Broadsided Press

Broadside
The most recent broadside. “Thistle” Words by Jennifer Jean. Art by David Bernardy.

If you’ve never heard the term, a broadside is defined by Merriam-Webster as

(1): a sizable sheet of paper printed on one side (2): a sheet printed on one or both sides and folded b: something (such as a ballad) printed on a broadside.

I love when companies or individuals define a word with that word. Sure, a broadside is printed on a broadside! 🙂

Broadsided Press is a great literary magazine working to resurrect the broadside and keep it alive for generations to come. Their website provides a succinct summary for the history of broadsides as well as a nice “About” page explaining their humble, yet far-reaching mission of “putting literature and art on the streets”. One of the coolest things about Broadsided Press is that they offer 229 FREE broadsides for anyone to download, print, and display where they choose!

Check their submission guidelines here and if you have an account, follow them on Submittable.

The final thing I’ll say on this topic (for now) is the Library of Congress has a wonderful collection on broadsides. “Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera” introduces the reader to broadsides, presents historical information, explains their intriguing history, and offers up beautiful examples.

Keep writing and challenge yourself to pair your poems with art! Find an artist or poet to collaborate with. Whether the collaboration is intentional or not, the results could be amazing. It’s not unlike ekphrasis.

Cheers,

Bryan

Featured Poet for August on Twitterization Nation

I am proud to announce that Twitterization Nation selected me as one of their featured poets for August! They chose me along with five other poets for their website series and subsequent online literary magazine. The five other poets are Carrie Danaher Hoyt, Richard Green, Charika Swanepoel (@CharikaSW), Elisabeth Horan, and Ken Woodall. If you are not familiar with Twitterization’s work, I enjoy their description and call for submissions:

“We are seeking “Twitterized” poems that are 140 characters or less (however, we have already accepted longer poems) to be featured as a weekly guest through our Twitterization Nation blog, Twitter, and Facebook sites. In addition, we plan to use this collection as our “Preview” Issue for our online literary magazine.”

I first came across Twitterization Nation during Rattle magazine’s Monthly Ekphrastic Poetry Challenge for June 2017. The art was Ryan Schaufler’s photograph “No Name #2” for which I wrote a piece entitled, “Good Hope Road [or, Nostalgia is a Fond Memory]”. I did not win, but I pressed on and submitted seven poems to their website. The poems they are using August 1-7, 2017 are “Red City”, “Eyes”, “Paint by Numbers”, “Scratch Hill”, “Surfin’ Byrd”, “Wet Puppy”, and “Bus Stop”.

Follow Twitterization Nation on WordPress (https://twitterization.wordpress.com), Twitter (@NationOTwits) and Facebook (https://facebook.com/twitterization.nation).

Keep writing and seeking publication!

Cheers,

Bryan

Prisencolinensinainciusol

This week I had to write about Italian actor/musician Adriano Celentano’s song, “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. I saw it in a comment on a Facebook post recently and after I listened to it once, it remained ricocheting around in my head. Here is the best clip I could find of the song on YouTube. The premise is that Celentano does not speak English. At all. He decided to write a song about what the English language sounds like to Italians. However, there are no Italian words and the only two English words in the song are part of the chorus, “All right”.

What does any of this have to do with poetry? I believe most song lyrics have some poetic qualities. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if there are any recorded lyrics for “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. I found some published on the website LyricWiki. Whether that site, Genius Lyrics, Lyrics Translate, Lyrics Mode, or any of the myriad of other lyrics websites, they all seem to be the same. Maybe they are all drawing from a single source.

The most informative article I found on the song is “It’s Gibberish, But Italian Pop Song Still Means Something” published on NPR on November 4, 2012. There is also a blog published four years earlier through The New Yorker. Sasha Frere-Jones published “Stop Making Sense” on August 12, 2008. They’re great articles if you are interested in some fun, light reading as well as a catchy, clean song.

Along these same lines, I found reference to a short film called “Skwerl”. In a similar premise to “Prisencolinensinainciusol”, “Skwerl” is described as “How English sounds to non-English speakers”. It was written and directed by Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston of the site Brian & Karl. Brian and Karl published a script on Tumblr and as I suspected, “Skwerl” isn’t so much gibberish as it is English words strung together. I would like to see examples of what other languages sound like to English-speakers. Maybe I’ll see if that’s a rabbit hole I can get lost in.

Keep writing and look for more examples of quirky translations and gibberish!

Cheers,

Bryan

Poet Brian Bilston

 

I had no idea this week what I was going to write about. I decided to focus on a unique poet I found recently. Unless I write it down, I never remember how I discover particular poems or poets. It may have been that someone posted or shared on Facebook or reTweeted on the Twitters. I saw the poet’s name attached to an old-timey picture of a pipe-smoking gentleman and I thought nothing of it. Then I saw another post and that, too, passed. Later I tried to remember the name as best I could so I could look him up. I wanted to find him again because of a visual poem I remembered.

One of Bilston’s most recent poems, and the one that I saw, is “Cell”:

 

Bilston, Brian - Cell

I’m not here to critique the individual poems so I will let you read for yourself and make your own judgments. I am impressed how Bilston uses everything at his disposal in fresh ways. To use Microsoft Excel and play with the language in the cells is fun!

Here is another poem in which Bilston plays with Venn diagrams. A Venn diagram, named after John Venn (1834–1923), an English logician is “a diagram representing mathematical or logical sets pictorially as circles or closed curves within an enclosing rectangle (the universal set), common elements of the sets being represented by the areas of overlap among the circles (Google)”.

Bilston, Brian - At the Intersection

Finally, here is a third poem in which Bilston used of the layout on the page to play with words making them look like falling rain. E. E. Cummings used similar techniques with typography. Check out “(IM)C-A-T(MO)” and “l(a” if you are interested. Here is Bilston’s “A Leaky Weekend”:

Bilston, Brian - A Leaky Weekend

I haven’t found much biographical information on Bilston, but that is part of his allure. Actually, Bilston may not even be a male poet, she may be a poetess! Bilston has a WordPress site and this is directly from his “About” page:

“Frequently described as the “Poet Laureate of Twitter”, Brian Bilston is a poet clouded in the pipe smoke of mystery. Very little is known about him other than the fragments of information revealed on social media: his penchant for tank tops, his enjoyment of Vimto, his dislike of Jeremy Clarkson.

In 2014 he became the first person to retain the title of Pipe Smoker of the Year [Poetry section] and, over the years, he has won numerous awards for cycling proficiency, first aid, and general tidiness. He won the 2015 Great British Write Off poetry prize for a poem disguised in a Venn diagram.

His first collection of poetry You Caught the Last Bus Home will be published later this year with Unbound. You can find a short film about it, how to support it, and get your name in the back of it, here:

https://unbound.co.uk/books/brian-bilston

Writing about his own verse, he says:

I write about Waitrose.
And the pitta of Waitrose.
The poetry is in the pitta.

You can find Brian most days on Twitter (@brian_bilston) and also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/BrianBilston/).

I don’t know where all of these titles came from. Robert Lee Brewer was ceremonially dubbed the Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. Now we have Brian Bilston dubbed the Poet Laureate of Twitter. I checked his social media sites to hunt for an origin story. I found these facts:

  1. Bilston has been blogging since at least November 2013 on WordPress!
  2. He has been on Twitter since August 2013. His short bio on Twitter simply reads: “Ceci n’est pas un poème,” which translates to “this is not a poem.”
  3. The oldest Facebook post I can find from him is November 22, 2014.

I am looking forward to purchasing his book You Caught the Last Bus Home soon!

Have you come across any poets you would like to share?

Cheers,

Bryan

The Time is Now

Poets-writeters-logo

Have you ever been afflicted with the dreaded writer’s block? Sometimes it may feel like the muse has taken an extended vacation or left you for good for another writer with no explanation or farewell note. Don’t worry, your muse always returns! Until then, the best thing to do in these tumultuous times is turn to writing prompts. One of the most diverse and compelling sets of prompts I have found is published by Poets & Writers.

The Time is Now is a WEEKLY(!!!) feature on the Poets & Writers website. Using their filter, you can filter the prompts by poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. You can also set the parameters to display 100 entries per page giving you more to sort through and fewer internet pages to turn. Maybe the Poets & Writers staff have added to the archive recently, I remember only being able to search back through one year of prompts. I learned something new this morning and you can now go all the way back to the beginning! P&W published their first prompts on January 3, 2011! At 52 prompts per year, that’s roughly 339 poetry prompts to catch up on! And if you’re interested in fiction and creative nonfiction, that’s about 1,017 prompts!

I love what P&W has to say from an earlier version of The Time is Now site:

The most important and underrated factor in a writer’s success is discipline. Talent and luck always help, but having a consistent writing practice is often the difference between aspiring writers and published writers.

The advice we hear from agents, editors, and authors alike is always the same: Focus on the writing. However, finding the time and inspiration to write is not always easy. That’s where creative writing prompts and exercises can help. Writing prompts provide writers with a starting place, an entry point into their writing practice. Sometimes creative writing prompts and exercises result in a workable draft of a story or poem. Other times, they may lead to what can seem like a dead end. But having to generate ideas, being pushed in a direction where you wouldn’t normally go in your writing, and just plain putting pen to paper is often enough to provide that crucial dose of inspiration.

The Time Is Now offers a weekly writing prompt (we’ll post a poetry prompt on Tuesdays, a fiction prompt on Wednesdays, and a creative nonfiction prompt on Thursdays) to help you stay committed to your writing practice throughout the year.

Early on, P&W only titled the prompts by genre, but starting with the first prompts of 2012, P&W began naming their prompts by the general theme of the prompt. The most recent prompt from Tuesday, July 4 is “America the Beautiful”:

“Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart / somehow or other still carried away by America,” writes Alicia Ostriker in “Ghazal: America the Beautiful.” This Fourth of July, begin a poem with the title “America the Beautiful” and let this phrase guide your piece, allowing your mind freedom to reflect on the things you find beautiful (or not so beautiful) about the nation. Read through some other Independence Day poetry by writers such as Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, Claude McKay, and Rachel Eliza Griffiths for further inspiration.

If you subscribe to The Time is Now e-mails, you also receive two other features that I have only recently starting paying attention to. Scroll down past the prompts and you will find a quick blurb entitled Best Books for Writers. Visit The Time is Now’s website and you can find the books in a menu to the right. P&W highlights classic and modern books in all genres tailored to the writer. I didn’t start paying attention to Writers Recommend until this past week. Carol Guess wrote the first post from December 16, 2008. This week’s comes from author Bao Phi:

“I recently took adult swimming lessons. I can’t swim, I can’t even tread water, but I knew I had to get over myself and try to learn. I’ve also been trying to write a little bit every single night, and it’s very much the same. That blank page is there waiting for me to jump in, to sink or swim. I end up flailing about and not knowing what I’m doing. But I trust it’s all part of the process. I trust that with enough work and practice, I will be able to do what I need to do. Some fear is necessary to get to new places.” — Bao Phi, author of Thousand Star Hotel (Coffee House Press, 2017)

They may seem unusual, but they offer great advice and it may just be the tip you need to get you going! Sometimes the featured poets and writers talk about books, art, music, writing prompts, films, or anything else that has inspired them.

Check out The Time is Now, look for other sources of prompts, or write your own, but whatever you do, keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

Trish Hopkinson (dot) com

footnote-cover
“Footnote”, chapbook by Trish Hopkinson

I have mentioned Trish Hopkinson’s blog, https://trishhopkinson.com/, on three previous blog posts and commented on the wealth of information she graciously shares with the blogosphere. Although her tagline is “The Selfish Poet,” she may be the most unselfish blogger I have come across. In fact, if the motto of my state’s writer’s association is “writers helping writers,” Hopkinson’s motto could easily be “poets helping poets.” The best thing about her blog is that, while she publishes information about any poetry calls for submissions, a vast majority of them are “NO FEE”. Many organizations require a submission fee, sometimes as a reading fee, to pay the contest judges and fund the prize money. However, as you can see from Hopkinson’s research and gracious information sharing, there are also an incredible amount of free contests.

Hopkinson began her blog in September 2012 in a post similar to my own original post, just testing the waters, seeing if the blogging world was real or if we were stepping into the Matrix, and if our work really would be readily available to anyone stumbling on our blog. In the fall of 2014, Hopkinson committed to publishing on a near-daily basis and has been unstoppable since!

I won’t go on and on about her or her blog, rather I’ll let you explore her blog on your own. Her poetry exploits are many, though. She has published dozens of poems in the contests she shares with others, she has won several contests earning prestigious awards, she co-founded a non-profit poetry group in her home state, and regularly publishes information and resources for poets and those interested in poetry.

In addition to Hopkinson’s numerous published individual poems, she has published two chapbooks and has a third releasing in July 2017. She published “Emissions” in 2012 and digitally published it on Issuu in 2014. Likewise, Hopkinson published “Pieced into Treetops” in 2013 and digitally published it to Issuu in 2014. Lithic Press recently honored Hopkinson by publishing a chapbook she has titled “Footnote” which releases later this month. “Footnote” is a collection of response poems to some of Hopkinson’s favorite artists. This is a form known as ekphrasis and it has a long tradition. One of the earliest examples is John Keats’ poem, “Ode on a Gracian Urn.” I’m excited to check out “Footnote” as soon as I can get my hands on a copy!

As always poets, keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

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

 

Poem-A-Day

Poem-A-DayI’m on vacation this week so I’ve been writing a short post throughout this past week and scheduled it to publish this morning at 1000hrs EST. I hope you’ve all had a great week!

The homepage of the Academy of American Poets features a daily poem known as Poem-A-Day. The following description tells you everything you need to know about the program so I won’t belabor the point:

“Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today’s talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact poem-a-day@poets.org.”

I never knew the Academy published a book until I stumbled across this article. You can order the book directly from the Academy’s online store (recommended). You can also pick it up from several online retailers. The Academy’s website describes the book in a single, concise sentence:

“Inspired by Poem-a-Day—the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today’s talented poets each year with classic poems on the weekends—this new book includes poems by John Ashbery, Rita Dove, U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and many more.”

The description on Amazon.com is surprisingly more in-depth, though I don’t necessarily think it needs to explain the entire contents of the book.

“For 80 years, the Academy of American Poets has been one of the most influential and respected champions of contemporary American poetry. Through their successful Poem-a-Day online program, the Academy continues to celebrate verse by delivering poems to thousands of e-mail subscribers each morning. Now for the first time, the poems selected by the Academy for this program are available in book form so that they can be collected and savored.

Loosely organized according to the flow and themes of the seasons (for example, the month of February includes poems on love, lust, and heartache), this substantial volume is designed to encourage the daily practice of reading poetry. A thematic index is included so that poems can be sought out for popular occasions such as marriage, graduation, and holidays, or enjoyed any day of the year.”

I plan on picking this book up soon! For now, the Poem-A-Day column has introduced me to an incredible amount of new poets and styles. It has also inspired several of my own poems whether emulating the featured poem, responding to it in “conversation”, or picking it apart.

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