On a Definition of Poetry

“It’s Not Poetry if it Doesn’t Rhyme”

This is the title of a recent post I was reading, and it got me thinking. First of all, it’s a definition of poetry. It defines poetry as something that rhymes and if taken at face value, excludes almost all the works Shakespeare and Milton. They mainly wrote blank verse. More usually, readers who say this are using “rhyme” figuratively. What they’re really saying is that poetry without form on a definitionisn’t poetry. Form includes rhyme and meter. So, what someone is really saying is that free verse isn’t poetry. Apart from whether the definition is wrong or right, that led me to wonder why definitions are important.

Do definitions matter?

There’s no question that definitions change over time, but we nevertheless have them. Not too long ago, the definition of planets was revisited and Pluto was demoted to a proto-planet. There was disagreement, but not the kind we might have gotten had certain kinds of poetry or poems been demoted to proto-poems (though I think some should be).

But here’s why definitions matter: Without them, no one could excel. Mastery and achievement wouldn’t exist.  For example, if not for definitions, sports wouldn’t exist (let alone the Olympics), hence the reason for Robert Frost’s famous quip: Writing free on a definitionverse is like playing tennis with the net down. Every rule, in a sport, is a definition that defines the sport. Baseball is defined by its number of outs, bases, players, etc… Once one begins fiddling with the rules that define baseball, then it ceases to be baseball. If there were no rules to baseball, tennis, or basketball, then anyone could play them and everyone could make up their own rules and everyone could be a Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan. For my own part, the first thing I would do is to lower the basket so I could dunk the ball. I’d also make the basket a lot bigger — but only for me. I know I’ll make any number of enemies by following this up with the obvious analogy: There’s no difference between lowering the basket (or the net) and writing without rhyme. There’s no difference between giving yourself 12 outs, instead of 3, and writing without meter. Writing poetry without rhyme and meter is vastly easier. So is dunking a basketball when the hoop is only six feet off the ground. The fact that the NBA would never change the rules for all the wannabes means that the rest of us get to see who the real pros are.

Does that make some kinds of poetry better than others?

Does that mean that some things that are called poems, really aren’t?

Yes and yes. Would you prefer watching basketball with or without rules? Having rules that defined poetry allowed a wide variety of poets to excel. Games are nothing more than a defined way of playing and kids love games. Why? Because games give kids a chance to be better than the next kid. Rules give kids a chance to be competitive, to excel, to accomplish and to master.

on a definitionWhen I was growing up in the seventies, poetry was taught with a nebulousness that made clouds look decisive. Poetry was a feeling. There were no rules; and you can still find those Deep Thoughts right up to the present day. On About.Com, Mark Flanagan, apparently tasked with defining poetry, comes up with the following chestnut:

“…defining poetry is like grasping at the wind – once you catch it, it’s no longer wind.”

The end result of “deep thoughts” like these is that I lost interest in poetry. Who wants to play a game without rules? I decided that poetry was the dumbest art form on the planet. If I saw a game being played willy-nilly, I’d think the same thing. It’s a peculiar thing that the prior generation’s effort to make poetry something “anybody can do” ruined it for children like me. It was only when I began teaching myself about poetry that I learned the truth. There is a definition of poetry. It isn’t easy. You can’t neatly sum it up in a Miriam Webster’s entry, but there is a definition and there are rules. That’s when I got interested in poetry. First, I wanted to learn the rules. Next, I wanted play by the rules. I wanted to prove that I could do it. Next, I wanted to excel. I wanted to master the mystery. Even the seemingly diminutive haiku is defined by centuries of tradition.

Is a definition of poetry useful?

Some readers may object that poetry can’t be compared to sports. The point, however, is not to compare poetry to sports, but to compare a definition of poetry to the kinds of rules that define a sport, or music, or architecture or carpentry. If you don’t have a definition, then you don’t have a game. If you don’t have a game, then who’s going to watch?

Definitions, like rules, are useful because they give us a way to ascertain the skills of the players. They allow us to judge how the player is doing. mechanics-imageOne of the hallmarks of the contemporary poetry critic is his and her complete avoidance and non-discussion of the aesthetics or mechanics of poetry. The vast majority of contemporary criticism limits itself to the content of poetry. Why? Because, as with Flanagan’s quote above,  contemporary critics and poets have convinced themselves that defining poetry, to quote Flanagan again, “kind of leaves you feeling cheap, dirty, all hollow and empty inside like Chinese food.” However, in order to critique the mechanics/stylistics of a poem, you have to have a definition of poetry. Can’t be any other way.  And you have to have a definition of what constitutes mediocre or good writing.

During a dispute back in 2009, England’s Poetry Society offered the world this definition of poetry:

“There is poetry in everything we say or do, and if something is presented to me as a poem by its creator, or by an observer, I accept that something as a poem.”

In other words, poetry is anything you want it to be, and they do mean anything. Poetry Magazine, for its part, has taken to publishing comic strips, among other things, and calling them poems. What all this means is that if everyone can make up their own rules/definitions, then there’s no way to judge the skills of the poet or the accomplishments of the poem. If there were no rules in Basketball, then a player like Michael Jordan could never emerge. Or how about gymnastics? We would have no means or vocabulary with which to contrast the poor gymnast with the great gymnast. No Tiger Woods could emerge because everyone would be a Tiger Woods. They’re all playing their own special game of golf and the critic has no way to compare or contrast.

Without a definition of poetry, you can’t have criticism of poetry. In truth, you can’t even have poetry because if poetry is anything, then it’s also nothing. Or, as Syndrome put it in the movie The Incredibles: “If everyone’s a super, then no one is a super.” Anyone who can’t define poetry certainly shouldn’t be teaching it. What exactly would they be teaching? A definition of poetry is not only useful, it’s crucial. Individuals and organizations who fail or refuse to address a definition of poetry do a disservice to the reader, to poetry, and to the next generation of poets. Out of curiosity, I googled the following: “definition of poetry” “Poetry Foundation”. I found nothing straightforward. The fact that the Poetry Foundation, the premier (and self-appointed) curator of American Poetry doesn’t offer a definition of poetry (or even a denial that a definition is possible) is a disgrace.

What about it then?

Where can you find a definition? There are all kinds of quips and one-offs by a variety of poets.

Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes. –  Joseph Roux

Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to d o this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own. – Dylan Thomas

Poetry is, at bottom, a criticism of life. – Matthew Arnold

I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat. – A.E. Housman

Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself. – William Hazlitt

Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before. – Audre Lorde

Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life. – William Hazlitt

A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep. – Salman Rushdie

Poetry is like making a joke. If you get one word wrong at the end of the joke, you’ve lost the whole thing. – W.S. Merwin

Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat. – Robert Frost

Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds. – Perrcy Bysshe Shelley

At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet. – Plato

Poetry is a search for ways of communication; it must be conducted with openness, flexibility, and a constant readiness to listen. – Fleur Adcock

Do you know how poetry started? I always think that it started when a cave boy came running back to the cave, through the tall grass, shouting as he ran, “Wolf, wolf,” and there was no wolf. His baboon-like parents, great sticklers for the truth, gave him a hiding, no doubt, but poetry had been born—the tall story had been born in the tall grass. – Vladimir Nabokov

Poetry is man’s rebellion against being what he is. – James Branch Cabell

Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity—it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance. – John Keats

All poetry is misrepresentation. – Jeremy Bentham

Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them. – Dennis Gabor

Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.   – T.S. Eliot

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar. – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Poetry is at least an elegance and at most a revelation. – Robert Fitzgerald

The poem . . . is a little myth of man’s capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see—it is, rather, a light by which we may see—and what we see is life.  – Robert Penn Warren

You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick . . .. You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps . . . so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in. – Dylan Thomas

Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement . . . says heaven and earth in one word . . . speaks of himself and his predicament as though for the first time. – Christopher Fry

Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that. – Mary Oliver

Writing poetry is the hard manual labor of the imagination. – Ishmael Reed

Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people. – Adrian Mitchell

Prose—it might be speculated—is discourse; poetry ellipsis. Prose is spoken aloud; poetry overheard. The one is presumably articulate and social, a shared language, the voice of “communication”; the other is private, allusive, teasing, sly, idiosyncratic as the spider’s delicate web, a kind of witchcraft unfathomable to ordinary minds. – Joyce Carol Oates

Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away. – Carl Sandburg

Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge. – William Wordsworth

Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary. – Kahlil Gibran

Poetry is like fish: if it’s fresh, it’s good; if it’s stale, it’s bad; and if you’re not certain, try it on the cat. – Osbert Sitwell

The essentials of poetry are rhythm, dance, and the human voice. – Earle Birney

Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn. – Thomas Gray

Poetry is ordinary language raised to the n th power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words. – Paul Engle

Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.  – Edgar Allan Poe

Poetry: the best words in the best order. – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Poetry is what gets lost in translation. – Robert Frost 

on a definition

And there are far more at goodreads. You might think  there’s nothing very useful in all these quotes, just poets being cute and clever, but there is, actually, a subtle commonality that runs through some of them.  “Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.” What does Roux mean? That poetry isn’t just the clothes of the workaday, but language that is elevated whether through meter, rhyme or the figures and schema of rhetoric (and these include metaphor, simile, and all figurative language).  Hazlitt, “…the universal language…”; Keats, “Poetry should surprise by a fine excess [and] strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts…”; Thomas, “You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words…“; Fry, “…the language in which man explores his own amazement…”; Oates, “…private, allusive, teasing, sly, idiosyncratic as the spider’s delicate web…”; Sandburg, “…a search for syllables…”; Birney, “The essentials… are rhythm, dance…“; Engle, “Poetry is ordinary language raised to the n th power…”; Poe, “the rhythmical creation of beauty in words…”; Coleridge, “the best words in the best order…“; Frost, “what gets lost in translation…”

What all these have in common is the idea of poetry being defined as a way of using language. Poetry is an art that uses language not only for its semantic content, as a way to communicate, but as an aesthetic experience in and of itself — its “music”: sounds, rhythms, onomatopoeia, assonance, alliteration, and rhymes . Rhyme and meter are the most extroverted expressions, a display of a languages ability to produce repeated sounds and rhythm while the many rhetorical figures, such as simile, hendiadys, anthimeria, puns  and verbal metaphor (and figurative language in general) are a more introverted play with language – using words to express ideas that are unexpected and novel. Prose, inasmuch as it also uses these techniques, can be poetic, but the aesthetic aims of prose and poetry are different.

Think of Robert Frost’s final quote, which I deliberately put at the end: Poetry is what gets lost in translation. Because of poetry’s emphasis on linguistic play, poetry is notoriously difficult to translate. Something as basic as a pun, a staple of many haiku, is lost  unless both languages are lucky enough to share puns. The wholesale disregard of rhymes, internal or otherwise, when translating  into free verse is another example. on a definitionMeter is much easier to reproduce, but does any English meter really reproduce the music of Chinese meter or Latin quantitative meter? How about onomatopoeia, alliteration or assonance? These are all essential to poetry, but are nearly impossible to capture, altogether, when moving from one language to another. Poetry truly is what  gets lost in translation.

So many writers, poets and organizations seem pathologically afraid to exclude anyone. But rather than doing the art form a favor, their unwillingness to exclude so much as the ingredients list of Mac & Cheese has done and continues to denigrate the very art form they claim to cherish and encourage. I personally have no qualms drawing a line in the sand. If all a writer is doing is lineating prose, then it’s not poetry or, at best, it’s bad poetry.  If the writer does nothing more with language than what I expect from an IRS instruction manual, then it’s not poetry. Content, in my view, is secondary; and that will probably rub a lot of poets and readers the wrong way but unlike, at least, the public stance of numerous poets and organizations, I think it’s worth having some idea, some rules, that define what poetry, and great poetry, truly is. It gives the next generation something to fight for or against.

To quote Salman Rushdie again:

A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.

Take a position. Define poetry. Write by that definition. It doesn’t have to be mine. Don’t, whatever you do, buy into the bloodless notion that anything and everything is poetry. Poetry isn’t like the wind. As any Japanese poet will unhesitatingly tell you, the wind is like the wind.

Britannica and a definition of Poetry

There are a few sources which have tackled the definition of poetry. I’ve appended a definition provided by Poetry.Org. Their definition was originally copied from Wikipedia (since changed). Wikipedia’s current entry is less a definition than a historical overview. However, one of the more interesting entries is Britannica’s.

on a definition

Britannica’s entry on poetry begins with a primal scream of terror presented with a stiff upper lip. Don’t try this at home. Only the British can do it. The article’s author writes: “This article considers the difficulty or impossibility of defining poetry…” As anyone knows, there are two reactions when terrified — fight or flight. Britannica opts to fight. The editors begin their definition by roundly upbraiding the reader. Did you really come to Britannica expecting a definition?

“People’s reason for wanting a definition is to take care of the borderline case, and this is what a definition, as if by definition, will not do. That is, if a man asks for a definition of poetry, it will most certainly not be the case that he has never seen one of the objects called poems that are said to embody poetry; on the contrary, he is already tolerably certain what poetry in the main is, and his reason for wanting a definition is either that his certainty has been challenged by someone else or that he wants to take care of a possible or seeming exception to it: hence the perennial squabble about distinguishing poetry from prose, which is rather like distinguishing rain from snow—everyone is reasonably capable of doing so…”

Did you get that? Let me translate: “If you came to the Encyclopedia Britannica looking for a definition of poetry, it’s because you have an agenda and the august editors of Britannica will not, I say will not,  be a party to your filthy crusade. So there.” Apparently, the author of the article never got the memo: Definitions are what Encyclopedia’s do. Encyclopedias aren’t supposed to cop attitudes when readers come looking for information.

Britannica next offers a rebuttal to Frost’s quip that poetry is what is lost in translation:

“And yet to even so acute a definition the obvious exception is a startling and a formidable one: some of the greatest poetry in the world is in the Authorized Version of the Bible, which is not only a translation but also, as to its appearance in print, identifiable neither with verse nor with prose in English but rather with a cadence owing something to both.”

So, after having informed the reader that no definition will be forthcoming, the editors (without a hint of irony) assert that the Bible (or an unspecified part therein) is poetry. All it takes, it seems, are a few thees and thous. What the editors apparently fail to consider is that the “poetry” of the King James Bible may not be the “poetry” of the original. The King James Version, in fact, was not a new translation done from scratch, but a revision of The Bishop’s Bible 1568 and the Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526 among others. Besides that, there is considerable dispute as to the faithfulness of the King James Bible.  It’s quite likely that the King James Bible is better and more poetic, written during the glory of Elizabethan poetry, than the original. It might be more accurate to call the King James Bible a transliteration rather than a translation. Bottom line: try translating the King James back into Greek and then we’ll talk.

Britannica then follows this up with a curious revelation:

“When people are presented with a series of passages drawn indifferently from poems and stories but all printed as prose, they will show a dominant inclination to identify everything they possibly can as prose.”

How this is relevant to a definition of poetry isn’t exactly clear.  For example, when people are presented with passages of iambic pentameter, they regularly misread it (see Iambic Pentameter from Shakespeare to Browning), reading it like prose. Are we therefore to conclude that there’s no difference between blank verse and prose? Both studies probably say more about the “people” than about poetry or iambic pentameter.

Even so, despite the opening disclaimers, provisos and exculpatory cautions, Britannica sides with Justice Potter Stewart (Jacobellis v. Ohio), when it essentially uses the obscenity test (or was it pornography?) to define poetry. To whit: “We know it when we see it.” The editors of Britannica therewith offer up there choice piece of “pornography”:

“Happily, if poetry is almost impossible to define, it is extremely easy to recognize in experience; even untutored children are rarely in doubt about it when it appears:

Little Jack Jingle,
He used to live single,
But when he got tired of this kind of life,
He left off being single, and liv’d with his wife.”

on a definitionImmediately following this, the editors finally reveal their true colors:

“It might be objected that this little verse is not of sufficient import and weight to serve as an exemplar for poetry. It ought to be remembered, though, that it has given people pleasure so that they continued to say it until and after it was written down, nearly two centuries ago. The verse has survived, and its survival has something to do with pleasure, with delight; and while it still lives, how many more imposing works of language—epic poems, books of science, philosophy, theology—have gone down, deservedly or not, into dust and silence. It has, obviously, a form, an arrangement of sounds in relation to thoughts that somehow makes its agreeable nonsense closed, complete, and decisive. But this somewhat muddled matter of form deserves a heading and an instance all to itself.”

I couldn’t have said it better. Not only that, you might recognize a common theme: “It has, obviously, a form, an arrangement of sounds in relation to thoughts…” There it is again — language (and form too). This little ditty is a poem because of its language, because of the way it exploits language, not for its notional and semantic content (which is nonsensical), but for the language’s aesthetic properties — the rhyme (parallel sounds) and the meter (accentual). Poetry exploits the properties of language (independent of the poem’s content) to inform and elevate the semantic content. This is what distinguishes  poetry from prose. This, traditionally, has been poetry’s reason for being. Prose may be poetic, and display some of the same techniques as poetry (though never end-rhyme or refrains), but that is not its aim or reason for being.

How much should we expect definitions to change?

My guess is that if any objection is to be made, it’s that definitions change. Get used to it. Okay, but then what is it now?

It used to be that if it didn’t rhyme, it wasn’t poetry. If rhyme is understood in its broadest figurative sense (in the sense of a work of literature concerned not just with the content but with the aesthetics of language itself), then I’m still inclined to agree. I’m not willing to concede that on a definitionanything and everything is or can be a poem. Either that, or I’m content to call the uncooperative poem a bad poem or, if we want to be trendy, a proto-poem— a minor and lonely object that’s kind of interesting but didn’t quite have enough material to become a full blown poem.  In fact, I’m really liking that term.

I think it’s okay that we hew to an understanding of poetry that has worked for hundreds and thousands of years, the nervous self-indulgence of the twentieth century notwithstanding. And we can change our definition of “rhyme”, in its figurative sense, to include the figurative language available to free verse — assonance, alliteration, and all the rhetoric that has always been more common to poetry than prose. The poetry of Allen Ginsberg is chock-full of rhetorical figures and schema, lest you think that rhetoric only applies to fusty medieval manuscripts (and Walt Whitman’s poetry too). I’d be willing to say that Ginsberg’s poetry, figuratively speaking, has got “rhyme”.

Anyway, the next time somebody is having their kumbaya moment, proclaiming that poetry is like the wind, or a butterfly or that a definition would crush the delicate flower that is poetry, you can come back to this post for a draught of bitter.

Poetry is hard as hell.

Continue reading

Vermont Poetry Newsletter • September 24 2009

[The Vermont Poetry Newsletter is not issued by me but by Ron Lewis, by whose permission I post this. PLEASE NOTE: I have edited his newsletter so that links are provided rather than text.]

Vermont Poetry Newsletter

Your Poetry & Spoken Word Gateway in the Green Mountain State

September 24, 2009 – In This Issue:

  1. About VPN
  2. Newsletter Editor’s Note
  3. Writing Assignments/Suggestions/Exercises/Prompts
  4. Quibbles.com
  5. League of VT Writers: David Weinstock Poetry Workshop
  6. Brighten the Barn – PSOV Anthology
  7. Writing For Radio
  8. Burlington Book Festival (With Schedule)
  9. Brattleboro Literary Festival (With Schedule)
  10. Kay Boyle Bio
  11. The Horace Greeley Writers’ Conference
  12. The Poets Forum On Contemporary Poetry
  13. Google Book Settlement
  14. Tarpaulin Sky Press & Literary Journal
  15. Robert Frost Farm Fund
  16. Boston Book Festival
  17. Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman
  18. Book King Readings
  19. Did You Know? HBO Series: Brave New Voices
  20. Poetry Quotes – Why Poetry?
  21. US Poets Laureate List
  22. Failbetter Poem
  23. Linebreak Poem
  24. Copper Canyon Press Poem
  25. American Life in Poetry Poems
  26. Vermont Poet Laureates
  27. Contact Info for Publisher of VPN: Ron Lewis
  28. Vermont Literary Journals
  29. State Poetry Society (PSOV)
  30. Year-Round Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  31. Other Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  32. Year-Round Poetry Writing Centers in Vermont
  33. Poetry Event Calendar

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1.)

About the Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network

The Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network is made up of people of all backgrounds, ages and skills who appreciate the craft of poetry and want to promote it in the beautiful state of Vermont. The network consists of a free e-mail list, an eventual web site, workshops, open mics, poetry performances and other literary events.  The network provides opportunities to meet local poets, talk about and enjoy poetry, and motivate and inspire yourself in whatever writing projects you are involved.

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2.)

Dear Friends of Poetry:

Do you realize that the Vermont Poetry Newsletter now goes to over 300 serious poets around the state?  If you’re reading this, you happen to be one of the chosen ones, to be a “word gatherer” and to bring the enjoyment of this craft to others.    If you have something poetry-related that you would like me to be aware of, something you think I would enjoy, please send it along to me.  I too am one of you, someone who searches out for the perfect word, a “word gatherer.”    I hope to someday be fortunate enough to find you at a poetry reading, or to hear you read, or you to hear my words.  I want to hear all the words, all the poetry that surrounds us.  Don’t you?

Ron Lewis VPN Publisher  247-5913

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3.)

WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISES

writing promptOpen a dictionary to a random page. Run your finger down a column of text, paying attention to the first five or ten words you see. Choose one of those words and find a way to include it in a poem you’re working on, or a paragraph of prose. As Natasha says, you can force the word into your work “like hammering open a door.” Maybe in a later revision, you’ll block it up again. But in the meantime, this randomly chosen word will have allowed you to get some “air” into your writing…

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4.)

QUIBBLES.COM

The Dead Creek Poets’ Society Leonard Gibbs,
Magister Ludi

In which Leonard Gibbs contemplates A. E. Housman’s  “The Name and Nature of Poetry.”

quibblesOver the years some writings have stayed with me, to read over and over.  As I was a preacher in the Southern Presbyterian Church, The Bible was not only required reading, as a professional handbook, but also a wildly exciting story of Olympian rages, creativity, hate, love and redemption.  I read it less now, and in pieces.  I do not see it as a single theological work, but as a testament to beauty, power, hope and massive failure….

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5.)

League of Vermont Writers
October 2 and 3, 2009 – LVW Fall Retreat
Bishop Booth Conference Center by the Lake
Burlington, Vermont  with

Registration InfoFriday Evening

Joe Citro – Reading from *The Vermont Monster Guide*

Saturday

Joe Citro – “On the Writing Life”
Jim DeFilippi – “The Ups and Downs of E-Publishing”
David Weinstock – “Write Strong:” A Hands-On Workshop (POETRY!)

Register now!

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6.)

Brighten the Barn

  • 60th Anniversary Anthology  Poetry Society of Vermont.    Forget that I’m the Reporting Secretary of the PSOV, I believe this book, all 99 pages of it, is a poetry bargain!  I have several issues in my possession, and if you’d like to have one or more issues, please send me $10 per copy, and I’ll get it out to you; I’ll even swallow the cost of postage! This is a book that every Vermont poet should have in their library, in support of their own state poetry society, the PSOV

Ronald Lewis:
Phone: 802-247-5913
Cell: 802-779-5913
Home: 1211 Forest Dale Road, Brandon, VT 05733
Email: vtpoet@gmail.com

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7.)

  • I recently had the pleasure to meet and talk with Dave Isay, the voice behind the great work of StoryCorps, the largest and most ambitious private oral history project in American history.  I was afforded a “How To” into Writing for Radio, which is outlined below for your convenience.  Somehow I have to believe that the poet in many of you can find a way to enter this field, perhaps interviewing some of the poets or groups of poets that you know personally, and recording their voice in describing their craft, for appreciation by future generations.  At any rate, this should give you a start that might have taken you quite some time to assimilate. Ron Lewis

Writing for Radio
Radio Resources & Inspiration

Transom

The most comprehensive source of independent radio information on the web.  Everything from the nuts and bolts of basic radio creation (what equipment to use, how to get started, podcasting seminars), to interviews with the craft’s best practitioners.

Third Coast

This audio documentary festival no longer takes place, but there’s an amazing amount of material in the archives of lectures, pitch sessions, and award-winning pieces from past years, when radio producers from all over the world gathered to share their experiences and work.

The Next Big Thing

Public Radio International’s weekly radio feature program.  Storytelling, radio plays, documentaries, experimental radio, a range of writers (Rick Moody, Jonathan Ames, Steve Almond, Henry Alford, Meg Wolitzer) producing pieces that span (and deconstruct) all of radio’s genres.  No longer on the radio, but the entire 5-year archive is online.

This American Life

Ira Glass’ weekly radio program, often featuring writers (David Sedaris, David Foster Wallace) and other “non-radio” people, in an hour-long series of segments linked by a common theme.  Great comprehensive online archive.

Radiolab

Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, programs are hour-long explorations of something mysterious—Sleep, Mortality, Memory, Decision—from different angles.  Most shows pull in scientists doing research on relevant topics but anchoring personal stories are always important.

Living On Earth

Weekly environmental affairs program, featuring short and long-form reported pieces about environmental issues.

Sound Portraits

Sound Portraits is the production house for David Isay’s award-winning radio documentaries on America’s ghettos, prisons, and other neglected communities, as featured on NPR.

Story Corps

Another project of Dave Isay.  Roving story-recording booths travel the country, getting ordinary people to tell their stories on radio.  The stories are put in a public oral history archive, and the best ones are played nationally.  Based on oral history projects that were done under the New Deal WPA.

Selected Shorts

The radio Holy Grail for fiction writers.  Contemporary theater performers give dramatic readings of classic and contemporary short fiction.  Online archive of performances, great examples of how to dramatically perform a written piece without changing the text.

Public Radio Exchange

A nonprofit service for distribution, peer review, and licensing of radio pieces.  It’s a smart solution to the problem of excellent and innovative productions failing to reach wide audiences.  You can listen to pieces, and post your own for distribution.

Association of Independents in Radio

Costs $125 a year to join, but there’s an email list full of producer contacts, rates info, pitch solicitations . . . “AIR provides the producing community an array of professional development programs and resources, including mentoring, training and printed and online publications, as well as conferences and activities that expand networking, advocacy, employment and funding opportunities.”

Audio Editing Software:

The industry standard is ProTools (which requires a piece of hardware called an M-Box) and can run several hundred dollars.  But you can download an open source audio editing program called Audacity for free.  It’s compatible with Macs and PCs.

Also, if you’re a Mac user, an audio editing program called Garage Band comes standard on new Macs.

Other Links:

Chicago Public Radio
New York Public Radio
Boston Public Radio
Vermont Public Radio
Minnesota Public Radio
New Hampshire Public Radio

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8.)

(Due to the untimely death of highliner Frank McCourt, the Burlington Book Festival has added Rita Dove as their headliner for 2009!  Wow!)

WELCOME TO THE 5th ANNUAL BURLINGTON BOOK FESTIVAL

Burlington Book Festival
The 2009 Burlington Book Festival will take place in a variety of downtown Burlington venues throughout the weekend of September 25 through 27. The Queen City’s 5th annual celebration of the written word will feature readings, signings, panels, workshops, demos, musical performances, family activities and special events featuring literary luminaries from around the world-and just around the corner. Virtually all events will be free of charge.

http://www.burlingtonbookfestival.com/

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9.)

Welcome to the Brattleboro Literary Festival
October 2-4, 2009

Brattleboro Literary Festival

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10.)

  • I happened to study under the tutelage of Stan Rice, Kay Boyle and Denise Levertov.  There are many of you who are probably not aware of the fine writings of Kay Boyle.  It was her short stories that brought me to be a writer.  Kay Boyle's LifeHer poetry, however, was frosting on the cake.  I thank Kay for her generosity of time and insight to poetry while we crossed paths at San Francisco State College.  (I hope by now she’s forgiven me for falling asleep once in her class!) Ron Lewis

Kay Boyle’s Life

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Boyle grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She studied architecture at Parson’s School of Fine and Applied Arts in New York and elsewhere, took courses at Columbia, and studied violin briefly at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She married French-born engineer Richard Brault in 1922 while helping to edit the experimental literary magazine * Broom*. She moved to France with her husband the following year, and she lived mostly in France from 1923 to 1941, where she was well known among the American expatriate community.(…)

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11.)

The Horace Greeley Writers’ Conference

Horace GreeleyOctober 24-25 2009

Fox Hill Center for the Arts

Poultney, Vermont

The two day symposium will feature four authors providing inspirational presentations and interactive writing workshops designed to give voice to aspiring writers and offer an opportunity for experienced writers to renew a commitment to a narrative, a biography or an unfinished poem. Writers in all genres are welcome to spend a fall weekend in this Vermont village. Autumn in Vermont with the ambience set on high. (…)

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12.)

Poets ForumThe Academy of American Poets presents the 2009
POETS FORUM ON CONTEMPORARY POETRY

OCTOBER 15-17, 2009

NEW YORK CITY

The Academy of American Poets invites you to join us in New York City for the Poets Forum, a series of events exploring the ever-changing landscape of contemporary poetry in America. This year’s events will feature new in-depth discussions with an array of distinguished poets, readings, publication parties, and a new selection of literary walking tours, led by poets, throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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13.)

  • In 2005, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Authors’ Guild filed suit against Google, objecting to the company’s mass digitization of millions of books on copyright violation grounds. The parties privately settled for $125 million and devised a scheme that would permit Google to charge libraries and consumers for access to the digitized books. Under the deal, Google, the Authors Guild and the AAP would gain significant new powers to control the fledgling market for digital books.  Want to learn more about the proposed Google Book Settlement? Go to: http://www.openbookalliance.org/

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14.)

  • Another Lit Magazine right in our own backyard!

Tarpaulin Press

Tarpaulin Sky Press  & Literary Journal

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15.)

Frost Farm FundRobert Frost Farm Fund

College establishes Frost-related funds 
to maintain farm, support writer in residence

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16.)

Boston Book FestivalBoston Book Festival


Saturday, October 24th

Copley Square

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17.)

Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman Gives Chicago Reading
A public poetry reading for Chicago-area children and their parents

CHICAGO—The Poetry Foundation is pleased to announce that poet Mary Ann Hoberman will give The Chicago Reading on October 7, 2009, at 6:45 p.m. at the University of Chicago’s Ida Noyes Hall. The event is free and open to the public, and marks Hoberman’s first official reading as Children’s Poet Laureate.

In addition to the public reading, Hoberman will spend October 8, 2009, giving readings and discussing children’s poetry at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools with students, teachers, and librarians.

Findings from the Poetry Foundation’s major research study*, Poetry in America, *demonstrate that a lifelong love for poetry is most likely to result if cultivated early in childhood and reinforced thereafter. Hoberman’s popularity reflects a growing awareness that children have a natural receptivity to poetry and are an appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them.

  • What: The Chicago Reading, Mary Ann Hoberman’s first official reading as Children’s Poet Laureate**
  • Where: Ida Noyes Hall, University of Chicago, 1212 East 59th Street
  • When: Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 6:45 p.m.**

Admission to The Chicago Reading is free and open to all ages. A reception and book signing with Hoberman will follow the reading. Children in attendance will receive a free poetry book bag and cap.

Mary Ann Hoberman was appointed by the Poetry Foundation to a two-year term as Children’s Poet Laureate: Consultant in Children’s Poetry to the Poetry Foundation in 2008. She is the author of over 40 children’s books and has won the National Book Award, the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, a Society of School Librarians International Best Book award, and a National Parenting Publications Awards gold medal, among other accolades. She has also been recognized by magazines such as Child and Parenting. Hoberman’s most recent publication is a moving anthology of more than one hundred poems, The Tree That Time Built. One hundred of her favorite poems are collected in The Llama Who Had No Pajama. Other popular titles include Strawberry Hill, Hoberman’s first novel; The Seven Silly Eaters; and the You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series.

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18.)

Poetry Readings Resume at The Book King, Center Street, Rutland

The Book King is returning to having public poetry readings, to be held on the last Friday of each month, at 6:00 p.m.  The next reading will be on *October 30th*.  There will be flyers at the Book King counter.

Please contact me (Ron Lewis – vtpoet@gmail.com) if you’d like to read; we need readers!

No theme this time around!  Bring your own poetry to read or someone’s poetry you enjoy.

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19.)

Did You Know?

HBO Series: Brave New Voices

  • Watch and listen to the complete performances!

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20.)

Why PoetryWhy Poetry?

One of William Stafford’s definitions, from his essay “Making a Poem/Starting a Car on Ice,” where he says that “A poem is anything said in such a way or put on the page in such a way as to invite from the hearer or reader a certain kind of attention.” That seems to locate at least part of the the poem-ness where it belongs – in the mind of the person doing the perceiving. How else to explain why some are able to find poetry where others do not? I like the implication that there is a latency in poetry which only manifests itself when “a certain kind of attention” is turned upon it. But if you don’t like Stafford’s definition, here are some others to add fuel to the fire.(…)

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21.)

Poets Laureate of the U.S.A.

  • A Net-annotated list of all the poets who have served the Library of Congress as Consultant (the old title) or Poet Laureate Consultant (the new title). Biographies & general reference sites are linked to the poets’ names — for the recent Laureates these are our own poet profiles with book-buying links at the bottom. Many of the other linked biographies are pages from the Academy of American Poets’ Find a Poet archive, a growing & invaluable resource. If there is no general information site about the poet, we have searched the Net for sample poems or other writings or recordings & listed those below the poet’s name.

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22.)

Autumn Crocus
Kyle McCord

Autumn Crocus

The snow arrives:
handsome, high-cheek boned.
The snow assassinating insects and numb
thumbs of grass.
May I say something?
Jealousy happens all around you(….)

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23.)

  • Linebreak is an online journal with a bias for good poetry. Here is a poem from their web site this week:

Nocturne with SnowstormNocturne with Snowstorm and Power Outage
BY KEITH MONTESANO

Already the panic has begun. The questions: *Who will crash? What
will burn out?* Instead of generators flaring, transformers blowing up —
power shriveled and disintegrating into gray sky — lightning surges
in gunmetal bursts. No footprints on the sidewalks like those
on Mexican beaches, spring break: no sirens to rescue the helpless,
beheaded, the drug lords and headlines of shattered families
we keep reading about. I want so badly now to hold you under this sky (….)

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24.)

  • Here’s a poem from *Copper Canyon Press*, in its “Reading Room”.

Timothy Liu Thoreau

Timothy Liu
Thoreau

My father and I have no place to go.
His wife will not let us in the house–
afraid of catching AIDS. She thinks
sleeping with men is more than a sin,
my father says, as we sit on the curb
in front of someone else’s house. (….)

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25.)

American Life in Poetry: Column 231

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Helping my DaughterThis column originates on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and at the beginning of each semester, we see parents helping their children move into their dorm rooms and apartments and looking a little shaken by the process. This wonderful poem by Sue Ellen Thompson of Maryland captures not only a moment like that, but a mother’s feelings as well.

Helping My Daughter Move into Her First Apartment

This is all I am to her now:
a pair of legs in running shoes,
two arms strung with braided wire.
She heaves a carton sagging with CDs (….)

American Life in Poetry: Column 232

Baby Wrens' VoicesI’ve built many wren houses since my wife and I moved to the country 25 years ago. It’s a good thing to do in the winter. At one point I had so many extra that in the spring I set up at a local farmers’ market and sold them for five dollars apiece. I say all this to assert that I am an authority at listening to the so small voices that Thomas R. Smith captures in this poem. Smith lives in Wisconsin.

Baby Wrens’ Voices

I am a student of wrens.
When the mother bird returns
to her brood, beak squirming
with winged breakfast, a shrill (….)

American Life in Poetry: Column 233

Indian SummerDiane Glancy is one of our country’s Native American poets, and I recently judged her latest book, Asylum in the Grasslands, the winner of a regional competition. Here is a good example of her clear and steady writing.

Indian Summer

There’s a farm auction up the road.
Wind has its bid in for the leaves.
Already bugs flurry the headlights
between cornfields at night.
If this world were permanent,
I could dance full as the squaw dress (….)

American Life in Poetry: Column 234

WesternThis week’s poem is by a high school student, Michelle Bennett, who lives in Tukwila, Washington, and here she is taking a look at what comes next, Western Washington University in Bellingham, with everything new about it, including opportunity.

Western

You find yourself in a narrow bed you’ve
never slept in,
on a tree-lined grassy field you’ve
never walked upon,
on a cold toilet seat you have not sat on,
in a place you now call your home, your learning, your future. (….)

American Life in Poetry: Column 235

My Father's Left HandI tell my writing students that their most important task is to pay attention to what’s going on around them. God is in the details, as we say. Here David Bottoms, the Poet Laureate of Georgia, tells us a great deal about his father by showing us just one of his hands.

My Father’s Left Hand

Sometimes my old man’s hand flutters over his knee, flaps
in crazy circles, and falls back to his leg.

Sometimes it leans for an hour on that bony ledge. (….)

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26.)

VERMONT POET LAUREATES

1) Robert Frost – 1961
2) Galway Kinnell
3) Louis Glück
4) Ellen Bryant Voigt
5) Grace Paley
6) Ruth Stone

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27.)

If you ever have a need to contact me, here’s how to go about doing so:

Ronald Lewis:
Phone: 802-247-5913
Cell: 802-779-5913
Home: 1211 Forest Dale Road, Brandon, VT 05733
Email: vtpoet@gmail.com <david.weinstock@gmail.com>

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28.)

VERMONT LITERARY JOURNALS

1) The Queen City Review

Burlington College’s  The Queen City Review is a yearly journal of art and literature and accepts the work of new and established writers and artists in the areas of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, photography, and fine art, as well as essays and criticism on all aspects of the aforementioned. They seek to publish high quality work that ranges broadly in topic and genre.

The Queen City Review can be purchased by 2-year subscription or individually.  The price of one issue is $8 plus shipping charges ($1) for a total of $9.  Subscriptions can be purchased for #$14 plus shipping charges $2) and includes the Fall 2008 and upcoming 2009 issues.  They accept cash, check, and credit cards.  You can mail your payment to them or by calling (802) 862-9616 ext. 234 to place your order over the phone.  If mailing your payment, mail details to:

ATTN: Heidi Berkowitz
Burlington College
95 North Avenue
Burlington, VT  05401

2) Bloodroot

Bloodroot is a nonprofit literary magazine dedicated to publishing diverse voices through the adventure of poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction.  Their aim is to provide a platform for the free-spirited emerging and established writer.

The price of a single issue is $8.

Editor, “Do” Roberts
Bloodroot Literary Magazine
PO Box 322
Thetford Center, VT  05075
(802) 785-4916
email: bloodroot@wildblue.net

3) New England Review

A publication of Middlebury College, a high quality literary magazine that continues to uphold its reputation for publishing extraordinary, enduring work.  NER has been publishing now for over 30 years.

Cost: $8 for a single issue
$30 for a single year (4 issues)
$50 for two years (8 issues)

New England Review
Attn: Orders
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

NEReview@middlebury.edu
(800) 450-9571

4) Willard & Maple

A Literary and Fine Art Magazine of Champlain College, Burlington.

Willard & Maple
163 South Willard Street
Freeman 302, Box 34
Burlington, VT  05401

email: willardandmaple@champlain.edu

5) Vermont Literary Review

Vermont Literary ReviewA Literary and Fine Art Magazine of Castleton State College, Castleton.

The first issue of Vermont Literary Review was published in 1994. The review is published once a year. Work featured in the review includes poetry, fiction, drama, and personal essays from and about New England.

From its inception until 2006, students and professors reviewed the work submitted and selected work to be published. They used to jointly edit and design the review as well. After a brief lapse, the Vermont Literary Review has resumed publication in 2008 as a journal edited and designed solely by English Department faculty. The Literary Club, which used to help create this journal, is now putting out a publication of student work. (….)

6) Green Mountains Review

Green Mountains ReviewA Literary and Fine Art Magazine of Johnson State College, Johnson; in publication since 1987.

The Green Mountains Review is an international journal publishing poems, stories, and creative nonfiction by both well-known authors and promising newcomers.  The magazine also features interviews, literary criticism, and book reviews.  Neil Shepard is the general editor and poetry editor of the Green Mountains Review.  The fiction editor is Leslie Daniels.

The editors are open to a wide range of styles and subject matter. If you would like to acquaint yourself with some of the work that we have accepted in the past, then we encourage you to order some of our back issues (….)

7) Burlington Poetry Journal

The Burlington Poetry Journal is a new nonprofit publication interested in creating a means for provoking opinions, ideas, and thoughtful responses for poets in the Greater Burlington area. While there are numerous outlets for writers to gather and share privately in Vermont, there is no publication that brings together poetry of all styles and writers of all ages for the enjoyment of the general public. It is our hope that this journal will inspire writers to share their work with others who may be unaware of their talent, and for those who have never considered themselves writers to try their hand at poetry. We invite you to submit your work and share with others your thoughts and abilities with the Burlington community. The work you share will produce a dialogue as writers become aware of each other and begin to expose themselves and others to new poetry. The eclectic nature of the Burlington Poetry Journal will serve to stimulate its readers and authors.

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29.)

Poetry Society of VermontSTATE POETRY SOCIETY
Poetry Society of Vermont

The Poetry Society of Vermont, founded in 1947, is an association of poets and supporters who join in promoting an interest in poetry through meetings, workshops, readings, contests, and contributions to the society’s chapbook. Anyone may join the society including high school and college students and non-residents of Vermont. We welcome both writers and appreciative readers.

In September 2007, The Poetry Society of Vermont will celebrated its 60th Anniversary. (….)

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30.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

BELLOWS FALLS

1) Great River Arts Institute – See details elsewhere in this newsletter

2) Poetry Workshop at Village Square Booksellers with Jim Fowler (no relation to owner Pat).  The goal of this course is to introduce more people to the art of writing poetry and will include a discussion of modern poetry in various forms and styles. Each week, the course will provide time to share and discuss participant’s poetry. Poetry Workshops on Monday mornings (9:30-12:30 I believe)- Jim Fowler’s sessions continue, with periodic break for a few weeks between sessions.  Students should bring a poem and copies to the first class. The course will be limited to 5 to 8 students to allow adequate time to go through everyone’s poetry contributions and will meet in the cafe at Village Square Booksellers. James Fowler, of Charlestown, New Hampshire, has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science with a major in Nature Writing. He was the editor of Heartbeat of New England, a poetry anthology. Fowler has been widely published since 1998 in such journals as Connecticut Review, Quarterly of Light Verse, and Larcom Review. Fowler is a founding member of the *River Voices Writer’s Circle*, and a regular reader at Village Square Booksellers-River Voices Poetry Readings. The fee for this 6 week Workshop is $100, payable to Mr. Fowler at the first class. Pre-registration for the Poetry Workshop is suggested and may be made by calling Village Square Booksellers at 802-463-9404 or by email at vsbooks@sover.net or  jfowler177@comcast.net. <vsbooks@sover.net>

3) InkBlot Complex Poetry Workshop runs through the Vermont Independent Media’s Media Mentoring Project and is held at the Rockingham Public Library at 65 Westminster Street in Bellows Falls.  No previous writing or journalism experience or even class attendance is required.  Participants are invited to bring a project or share successful techniques.  The workshop aims to lift poetry from the page and reveal how it is a living force in daily life.  Originally taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago to great acclaim, its interactive nature and inclusion of multiple art forms leaves dry, academic notions of poetry behind.  It functions through three tenets: 1) Presentation of the art form as a living element of our daily world, 2) individualized, personal enrichment and free range of expression for each student, and 3) artistic ecultivation through unexpected means.  Taught by seasoned arts journalist, cultural critic and poet Clara Rose Thornton, this free event explores the poetry we encounter all around us – in songs we hear, the ways we express ourselves, even the advertisements we see.  In the final session students then create their own works with an increased sense of connection to the way words construct meaning.  All materials are provided.  Instructor Clara Rose Thornton is an internationally published film, wine and visual arts critic, music journalist, poet and former book and magazine editor.  Her writings on culture and the arts have appeared nationally in Stop Smiling: The Magazine for High-Minded Lowlifes, Honest Tune: The American Journal of Jam and Time Out Chicago.  Currently residing in an artists’ colony in Windham County, she acts as the biweekly arts columnist for the Rutland herald, staff writer for Southern Vermont Arts && Living and a regular contributor to The Commons.  A portfolio, bio and roster of writing and editing services can be found at http://www.clararosethornton.com.  For more information about the Media Mentoring Project, visit http://www.commonsnews.org or call 246-6397.  You can also write to Vermont Independent Media at P.O. Box 1212, Brattleboro, VT 05302.

BERLIN

The Wayside Poets, who share their poetry publicly from time to time, have been meeting irregularly for the past 25 years.  They used to be called The Academy Street Poets.  Membership is by invitation only.  They meet now at the Wayside Restaurant & Bakery in Berlin.  Members include Diane Swan, Sherry Olson, Carol Henrikson and Sarah Hooker.  You can contact them through Sherry Olson at: solsonvt@aol.com or 454-8026.

BURLINGTON

The Burlington Poets Society, a group of “stanza scribblers” that express their love of verse, made up of UVM students and professors, have recently organized, meeting at the Fleming Museum at UVM in Burlington for their periodic “The Painted Word” series of poetry readings. I hope to have additional information on this group in the coming months.

GUILFORD

The Guilford Poets Guild, formed in 1998, meets twice a month to critique and support each other’s work.  Their series of sponsored readings by well-known poets which began at the Dudley Farm, continues now at the Women and Family Life Center.

MIDDLEBURY

The Otter Creek Poets offer a poetry workshop every Thursday afternoon, from 1:00 to 3:00 in the basement meeting room of the Ilsley Public Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury.  This workshop, the largest and oldest of its kind in the state, has been meeting weekly for 13 years.  Poets of all ages and styles come for peer feedback, encouragement, and optional weekly assignments to get the poetry flowing.  Bring a poem or two to share (plus 20 copies).  The workshops are led by David Weinstock.  There is considerable parking available behind the library, or further down the hill below that parking lot.  For more information, call David at 388-6939 or Ron Lewis at 247-5913.

NORWICH

This group meets on the first Sunday of every month at the Norwich Library, 6:30 p.m.

STOWE

There is another poetry workshop happening in Stowe, but unfortunately I know nothing much about this group.  If you do, contact me!

WAITSFIELD

The Mad River Poets consists of a handful of poets from the Route 100 corridor.  More on this group in the future.

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OTHER POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

BURLINGTON

Scribes in the making put pen to paper as part of an open verse-writing session at the Fletcher Free Library, 235 College Street.  Three consecutive Thursdays, starting January 8, 2009, 5:00-6:00 p.m.  Free.  Contact information: 862-1094.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

The Writer’s Center
58 Main Street
White River Junction, Vermont

Instructor: April Ossmann (author of Anxious Music, Four Way Books, 2007, writing, editing and publishing consultant, and former Executive Director of Alice James Books)

Info: (802)333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and http://www.aprilossmann.com

ANYWHERE, VERMONT

Inkblot Poetry WorkshopRevived for the 2009 academic year is the InkBlot Complex Poetry Workshop, designed for upper-elementary and high-school-age students, grades 7-12. The curriculum functions through three tenets:

  • Innovative presentation of the art form as a living element of our daily world
  • Individualized, personal enrichment and free range of expression for each student
  • Artistic cultivation through unexpected means

The workshop debuted at the University of Illinois at Chicago, during a three-week summer program, entitled Project C.H.A.N.C.E., for underprivileged sophomore and senior students from area high schools. It was a fantastic success, and the program director requested its return. With this encouragement, I decided to expand and adapt the workshop for various age levels, as an educational/arts supplement for after-school programs and enrichment programs and an arts elective for more traditional academic settings. The response has been wonderful. (…)

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32.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WRITING CENTERS IN VERMONT

BURLINGTON

The Burlington Writer’s Group (BWG) meets on Tuesday evenings from 7-9 PM and has a new home at the Unitarian Church in the church’s little white house off of Clark St., 2nd floor. They’d like to let people know and also invite anyone interested to join them whenever folks are in town or as often as they’d like.

The Burlington Writer’s Group is a free drop-in group. They decide on a prompt and write for 20 minutes, followed by a go-around reading. They can usually get in two writes depending on group size. All genres and experience levels are welcome and there really are no rules other than demonstrating courtest while people are writing (don’t interrupt).  They don’t do much critiquing though some spontaneous reactions occur. Mainly it’s good practice to just show up and write for 40 minutes and share the writing, if so inclined…

BURLINGTON

Women Writing for (a) Change supports the authentic experience of women who honor themselves through creative writing.  Our community supports reflection as we move into our questions and awaken to change.  Participants enhance expressive skills, strengthen their voices, deepen themselves as women as writers for positive change in all spheres of life.  Creative writing in all genres is our shared vehicle.  Women Writing for (a) Change is for women who, 1) dream of writing for self-discovery, for personal or social healing, 2) hunger for creative process in their lives, 3) yearn to explore their feminine voice, 4) crave reflective, space, and 5) are in transition.  For more information, go to their web site or contact Sarah Bartlett at either 899-3772 or sarah@womenwritingvt.com.

SPRINGFIELD

A Writer’s Group has started to meet at the Springfield Town Library on the fourth Monday of each month, from 7 to 8 pm.  For more information, call 885-3108.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

The Writer’s Center is for serious writers and nervous beginners. It’s for procrastinators who could benefit from regular deadlines – and for the prolific who could benefit from quality feedback. It’s for anyone with a manuscript hidden in a drawer, or a life story or poem waiting to be written. It’s for people who don’t know where to start or how to end. And for writers who are doing just fine on their own, but would like the company of other writers.  The Writer’s Center is for anyone who is writing or wants to write.  One of the Center’s consultants is April Ossman ( http://www.aprilossmann.com).  Founded by Joni B. Cole and Sarah Stewart Taylor, the Writer’s Center offers instruction and inspiration through a selection of workshops, discussions, and community. We would love to see you – and your writing – at The Writer’s Center!

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Poetry EventPOETRY EVENT CALENDAR

Below please find the most current list of poetry happenings in Vermont for the near future.  Please be aware that these events can be found on Poetz.com, but there is usually additional information that is typed here that would be cumbersome to place on Poetz.com.  Please note all events are Vermont-based unless they are of extreme importance or happen to lie just outside our borders.  If you would like to save on paper and ink, please just highlight what you need, or perhaps only events for the coming month, and print that information.

Fri, Sep 25-Sun, Sep 27: *Burlington Book Festival*. The 2009 Burlington Book Festival will take place in a variety of downtown Burlington venues throughout the weekend. The Queen City’s 5th annual celebration of the written word will feature readings, signings, panels, workshops, demos, musical performances, family activities and special events featuring literary luminaries from around the world-and just around the corner. Virtually all events will be free of charge.  For more info, http://www.burlingtonbookfestival.com/.

Wed, Sep 30: Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, 6:15 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  Sue Burton and David Cavanagh will be providing a poetry reading as part of The Painted Word Poetry Series.  The Fleming Museum poetry series is hosted by Major Jackson, associate professor, UVM Dept. of English. This reading series highlights established and emergent New England poets whose work represents significant explorations into language, song, and art.  The Burlington Poets Society will make a short presentation first from 6:15-6:30, then the poets will begin reading at 6:30.

Wed, Sep 30: Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street, Montpelier, 7:00 p.m. Darning a Transcendental Stocking. Phyllis Larrabee will read from her poetry, Darning a Transcendental Stocking. She has worked as a community organizer, an advocate for people with disabilities and continues to write and read from her 28 poetry collections and many stories. Her work has won an award from the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.  For info, contact Rachel Senechal, 223-3338.

Wed, Sep 30: Jaquith Public Library, School Street, Marshfield, 7:00 p.m.  Poetry Reading with Susan Thomas and Samn Stockwell. Author Susan Thomas will read selections from her publications which include: State of Blessed Gluttony, The Hand Waves Goodbye; Voice of the Empty Notebook; and Last Voyage, and her new collection: My Afterlife. Samn Stockwell will read from her current manuscript, Our Common History, a series of short narrative poems for which she received a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation.  For info, 426-3581.

Thu, Oct 1: Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, 7:00 p.mPoetry Night with Lynne Knight and Kevin Pilkington. Lynne Knight is the author of four full-length collections, the most recent of which is *Again*, published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2009. Dissolving Borders won a Quarterly Review of Literature prize in 1996; The Book of Common Betrayals won the Dorothy Brunsman Award from Bear Star Press in 2002; and Night in the Shape of a Mirror was published by David Robert Books in 2006. She has also published three prize-winning chapbooks, Deer in Berkeley (Sow’s Ear Press), Life as Weather (Two Rivers Review), and Defying the Flat Surface (The Ledge Press). A cycle of poems on Impressionist winter paintings, Snow Effects, appeared from Small Poetry Press as part of its Select Poets Series and has been translated into French by Nicole Courtet. Knight lives in Berkeley, California.  Her work has appeared in a number of journals, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Ontario ReviewPoetry, and Southern Review. One of her poems appears in Best American Poetry 2000, selected by Rita Dove. Among her awards are the Theodore Roethke Award from Poetry Northwest, the Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award from Southern Humanities Review, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and an NEA grant.Kevin is a member of the writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence Collge and teaches a workshop in the graduate department at Manhattanville College.  For info, (800) 437-3700.

Thu, Oct 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet *Pattiann Rogers * to read.  Pattiann Rogers has published ten books of poetry, a book-length essay, The Dream of the Marsh Wren, and A Covenant of Seasons, poems and monotypes, in collaboration with the artist Joellyn Duesberry. Her 11th book of poetry, Wayfare, will appear from Penguin in April, 2008.   Rogers is the recipient of two NEA Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2005 Literary Award in Poetry from the Lannan Foundation, and five Pushcart Prizes.  In the spring of 2000 she was in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy.  Her papers are archived in the Sowell Family Collection of Literature, Community and the Natural World at Texas Tech University.  She has taught as a visiting professor at various universities, including the Universities of Texas, Arkansas, and Montana, Houston University, and Washingon University.  She is currently on the faculty of Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program.  Rogers has two sons and three grandsons and lives with her husband in Colorado.

Fri, Oct 2-Sun, Oct 4: Brattleboro Literary Festival. The 8th annual Brattleboro Literary Festival is a three-day celebration of those who read books, those who write books, and of the books themselves. Located in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, the Festival includes readings, panel discussions, and special events, featuring emerging and established authors. All events are free.

Sat, Oct 3: Bishop Booth Conference Center, Burlington. *League of Vermont Writers presents David Weinstock*, *”Write Strong:” A Hands-On Poetry Workshop*.  Register at: http://www.leaguevtwriters.org/September09registration.pdf.

Sat, Oct 10: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  *Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading* on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Tue, Oct 13: Bear Pond Books, 77 Main Street, Montpelier.  Poet *David Cavanaugh* reads.  More on this event later.  For info, 229-1069, info@bearpondbooks.com.

Tue, Oct 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet *Major Jackson* to read.  “Jackson knows the truth of black magic. It is a magic as simple as the belief in humanity that subverts racism, or the esoteric and mystical magic of making jazz, the music of hope and love.” —Aafa Weaver.  Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry, Hoops (Norton: 2006), a finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry. and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), winner of the 2000 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.  Poems by Major Jackson have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, Post Road, Triquarterly, The New Yorker, among other literary journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has received critical attention in The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Parnassus, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.  Jackson is an Associate Professor of English at University of Vermont and a faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. In 2006-2007, he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Wed, Oct 21: Bixby Library, Vergennes, 7:00 p.m.  Poet *David Parkinson* to read from his new book, *Two Heads*.  David has teamed with poet Judith Dow Moore, both members of the Otter Creek Poets, in a remarkable new book of poetry that he will share with us tonight.  Copies will be on site to sell, and $5 of every book purchase will be going as a donation to the Bixby Library (David’s compliments!).  Come hear this remarkable poet speak to your heart!  For info, 877-2211.

Sun, Oct 25: The Brick Box Gallery at the Paramount, 30 Center Street, Rutland, 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.  *Out of History’s Junk Jar*. *Judy Chalmer*will read poetry from her book Out of History’s Junk Jar and talk about her own quest to understand her family’s Holocaust history.  DAVAR:The Vermont Jewish Women’s History Project.  For info, contact Sandra Gartner or Ann Buffum at 353-0001, davarvt@gmail.com, http://www.davarvt.org.

Wed, Oct 28: Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, 6:15 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  Antonello Borra and Jill Leininger will be providing a poetry reading as part of The Painted Word Poetry Series.  The Fleming Museum poetry series is hosted by Major Jackson, associate professor, UVM Dept. of English. This reading series highlights established and emergent New England poets whose work represents significant explorations into language, song, and art.  The Burlington Poets Society will make a short presentation first from 6:15-6:30, then the poets will begin reading at 6:30..

Thu, Oct 29: The Galaxy Bookshop, 7 Mill Street, Hardwick, 1:45 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Poetry Reading by Hazen Union Poetry Class. The Hazen Union Poetry Class would like to invite the community to enjoy a reading of the students’ works at The Galaxy Bookshop. This special reading will give the students a chance to share their poems aloud in a public setting. We also welcome local poets to join us in sharing a poem or two with the group.  Time is subject to change: please check back later to confirm, or call the bookstore for more details: 472-5533.

Sat, Nov 14: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Tue, Nov 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet Sebastian Matthews to read.  Sebastian Matthews is the author of the poetry collection We Generous (Red Hen Press) and a memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps (W. W. Norton).  He co-edited, with Stanley Plumly, Search Party: Collected Poem s of William Matthews. Matthews teaches at Warren Wilson College and serves on the faculty at Queens College Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. His poetry and prose has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Georgia Review, New England, Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Seneca Review, The Sun, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Writer’s Almanac, among others. Matthews co-edits Rivendell, a place-based literary journal, and serves as poetry consultant for Ecotone: Re-Imagining Place.

Wed, Nov 18: Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, 6:15 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  Caroline Knox, Dorothea Lasky and Dara Wier will be providing a poetry reading as part of The Painted Word Poetry Series.  The Fleming Museum poetry series is hosted by Major Jackson, associate professor, UVM Dept. of English. This reading series highlights established and emergent New England poets whose work represents significant explorations into language, song, and art.  The Burlington Poets Society will make a short presentation first from 6:15-6:30, then the poets will begin reading at 6:30.

Wed, Dec 2: Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street, Montpelier, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Poetry’s Spiritual Language.  Using the poetry of Dickinson, Kenyon, Rumi, and Kabir—poets from diverse religious traditions—Dartmouth English professor Nancy Jay Crumbine examines poetry’s language of spirituality. Part of the First Wednesdays series. A Vermont Humanities Council event.  For info, 223-3338.

Sat, Dec 12: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

2010:

Mon, Feb 22: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet David Shapiro to read.  David Shapiro (born January 2, 1947) is an American poet, literary critic, and art historian and . Shapiro has written some twenty volumes of poetry, literary, and art criticism. He was first published at the age of thirteen, and his first book was published at the age of eighteen. Shapiro has taught at Columbia, Bard College, Cooper Union, Princeton University, and William Paterson University. He wrote the first monograph on John Ashbery, the first book on Jim Dine’s paintings, the first book on Piet Mondrian’s flower studies, and the first book on Jasper Johns’ drawings. He has translated Rafael Alberti’s poems on Pablo Picasso, and the writings of the Sonia and Robert Delaunay. Shapiro has won National Endowment for the HumanitiesNational Endowment for the Arts fellowships, been nominated for a National Book Award, and been the recipient of numerous grants for his work. Shapiro lives in Riverdale, The Bronx, New York City, with his wife and son.

  • Again, if you become aware of an event that isn’t posted above, please let me know. My apologies if I have left off anything of importance to any of you, but it can always be corrected in the next Vermont Poetry Newsletter.

our finitude as human beings
is encompassed by the infinity of language

❧Hans-Georg Gadamer

Your fellow Poet,

Ron Lewis

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