Prize-winning poet Brenda Hillman has been deeply engaged with war resistance, Code Pink, and the Occupy movements for many years. In this interview she discusses poetry and politics with terrific lucidity and deep knowledge.

One of the smartest statements on the need for an engaged poetics that I’ve read. Highly recommended.

Here are a few small extracts, but, really, go read the entire interview:

“We cannot wait for our engagement to be packaged by the State and sold back to us as corporate political parties. We have to use our great imaginations. Poets should be resisters and harridans when things are amiss in the State.”

“I now believe that our protests must involve the whole broken monetary system; society is not fixable under the current model, in that it cannot bring justice to a large number of people who are serving the few.”

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Sam Riedel has written an excellent brief history of the chapbook from the Middle Ages onward. All you want to know in a pleasant ten-minute read. Recommended.

Writing by Hand: Lovely or Luddite?

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 in Creativity, Writing Gear
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Excellent essay on writing by hand by Kevin Hartnett at The Millions. An extract:

Overall I think there’s greater variance in the quality of the writing I produce by hand. The good stuff I write is cleaner, more honest, less stylized, more well-considered. The bad stuff is more obvious, more ponderous, more self-involved, maybe weirder… Writing on the computer drives my writing towards some average value — I think/write/delete/think/write until I have something that’s decent but maybe less vibrant than the ideas… conceived in my head.

Do you write by hand? Is it a better way to write?

I hate and love. You wonder, perhaps, why I’d do that?
I have no idea. I just feel it. I am crucified.

— Gaius Valerius Catullus (84-54 B.C.)

(translated by Peter Green)

Tom Bissell talks about the role of luck in “making it” as a writer in this interview in Salon:

…our lives are subject to so many freak accidents and so many completely random occurrences that to be lucky enough to be able to work as a professional writer and get paid for it, and to think that you got there just because you’re so wonderful, that confidence will eventually just make you lazy and uninteresting.

He also talks about the tragedy of Melville’s later years, and names complacency and alcohol as the writer’s two worst enemies. An interesting interview.

Excellent article in the New York Review of Books by Michael Kimmelman on Gertrude Stein and her brothers, Leo and Michael. Kimmelman explores, among other topics,  Stein’s puzzling support of  Fascism.

“What might be called the inherent narcissism of modernist abstraction, with its inward-turning focus on its own formal means and devices, its willful divorce from the sort of close social observation and proletarian politics that caused writers like Dreiser, Zola, and Sinclair Lewis to be tarred as anti-modernists, is not incompatible with the clean-sweep radicalism promised by fascism… (nor) with the notion of a centralized, supreme… authority.”

Recommended.

How do readers find books? Or, more importantly, how will they find your book? According to this poll on the MobileRead forum, readers find books in the following ways (in order):

  •  Recommendations from friends or other readers
  • Recommendations from online forums, blogs, or message boards
  • Bookstore browsing
  • Amazon reviews/recommendations
  • Interesting covers or blurbs
  • Free download or bargain price
  • Library browsing
  • Mainstream media reviews
  • Kobo
  • MobileRead
  • Bestseller lists
  • Author sites
  • Award lists

So, if you want to sell your book, you have to somehow tap into the huge informal system of friends talking to friends, either in person or online. Everything else is secondary.

 

“We may feel bitterly how little our poems can do in the face of seemingly out-of-control technological power and seemingly limitless corporate greed, yet it has always been true that poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed or made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible, remind us of kinship where all is represented as separation.” —Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. …(It)… is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

— Anne Lamott

(Thanks to Advice for Writers for this fine quotation.)

Sinking Feeling

Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 in Prose Poems
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I fell in love with a woman who was sitting behind a cage.  The cage surrounded her but the seat was so high up that she looked down on everyone who was watching.  She was a blonde woman in a blue dress and had a nervous smile.

I observed as folks lined up around where she stayed.  Finally, some guy threw a baseball and hit the target.  Her seat gave in and she went into the water bellow. All the idiots laughed and cheered.  To this day, I hate that picnic and the lousy dunk-tank, too.

— John Kujawski

John has interests that range from guitars to the Incredible Hulk.  He was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri and still lives there to this day.  You can hear him on the weekly podcast at www.comicbookshowdown.com.