Poetic Asides

Robert Lee Brewer, former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere publishes a blog for Writer’s Digest called Poetic Asides. I’ve been following his blog for a few months now and he puts out an impressive amount of relevant information on poetry today. Additionally, he interviews established as well as up-and-coming poets, publishes writing prompts, provides advice and guidance for the modern poet, and more.

Quick bios at the end of every post read: “Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.”

Brewer published his first post for Poetic Asides on June 26, 2007 and quickly found his niche with followers. One of the features he has run nearly since the beginning is his “Wednesday Poetry Prompts” first published on May 7, 2008. This is one of the features on Brewer’s site that keeps me coming back on a near daily basis. Brewer published the most recent, the 398th prompt, on June 21st. The prompts are sometimes brief explanations, sometimes a single word, sometimes a few short paragraphs. He follows the prompt with his own humble attempts and encourages fellow poets and bloggers to post their own attempts in the comments section.

Brewer regularly publishes a feature called “Poetic Forms” where he discusses everything from traditional forms to forms invented by poets today. The most recent of these is from June 19th when he covered the Huitain, a French form. Brewer discusses the forms history, its rules, and again follows with his own attempt.

Another feature Brewer publishes regularly is Poetic Terms. The last time Brewer published anything on Poetic Terms is back in March when he posted “37 Common Poetry Terms”. In these posts, Brewer defines terms common to poetry. You may find them in any poetry dictionary or they may be too obscure even for those.

Combing through 71 pages of Brewer’s posts I found one mention of a workshop post. This was completely different from the workshops Writer’s Digest hosts for fees. In Poetry Workshop: 014, Brewer critiqued Khara E. House’s poem “Our Daily Bread”. In true workshop fashion, Brewer reviewed elements of the poem in detail, provided some notes, and closed with some suggestions to improve the poem. I miss the workshop format from my MFA program and I would love to start something up in my local area or online. Workshop critiques such as Brewers are always intended as suggestions the individual poet can accept or decline.

In April 2010, Brewer was voted in as Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere! The now-defunct site BloggingPoet.com held the contest with several poetry bloggers in the running. Followers of the blogs were meant to visit the site and vote on their candidate. I haven’t found much information on the honorary position written since Brewer was selected. I love the title and I think it would be cool if blogosphere poets collectively decided to honor the position again.

Brewer’s most recent series is something he is calling “Why I Write Poetry”. He admits that this sentiment is not new to his writing, but he wants to use this as a sort of poet interview. On June 12th he published his own revised essay with a call-to-action for poets to e-mail their essays. He published the first guest essay on June 20th from poet Nurit Israeli. I hope to be featured in one of Brewer’s posts soon. I am still writing my own essay, which I hope to finish this week.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate

Tracy K Smith
Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Fellow poets, today, the featured poem from the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series is Tracy K. Smith’s “Watershed”. One of my favorite parts of the series is the “About This Poem” section where the poet confesses their inspiration for the poem in question. Of ‘Watershed”, Smith says:

‘Watershed’ is a found poem drawn from two sources: a New York Times Magazine January 6, 2016, article by Nathaniel Rich entitled, ‘The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,’ and excerpts of the narratives of survivors of near-death experiences as catalogued on www.nderf.org.”

The Poem-A-Day series consistently inspires my own adventures in poetry as it exposes me to new techniques and perspectives. I have typically been slightly distrustful of found poems, but to look at them from Smith’s perspective is unique and exciting! Why not construct a found poem using pieces from several sources?

I went away this past week and when I came back, I was surprised to find a handful of news headlines announcing the selection of a new U.S. Poet Laureate. Not that I didn’t believe it, but I was intrigued. As far as I know, Juan Felipe Herrera recently entered his second term as Poet Laureate. I’ve been learning more about the position of Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, but one thing I haven’t specifically looked at is the actual term of appointment. I knew Poets Laureate were appointed for one to two years, but I wasn’t clear on when the appointment officially began. I haven’t been able to find an official start date, but the Librarian of Congress’ article announcing Smith’s selection says, “Smith will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season in September with a reading of her work in the Coolidge Auditorium.”

On Wednesday June 14th, several outlets published articles announcing Tracy K. Smith’s selection as the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. The Academy of American Poets published a brief article. Dana Isokawa the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine published an online exclusive about Smith’s selection. Camila Domonoske published an article for NPR entitled “Tracy K. Smith, New U.S. Poet Laureate, Calls Poems Her ‘Anchor’. Several more outlets picked up the stories around the country.

I always return to The Academy of American Poets and The Poetry Foundation as my primary sources for all things poetry. The Academy’s resources on Smith consist of a biography, two articles Smith wrote, two additional articles written about her, and three of her poems including “Duende”. The Poetry Foundation has archived ten of Smith’s poems, a biography, and a four minute video from PBS’s NewsHour Poetry Series.

Reading through Smith’s bio, she is an excellent choice to succeed the current Poet Laureate. Among her honors, she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and is currently a professor at Princeton University leading their Creative Writing program. Additionally, Smith wrote a short article for the New York Times’ “Does Poetry Matter?” series entitled “Wipe that Smirk Off Your Poem”. Yesterday the Academy of American Poets published a quick interview with Smith entitled “Four Questions for U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith”. The Poetry Foundation recently featured the newly selected U.S. Poet Laureate’s poem “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” in an e-mail. She wrote the poem in 2011 ruminating on David Bowie and published it in Life on Mars through Graywolf Press. One final piece I would like to highlight is Renee H. Shea’s article “Far From Ordinary: A Profile of Tracy K. Smith” from the March/April 2015 Poets & Writers Magazine.

Considering her diverse background and the eclectic nature of past Poet Laureate projects, I am excited to see what Smith comes up with for her project.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

 

The Poem as Comic Strip

Poetry Foundation

In mid-May, while researching articles and poems about Ted Kooser, the 13th U.S. Poet Laureate, I came across some beautiful and unique pieces on The Poetry Foundation’s website.

I will not copy the jpgs or pdfs directly to this site for copyright reasons. Rather, I’ll post a few links to the content on The Foundation’s website. This link takes you to the original six articles which began with “The Poem as Comic Strip” and ran for a series of six articles each with different authors, artists, and poets. Fred Sasaki published a seventh piece entitled, “Poem as Comic Strip Redux”, which followed three years after The Foundation published the sixth article.

The editors of The Poetry Foundation commissioned six artists to comb through their archives of poems in the public domain and create comic strips based on those pieces. If you haven’t visited the archives, I encourage you to do so. I have spent hours jumping from poem to poem, poet to poet in the website. I’m betting you’ll find more than you bargained for and forget to come up for air! Online poetry archives are the next best thing to brick-and-mortar bookstores and I find poetry rabbit-holing is the most rewarding!

The six artists chose the following poems, in order of their appearance: Diane Wakoski’s “Belly Dancer”, Emily Dickinson’s “It was not Death, for I Stood Up”, Russell Edson’s “Of Memory and Distance”, Kenneth Patchen’s “The Snow is Deep on the Ground”, Ted Kooser’s “The Giant Slide”, and A.E. Stallings’ “Recitative”. You can find text versions of each poem in The Foundation’s archive through a quick search to go along with the picture and review the poet’s original vision.

These poems as comic strips remind me of Billy Collins’ animated poetry which you can find on YouTube. This link will take you to a playlist of nine videos including “Walking Across the Atlantic”, “The Best Cigarette”, and “The Dead”, three of my favorite Collins poems and accompanying videos!

I’m not an artist, but this would make a great exercise for any poem that strikes you. I can also see, rather than a writing prompt, a drawing prompt come out of this.

As always keep writing (and drawing)!

Cheers,

Bryan