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.
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.
Something that has been invaluable to me as a poet is getting involved in my local poetry community. When I was still in my undergrad I would frequent the University of Arizona Poetry Center – a contemporary poetry library with TONS of amazing books, as well as many comfy couches. The Poetry Center puts on frequent readings from up and coming poets, well-established poets, and MFA writing students. Going to these readings is totally awesome, because you get a Q & A with the poet(s) afterward, and can even purchase their book and have them sign it! A poetry nerd’s fantasy, really.
Luckily for everyone, even if you can’t be at these readings in body, you can still watch and listen to the readings on the Poetry Center’s Website via their free onlineaudio visual library: VOCA. There are even some readings from the likes of Allen Ginsberg, and my poetic crush Zachary Schomburg.
The beginning of the Shameless Word-Artist Society is comparable to the beginning of the solar system: a few poets drifting along in the dark of poetic space crossed paths and began gravitating together, around the large, phosphorescent mass that is poetry.
The president of SWAS, Shanalee Smith, founded our group while studying creative writing at the U of A in 2010. She quickly invited as many fellow poets, writers, and dreamers as she could squeeze an e-mail address out of, and the group began meeting on a weekly basis at various cafes and grassy hills on campus.
Since that time, the amount of group members we have has fluctuated: people have moved, graduated, taken up other hobbies. But we still meet weekly to workshop each other’s poetry and fiction in a communion of coffee, tea, and strong language.
The other Shameless Word Artists: Nichole, Aurora, and Amy
And our long-distance artists: Dorian, Bobby, and Kevin