Insights From a Man Booker Judge

October 16th. You know what that means. It's Man Booker Day, the day five judges will meet at a secret location in a not-so-secret city called London to pluck a winner from the shortlist (it should take eight hours or so). What's in it for the authors? Most excellent sales, for one thing. Not that …

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Why Do Some Poems Inspire You To Write While Others Don’t?

After Roman Coliseum-like spectacles like yesterday's special Senate hearing on the pending Supreme Court nomination, one can't help but curl up in a ball of despair or read poetry. I chose poetry. It took my mind off ugly things and reminded me of what can be beautiful in life. For succor, I chose my copy …

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A Certain, Lovely Ghostliness

There is more poetry in autumn than summer, it would seem. Traveling from the congested highways of an overcrowded Commonwealth to the quiet shorelines of a Maine lake proves as much. Last night we arrived to high winds and whitecaps. This morning I arise to clear, Canadian air, sun, calm. That coupled with the possibility …

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Guilt as the Root of All Poetry

Emotions and feelings. They are like the gasoline and oil of that engine we call creativity. Take guilt, for instance. A powerful motivator. A source of bitter reflection. And not the type of thing a fugitive from conscience wants chasing after him. Below are two war-related poems with guilt as their tap root. It's the …

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Walking the Thin Line: Nostalgia vs. Sentimentality

No matter how long it has been since you sat behind a school desk, you carry that school desk with you throughout life. For better or worse. With memories good and bad. For teachers, the bittersweet memories consist of two pasts harmonizing fitfully: a student past first and a teacher past second. Perhaps no poems …

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Dillard and Chee: Writing Teacher and Student

I just finished Alexander Chee's essay collection How To Write an Autobiographical Novel. The thing about essays written in the first person is the effect. As is true with first-person POV novels, you begin to feel as though you know the author. Of course you do not, but the conceit is there, and at times …

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Rules for Writers: A Baker’s Dozen

Here are some suggested daily habits for writers. It's OK if they are broken because that's what resolutions in habits' clothing are meant to suffer! Still, let us amuse ourselves as if rules are hard and fast: If you have little or no discipline around technology, keep a writing notebook. Buy the best damned notebook …

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The Possibilities in an “Endlessly Muddled Middle”

They say man is a storytelling animal, which therefor means he is a story-listening animal. Children love story time, of course, but adults do as well. Teachers know that high school seniors will be as rapt to a great story read aloud as kindergarteners will. As for movies and the theater and television? One big, …

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Why Is This Writer So Embarrassed?

Embarrassment. Like death and taxes, it's universal, only Ben Franklin overlooked it. Embarrassment is the title and subject of Thomas Newkirk's latest book, and although the target audience is teachers of students whose learning is compromised due to the big "E," it might as well be dedicated to all of us, especially writers and poets …

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