Doors as Metaphors

Yesterday I shared a poem from one of this year's National Book Finalists,  Be Recorder, a collection written by Carmen Giménez Smith and published by Graywolf Press. For those who might be interested in pursuing Smith's work, here is another taste of her talents, the opening poem to the collection: "Origins" Carmen Giménez Smith People …

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Judging the National Book Awards for Poetry? Good Luck.

It's not often I read all five finalists for a major literary award, but this year I've pocketed three of five among poetry's National Book Award Finalists: Jericho Brown's The Tradition, Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic, and now Carmen Giménez Smith's Be Recorder. I'd make a lousy judge on one of these panels. Probably I'd pull …

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Why “Are You a Writer?” Is a Bad Question

Some people consider themselves a writer but, when asked, never admit as much. They are the shy and modest ones, I hear you saying. They are the realistic ones, I hear the other saying. Some people consider themselves a writer and, when asked, explain at great length. They are the outgoing and confident ones, I …

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Billy Collins, Animated

Billy Collins, one of the most recognized among American poets, did a wise thing years ago. He harnessed the power of video to many of his poems. This not only helped poet-writers with the art of imagery, it also gave reluctant poet-readers (often known as "students") a door into the not-so-bad-after-all genre of poetry. Given …

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“You Have Spent Vast Amounts of Your Life as Someone Else…”

In the final essay of her book, The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit proposes, sensibly enough, that we are not ourselves. The pronoun "I" is suspect, in other words, but for a reason most of us wouldn't consider: stories. I'll let Solnit speak for herself with a few relevant paragraphs: "Listen: you are not yourself, you …

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The Poetry of Past, Present, and Future

The reason Buddhism (whether you take yours as religion or as philosophy) is so Protean in nature is simple. At least to me (a simple man). There's no need to do any math, either. No Four Noble Truths. No Eightfold Path. I just repeat the mantra "change" and watch for the internal battle of two-against-one. …

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Rebecca Solnit on the “Astonishing Wealth” Called “Writing”

Montaigne would be proud. This week I have been reading more essays, specifically Rebecca Solnit's in her 2013 collection, The Faraway Nearby. In an essay called "Flight," she devotes a few paragraphs to the act of writing and, as is only necessary, reading (because what's one without the other?). I thought it was interesting. Maybe …

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The Poetry of Questions (and Possible Answers)

Poetry serves many purposes, but one of my favorites is as facilitator of questions and possible answers. Why? Because the answers are often novel concepts. Even better, they're often new questions in answer's clothing. Sure, they might not pass muster with a scientist, but who's worried about scientists when reading poems? Not this guy. The …

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