Free E-book: 30 Years of Phoenix Poets

Phoenix EBookThe University of Chicago Press makes a different e-book available free every month. For October, it’s “Thirty Years of Phoenix Poets: 1983 – 2012,” a sampler of 30 poems, one from each year that the well-regarded Phoenix Poets series has been publishing.

To get yours, click here, and follow the instructions. If you’re a Kindle user, you’ll find it in the Kindle bookstore. Enjoy!

A Charm [1983] from David Ferry’s Strangers

I have a twin who bears my name;
Bears it about with him in shame;

Who goes a way I would not go;
Has knowledge of things I would not know;

When I was brave, he was afraid;
He told the truth; I lied;

What’s sweet to me tastes bitter to him;
My friends, my friends, he loves not them;

I walk the daylight in his dream;
He breathes the air of my nightmare.

The Best-Written Postage Stamp You Will Read Today

In 2010, Dublin was appointed a UNESCO “City of Literature.” In honor of this, a postage stamp was commissioned. When the stamp was released earlier this year, it was unlike other literary stamps. It didn’t feature a physical landmark, an illustration from a novel, or a writer’s portrait; it featured a complete, new story by Eoin Moore.


(Found at

From Higgledy-Piggledy to Idiosyncracy: A Brief, Light Study of Metrics and the Poet’s Reception in Wendy Cope’s “Emily Dickinson”

Higgledy-piggledy is metrically identical to Emily Dickinson. So is idiosyncracy.

Wendy Cope used these sonic correspondences niftily in her poem “Emily Dickinson“:

Emily Dickinson
Liked to use dashes
Instead of full stops.

Nowadays, faced with such
Critics and editors
Send for the cops.

One charming and effective technique in the poem is how the first stanza identifies E.D. with higgledy-piggledy-ness and then graduates her, in the second stanza to idiosyncracy.

This mirrors how E.D. was received historically: at first intolerably unconventional, and decades later undeniably artistic. It’s also how most of us individual readers experience her poems: first as a “What the *&^% is this alphabet soup?” And months (or years) later as a “This soup is pretty #$%^ good–never had anything quite like it!”

Well-written, Ms. Cope.

The Reading at the End of the Universe

I’m sure you’ve heard that the world is ending a week from today. If you are stuck at your computer on the 21st–instead of, say, cowering in your basement, maxing out your credit cards, injecting yourself with cockroach DNA, or bacchanaling it up somewhere–and you still want to mark the occasion, then this is for you:

InDigest Magazine is hosting an all-day, online reading of apocalyptic writing on December 21, at their YouTube channel. Bookmark it now so that this isn’t one of the things you forget to do before the world ends.

(Find out more at InDigest.)

Huge, Nearly-Wordless, Embroidered Facsimiles of Emily Dickinson’s Handwritten Manuscripts, by Jen Bervin

Emily Dickinson’s poems went unpublished during her life and for decades after her death. When they were published, nearly all of her creative, idiosyncratic punctuation and personal notation marks were deleted or changed to more familiar, standardized, comfortable, and boring marks.

Jen Bervin, The Composite Marks of Emily Dickinson's Fascicle 28

Jen Bervin’s huge quilts (up to 40 feet by 8 feet!) flip that script: she has removed nearly all the words, leaving patterns of crosses, dashes, underscores, and strikethroughs. Bervin’s pieces give prominence to the marks most of us have never seen.

Jen Bervin, The Composite Marks of Emily Dickinson's Fascicle 28, detail.

What elevates these past curiosity up to artwork, for me, is that they use craft and materials to prompt worthwhile questions. For instance: Are these marks as insignificant, as non-signifying as they seem, spattered up there in red thread? Or, are they a thoroughly personal writing method (and how would I feel if my notebooks were turned inside out and shaken for weird punctuation like this?) Or, are they a medium of communication themselves? A code, maybe? A language, even? And what have we never known because we ignored them?

Jen Bervin, The Composite Marks of Emily Dickinson's Fascicle 16.

And in a fine text-to-textile-to-text twist, now Bervin’s work is available in book form. Details about this book, more photos of these pieces, and a thoughtful essay about Dickinson’s poems and Bervin’s own work are available at her website. I encourage you to check them out.

Jen Bervin, The Dickinson Composites (Granary Books, 2010).

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Scottish Poetry Library Advent Calendar

Today is Day 10 of Advent, the season of anticipating the birth of Christ, and even if you haven’t paid attention so far, it’s not to late to enjoy the first ten items in any good advent calendar. If you like blogs and poems more than flipping up paper flaps or opening felt pockets, check out the Scottish Poetry Library’s calendar:

Day 1: Richard Price reads “Open the Paper Windows”

Day 2: Aonghas MacNeacail reads “This Season’s Feast”

Day 3: John Burnside reads “Late Show”

Day 4: Picture This (a collection of poetry vinyl album covers)

Day 5: John Cale and Dylan Thomas, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Day 6: “The God of Sugar,” a filmpoem by Alastair Cook

Day 7: The final book sculpture

Day 8: Ryan Van Winkle reads “Untitled (How I Lived a Childhood in Snow)”

Day 9: Bob Dylan, “It Must be Santa”

Day 10: Emily Dickinson, “The Savior must have been” (And her recipe for coconut cake!)

Check back every day through Christmas at the SPL blog. And most days throughout the year after that for other great posts.

“B or Not a B?,” a poem by Gary Dop

A little something to get you through the last presentations of the semester, from Minneapolis poet & teacher, Gary Dop:

Shakespeare, the top American writer ever,
wrote his plays in an English accent
like Russell Crowe. “Merchant of Venice”

is a problem play because it’s about hard crap
like racism and the civil rights movement,
but not Martin Luther King who was southern

and not in Boston like the bard,
which’s Willie’s nick name. People call me
Slash. Al Pacino’s a character in the movie

adapted by Shakespeare just like the play,
except Shakespeare liked boys
to play girls, and no girls were allowed

in his theaters all over the globe. Even girl parts
like the chick who looks like Cate Blanchett,
who dresses like a boy — like Cate did

when she played Bob Dylan — that girl’s named
after the car, Portia, to indicate she’s wealthy —
even those girls were boys, but nobody was gay

back then — no offense. The Shylock wants
a pound of Jeremy Irons to pay for his sins
because Jews are going to hell

according to the Angel-Kind church, which is like
Catholics but their Pope gets divorced.
Queen Elizabeth, who still isn’t dead,

banished the Jews. During the Holocaust
Hitler killed 6 million Jews. Israel was founded
in 1948. One scholar, Ilikeitlikethat74

on, suggested that Shakespeare
was racist and hired a ghost writer.
Build to a passionate close — oops,

I wasn’t supposed to — that was my notes.
So we can learn much intelligence
from “Merchant” even if we don’t know Jews

and we don’t like Christians. In conclusion
a quote from Pacino, who starred
in Scarface and he was the devil

in that one with Keanu Reeves: “I am a Jew.
Hath not a Jew hands.” I’ll skip ahead
to stay under time. “If you prick us,

do we not bleed?” It’s like, If you tickle us,
do we not laugh? In conclusion, you grasp
that Shakespeare is patriotic

and would have stood on the white cliffs
of Dover, Georgia with Dr. King.

Incidentally, I used to think pieces like this, or Richard Lederer’s classic, often-plagiarized-and/or-forwarded “Brief History of the World,” (Sir Francis Drake circumcising the world with a 100-foot clipper, and other eras from the anals of history) had to be put-ons. It was easier to believe that one clever guy could invent a hilarious tour de force of misunderstandings or malapropisms than that a steady tour of ordinary students could each contribute their own bit of farce.

I’ve been teaching long enough to believe both now: Some teachers are creative geniuses, and most students have genuinely boneheaded moments. Put those together and, well, way to go, Gary!

(Listen to Gary Dop read his poem at Minnesota Public Radio. It was first published in Quiddity.)