How Do You Like THEM Apples?

There's nothing quite like the quiet after a storm. Thus my love for the Fifth of July, waking early, hearing only birds and wind through tree and leaf. It makes me feel so, I don't know. Independent of noise. Thank you, God. Yesterday was a passing strange day for this blog. Holidays are slow days …

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“I Love Pretension” and Other Bits of Wisdom

Here is the last set of quotes I annotated in Mary Ruefle's collection of essays, Madness, Rack, and Honey (recommended reading): "I remember, in college, trying to write a poem while I was stoned, and thinking it was the best thing I had ever written. "I remember reading it in the morning, and throwing it out. …

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Why Death Is Literature’s Wingman

If you've ever taught literature, whether in college or in secondary school, you've surely come up against a common complaint from students: "Why is everything we read so depressing?" or, "Is every book, story, and poem about death, or is it just my imagination?" Tongue in cheek, I always replied, "You'll be happy to know …

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A Sure Sign That Your Poems Might Suck

Kim Addonizio's book Ordinary Genius came out 11 years ago, so the statistics I'm about to cite about poetry readership are dated. The greater point remains valid, however. Let's dive in ipso fasto and meet around the excerpt, shall we?   "Books of poetry will teach you more than your mentor or professor or the …

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Simplify to a Few Poetic Ingredients

Simplicity. It was Henry David Thoreau's word to live by, but it sure wouldn't hurt a few poets to borrow, too. Sometimes would-be poets make something simple overly complicated when all they need are a few basic ingredients. Then let these stew so the flavors can take hold. Description, our old friend, is simplicity's right-hand …

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Foreshadowing, Literal and Figurative

Sometimes you can do some wonderful things with wordplay, even when said wordplay is deadly serious. Take the word foreshadow. It is a literary term, yes, but watch what happens when an accomplished poet (in this case, Matt Rasmussen) plays with the word "shadow" lying inside the confines of the word "foreshadow." Interesting things, that's …

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Self-Analysis as Creative Source

The best cure for writer's block is the writer herself. Consider, writer, your field of expertise. Within the goal lines you will surely find these players: self, ego, and consciousness. Now jump in the stream and, as the psychologists say, let yourself go. If you do, and you start with the prompt "I always have …

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Redefine, Sense, Identify, Write

As a teacher, I often made use of the brief riches to be found in two sources: poems and short documentary films. Preview, prepare writing or discussion (or both) prompts, show, and turn it over to students. For me, The New York Times' "Film Club" series was an indispensable source of watch-and-write material. Most often …

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