Poems Inspired by Football

Did you know that Super Bowl Monday---the day following the N.F.L.'s championship game---is the most called-in sick day in the United States? Talk about the tail (football) wagging the dog (country)! As for those going to work, they will no doubt burn some water-cooler time discussing the merits of Super Bowl commercials, even to the point …

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Writing While Reading: A Healthy Habit

When I read poetry books, I often keep an open notebook beside me so I can copy down a few words or lines that teach me the craft of good poetry. It's better than highlighting a book, because the act of handwriting gives the brain a better work-out than mere coloring. Yes, the words are …

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“Lines Feeding on a Crust of Lamplight”

Yesterday morning, I wrote a "little poem." You won't find that in a glossary of poetry terms, of course, because "little" is fraught with multiple meanings. Think of a little apartment, for instance. For one prospective renter, it's "cramped," and for the next, it's "cozy." In the poetry world, the Kingdom of Little Poetry can …

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“Navel-Gazing” and Other Writing Hazards: Interview with a Poetry Editor

Today, in our last entry before Christmas, we share the partial transcript of an interview conducted with the editor of a small poetry journal. This excerpt focuses on the controversial concept of "navel-gazing."  FVL stands for this website ("Free-Verse Life"), as in some writer looking suspiciously like me conducting an interview. PE stands for physical …

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“Thou Shalt Not Write About Pet Death” (and Other Commandments Moses Never Brought Down)

As a high school English teacher, I can remember teaching a unit on admissions essays. We had many resources, of course, and almost all of them warned of clichés and clichéd topics. One of these verboten topics? You guessed it: pet death. Pet death is an entry drug to bad writing, the experts warned. Admissions …

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How Abstract “Sets” into Concrete

Abstractions are hard---to write about successfully. Especially when concretes have to do all the talking for them. As Exhibit A, I give you the concept of "silence." It's basically a nothing that is something. But how do you describe it? If you look at a long list of abstract nouns and pick one to write …

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The Siren Call of Submittable: Part 2

Yesterday I wrote at length (for me) about ways Submittable has shifted the playing field for writers and literary magazines alike. Today: How Submittable fosters bad writer habits. For literary magazines, Submittable giveth (to the bottom line, as magazines keep 62% of reading-fee proceeds) and it taketh away (the ability to staff readers who can …

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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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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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