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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14 Awesome Bill Murray Moments

You never know when Bill Murray will randomly show up at your next party. The actor has a penchant for playfully interrupting the social gatherings of strangers before vanishing like the mythical creature of cool that he is. There’s even a website tracking his whereabouts and spoofing his stunts, all of which seem to end with Murray telling a group of shocked strangers, “No one will ever believe you.” There are endless stories about the wryly jovial screen star surprising fans and being awesome, but we’ve gathered 14 of the best Murray moments for your enjoyment. … Read More

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Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: Just the Gay Parts

This weekend marks the 195th birthday of arguably the most American of American poets, Walt Whitman. Equally beloved and hated by literature students across this nation (in the interest of full disclosure, I fall into the latter category), Whitman is best known for his seminal collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass. He’s also well known for his, well, overt homoeroticism, particularly in the epic poem “Song of Myself.” You could celebrate his birthday by reading the poem in its entirety, or you could just stick to the gay parts, which I have pulled for your convenience here. What does this truncated version of the poem teach us? Walt Whitman was a horny guy, for sure.  … Read More

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John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ as ‘Game of Thrones’ Character Memes

Today marks the copyright anniversary of English poet John Milton’s 17th-century epic Paradise Lost. We can’t imagine a contemporary work more comparable than HBO’s similarly sprawling Game of Thrones. Both epics are packed with tales of sex, greed, war, and revenge. They also spend a significant amount of time contemplating the state of their characters through various social and political hierarchies. Of course, the latter is a chief complaint from Thrones detractors hungry for by-the-numbers action and countless students who have pegged Milton’s masterpiece as an utter bore. We’re celebrating both works by reflecting on Milton’s verse through Game of Throne’s characters, whose lives mirror the dramas of Milton’s good versus evil tale surprisingly well. Oh, and because it’s the Internet, and more than 10,000 lines of anything is tough to focus on, we’re doing it meme-style. … Read More

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National Poetry Month Poem of the Day: ‘Here, There Are Blueberries’ By Mary Szybist

To celebrate National Poetry Month, Flavorwire will be posting a poem a day. Today’s poem comes from National… Read More

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