romance

At only 19 years old, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda published his second collection of poetry, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada), quickly establishing his place in the literary canon. His erotic and often explicit works celebrate sex, love, desire, and longing — amorous odes he equated with the forces of nature, influenced by the wilderness of his home country. In Neruda’s poems, the beaches, fields, sky, and seasons are active agents of love, underlining its cyclical nature. In celebration of Nerda’s 110th birthday and the torrid heat ahead of us, we’re sharing fragments of Neruda’s poetry that capture the passionate, fleeting nature of summer romance. … Read More

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