If you’ve ever wanted your poetry critiqued by an algorithm-using robot, now’s your chance! This nifty little tool allows you to enter your poem in the specified box (where, I imagine, marbles roll through zig-zag plastic tunnels and a penny is flattened and imprinted with Margaret Atwood’s face) then it rates your poem on a numbered scale – negative numbers being more on the “amateur” side of things, and positive numbers on the “professional” side. The application was created using contemporary English poetry and language as a reference point. The website offers more details as to how the tool functions.
Gregory Currie, a professor of philosophy at the University of Nottingham, recently argued in the New York Times that we ought not to claim that literature improves us as people, because there is no “compelling evidence that suggests that people are morally or socially better for reading Tolstoy” or other great books.
Actually, there is such evidence. Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels. A 2010 study by Mar found a similar result in young children: the more stories…
James and Michael Fitzgerald – two graphic designers, apparently after my own heart – have made a poster series called the “A-Z of Unusual Words” series. In it, they have selected unusual or rarely used vocabulary and made an abecedarium of corresponding posters.
The above poster is for the word “Scripturient” which means “possessing a violent desire to write.” You can purchase their posters on their website, “The Project Twins.” Other words included in their series are:
Tarantism – A disorder characterised by an uncontrollable urge to dance
Yonderly – Mentally or emotionally distant; absent-minded.
Biblioclasm – The practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media.
Cacodemonomania -The pathological belief that one is inhabited by an evil spirit.
Artist Frida Kahlo focused much of her art on the self portrait. As Kahlo herself said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” Her self portraits were often out of the ordinary – Kahlo herself was always an eclectic representation of femininity. But, for example, one of her more famous portraits, “The Little Deer” is of her head painted on the body of a deer riddled with arrows.
So, here is your prompt: write a poem that portrays the self. YOUR self. Borrow from Frida and make your self portrait out of the ordinary, surreal, beautiful, weird. Put flowers in your hair, or paste your head onto the body of an animal. Please share your results!
My position – when I’m not on here blogging, or cuddling with my husband – is that of an assistant librarian at a high school. For the most part, I recommend books to children and they stare at me blankly. And of course, I put books back on the shelf, help the English teachers get their class sets sorted out, and try to promote reading in various ways. During the month of April (National Poetry Month! Duh…) I helped the kids at the high school celebrate poem in your pocket day by hiding poems around the school, and giving the students prizes when they came and read a poem to me.
One of the prizes were these bookmarks that I’ve given you a template for! Simply print them out, cut them along the proper lines, cover them in book tape (carefully, I might add), trim the book tape, and voila! You’ve got yourself some perfectly good poetry to look at every time you crack open your book.
Feel free to use these for personal purposes, as gifts, or if you’d like to promote the love of poetry next April.
In my glory days I wrote my own zine. It was called “The White Rabbit Zine” and I featured local artists, poets, and writers, as well as little DIY projects. I dropped the project after my course-load at school became way too heavy, but it was a fun commitment while it lasted!
What constitutes a zine, you ask? Zines are widely variable. They don’t have to just be literary. They can be an art-piece in themselves, they can have a very specific theme. Zines can be little comic books, they can be in black and white and copied at Kinko’s. They can be hand-bound or cut and pasted. The options are limitless, really.
Making a Zine can be a great way to self-publish your own art or writing, or to feature other artists that you admire. They’re little labors of love – homages to our fascinations. Collecting zines is a great means of reaching out to your arts community, and connecting with underexposed authors and artists.
The Zine pictured here is a literary Zine available for purchase on etsy.com, that features some short stories and poems all on the theme of heartbreak. Here are some other great zines, and information about zine-making: