Tag: poetry

Sex, Drugs and Greek Rock and Roll

George Gordon Byron, referred to these days as simply Lord Byron, was one of the leading poets of the English Romantic period. Born on this day 232 years ago in 1788, he died aged 36. Byron was known for being subversive, racy and more than a bit eccentric – and just wait until you hear about his pet in college.

Byron was born in London to parents Catherine Gordon and Captain John “Mad Jack” Byron. Mad Jack married heiress Catherine, allegedly for her money. He gambled most of her fortune and fathered George before then dying in 1791. Rumors circulated that he had a grisly end, but tuberculosis is more likely.

 

One thing that Byron was known for, both in the 1800s and today, was his rampant promiscuity and his hazy sexuality. Like a lot of other literary heroes (looking at YOU, Joyce), he got it on with many people, to the detriment of his own health, and he was diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea by the time he turned twenty-one. His romantic history includes a roster of relatives, like cousin Mary Chaworth and half-sister Augusta. While in education he experimented with young men, young women, not-so-young married women. Basically, he was busy.

thinkin’ bout boys (and girls) via wikipedia

Always the rebel, Byron was constantly breaking rules and basically being the O.G. Romantic Bad Boy. One of his lovers once described him as “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”. You know the type. He’ll write you poetry one day but break your heart two weeks later by asking your sister out (or his own, apparently). He is said to have enjoyed scaring people or making them uncomfortable. Allegedly, he had a tame bear during his time at Cambridge that he would walk around campus. This was in answer to his college denying his request to have a dog. Disclaimer: Bookstr does NOT recommend this as a method of working around your dorm’s pet allowances!

 

Since Byron was so busy ahem, dallying, with so many people, it should come as no surprise that he fathered a few children. He had some rumored, out-of-wedlock children, like Allegra Byron, alongside legitimate daughter Ada Lovelace. Allegra sadly died of typhus, aged 5. Ada, however,  grew to be one of the first software developers, having worked on very early computer software, a.k.a the Analytical Engine.

image via brittanica

Aside from writing, shocking and sinning, Byron’s other passion was Greece. No, not the 1978 classic film, the country. George donated a lot of his own fortune to the revolution in Greece. A War of Independence was being fought and Byron wanted to take part and fight alongside them against the Ottoman Empire. Sadly, he caught a terrible cold while abroad and it was a resultant fever that took him out in the end.

 

Bad Boy Lord Byron is celebrated today as a true Romantic poet. His narrative works Don Juan – all seventeen cantos of it!! -and Childe Harolde are renowned still. He moved in some seriously impressive circles, staying with the Shelleys in Italy as Frankenstein was being concocted. Despite his debauchery and his less-than-savory hobbies, he was passionate about his craft and wrote some beautiful poems which still resonate in a more modern age.

image via pinterest

Happy Birthday, Byron! Were he alive today, we have little doubt that his birthday bash would be of the strip club and shots kind. After all, he wasn’t Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know for nothing!


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Featured image via Poetry Foundation

 

 

 

 

5 Poets to Remind You Poetry Isn’t Boring

Poetry is always around but never really fore frontal in the literary community. Poetry seems to be deemed as sort of the bastard child of the writing world, and you may be thinking.. well yeh, why should folks be paying attention to poetry anyway? Here’s why: poetry is everything we do in life, the beauty, the heartbreak, the frustration, the anxiety, the ugly.. all of it, literally all of it.  Poetry captures and encapsulates the human experience in whimsy and word play, in language and love. If you are adverse to poetry, ask yourself why? What turns you off to it? What makes it difficult to enter and linger and savor? Pinpoint that and push through it because the reward will be sweet stanzas of rhythm, abstraction and a retelling of the world around us in the most beautiful and complexly minimal way. Here are some dope poets to be on the lookout for as you challenge yourself to fall in love with this genre all over again or for the first time if elementary school acrostics never landed for you.  These 5 contemporary poets should find their way to your hearts and minds. Spread their gospel like wildfire to hopefully begin to turn the tide to the mainstream because poetry isn’t only for poets.

  1. Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker is as beautiful and kind as she is brilliant. I was put on to Morgan when she dropped There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé and since have been steadily collecting all of her works. Why? Because she looks critically at popular culture and how it affects our identities and relationships. Every word she writes screams of intersectionality, relevance and finding beauty in awkwardness. I think if Insecure wasn’t a popular Netflix show and was a poem instead, it would be a Morgan Parker poem. She gives me chills when I read her poems and when I see her read in person I am comforted and warmed by her spirit. From the bio page on her website:

Morgan Parker is a poet, essayist, and novelist. She is the author of the poetry collections Magical Negro (Tin House 2019), There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House 2017), and Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night (Switchback Books 2015). Her debut young adult novel Who Put This Song On? will be released by Delacorte Press on September 24, 2019. A debut book of nonfiction is forthcoming from One World. Parker is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, winner of a Pushcart Prize, and has been hailed by The New York Times as “a dynamic craftsperson” of “considerable consequence to American poetry.”

http://www.morgan-parker.com/

 

  1. Hanif Abdurraqib

I was introduced to Hanif Abdurraqib by the statement ‘he is probably your favorite authors favorite author.’  And well I’ll be damned, he certainly is. A sneaker and ice cream enthusiast, Hanif doesn’t need to command a room, or a stage, a mic or a page- but he does so organically with his quiet, thoughtful, rhythmic musicality. His writing is musically charged and often from a place of being an observer at venues and in love. But he is far from just a fly on the wall. He is the guy you would dream could write your biopic. He is intentional in his wall flowering. His writing skills pull the reader in and creates any scene viscerally to follow along and add your own subtext as you move through his words. What other author could write just as purposefully about Carly Rae Jepsen as  he does Wu Tang? Well that dichotomy is where Hanif thrives. He is just as fluid and real about pop culture in all forms and his brilliance spills across every page he graces. From the about page on his website:

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. With Big Lucks, he released a limited edition chapbook, Vintage Sadness, in summer 2017 (you cannot get it anymore and he is very sorry.) His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest with University of Texas press in February 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller, and was met with critical acclaim. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, is being released by Tin House Books in September 2019.

http://www.abdurraqib.com/

 

 

 

 

  1. SamSax

sam sax’s writing is gritty, unforgiving, explorative and the slap in the face the 21st century needs in regards to couch surfing homosexuality and pill popping tendencies. His themes hit hard for most millennials and captures so much of the pain, happiness, misery, and loneliness that stems from medicine, love and relationships. sam uses poignant language to explore the depths of homosexuality in ways we often stray away or cringe from. He makes us look in the mirror and examine what we see. You can usually catch him with pretty sparkling nail polish and a hat that reads simply, homo. He is poetry in the human form. From sam’s website:

sam sax is a queer, jewish, poet, & educator. He’s the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017) winner of The National Poetry Series and ‘Bury It’ (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, & the MacDowell Colony. He’s the two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion, author of four chapbooks & winner of the Gulf Coast Prize, The Iowa Review Award, & American Literary Award. His poems have appeared in BuzzFeed, The New York Times, The Nation, Poetry Magazine + other journals. He’s the poetry editor at BOAAT Press & will be a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University this Fall.

https://www.samsax.com/

 

  1. Ross Gay

Ross Gay literally make you feel happiness even when life is throwing a poop storm your way. His beautifully intricate, complex writing finds ways to highlight the positive by using nature, small moments and connections to emerge as our purpose and silver lining. I came across Ross in a writing workshop in college where he shared two versions of Bring Down the Shovel- one where the boy killed the dog with a shovel and the other where the boy fed the dog with the shovel. Both were chilling and complex and visceral. Ross is the poet that can take a horrible moment and remind us why life is still worth living and ultimately beautiful. He works tirelessly to find beauty in anything and that’s honestly what poetry (and life) is all about. Ross makes you want to be a better person without the guilt or heavy handedness that typically comes with that sort of ask. Cause to be real, he isn’t asking you, he just is.  From Ross Gay’s about page:

Ross Gay is the author of three books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His collection of essays,The Book of Delights, was released by Algonquin Books in 2019.

Ross is also the co-author, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, of the chapbook “Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens,” in addition to being co-author, with Richard Wehrenberg, Jr., of the chapbook, “River.”  He is a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin’, in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press.  Ross is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Ross teaches at Indiana University.

https://www.rossgay.net/about

 

  1. Danez Smith

Danez Smith was hands down one of my favorite poets when their first and second book dropped but has slowly been losing my fandom as they skyrocket in fame. Some authors maintain that humble, mousy space that many writers embody. While other poets have more of a stage/ performance presence and in this case Danez can sometimes eclipse themselves. Danez’s poems are undeniable and the readings are also chilling, vibrant, poignant and necessary. Tackling content around friendships, AIDs, sex, masculinity, homoesxuality and stages of love their first two books were really groundbreaking in the layout, artwork and content and while the fire has died down a bit for me, I am still holding on and extremely engaged with their moves. It’s like when your favorite underground band makes its way to the top 10 list and becomes a household name and you yearn for those days the world and the band weren’t aware of themselves. From Danez’s website bio page:

Danez Smith is a Black, Queer, Poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of “Don’t Call Us Dead” (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award, and “[insert] boy” (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Danez’s work has been featured widely including on Buzzfeed, The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, Best American Poetry, Poetry Magazine, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Danez has been featured as part of Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 list and is the winner of a Pushcart Prize. They are a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness. Danez’s third collection, “Homie”, will be published by Graywolf in Spring 2020.

http://www.danezsmithpoet.com/bio-encore

 

Check these poets out, share their poems, hear their readings. Help bring poetry back into the mainstream and remind us all that we are all poetry. I promise they will never bore you or lose you. This list will help break down the stigma of stodgy old white dudes writing in metered rhyme about misogynistic, unrequited love.

Honorable mentions:

Jasmine Man

Terrance Hayes

Mahogany Brown

Roger Reeves

Jamaal May

Courtney Lamar Charleston

Nate Marshall

Matthew Zapruder 

 

All In-text Images Via Google.


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5 Poems About Cats To Get You Ready For the Film/Uncanny Valley Nightmare “Cats”

A list of poems about cats to get you ready for the book-of-poems-turned-musical-turned-nightmarish-film called Cats? Oh yes.

For those not in the loop, the musical Cats was originally inspired by a short book of cat poems written by T.S. Eliot. Did actors and actresses walk around the stage wearing cat costumes? Yes. Has the musical become both a theatrical classic and a joke? You bet.

And now, with the film premiering in the United States in but a few days, should we be ready for an uncanny valley nightmare? Yes.

Am I still going to go watch it?

…Yeah. Yeah, I am.

And am I going to use this film’s premiere as an excuse to share five poems about cats?

Oh yeah.

Here are five poems about cats for your reading consumption.

1. “The Cat and The Moon” by W.B. Yeats

image via teepublic

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet,
What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn. [read more]

2. “February” by Margaret Atwood

image via animalwised
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks. [read more]

3. “Les chats” or “cats” by Charles Baudelaire (translation by william aggeler)

image via bookriot

Both ardent lovers and austere scholars
Love in their mature years
The strong and gentle cats, pride of the house,
Who like them are sedentary and sensitive to cold.

Friends of learning and sensual pleasure,
They seek the silence and the horror of darkness;
Erebus would have used them as his gloomy steeds:
If their pride could let them stoop to bondage. [read more]

4. “The cats will know” by cesare Pavese (translation by geoffrey brock)

image via pinterest
Rain will fall again
on your smooth pavement,
a light rain like
a breath or a step.
The breeze and the dawn
will flourish again
when you return,
as if beneath your step.
Between flowers and sills
the cats will know.
There will be other days,
there will be other voices.
You will smile alone.
The cats will know.
You will hear words
old and spent and useless
like costumes left over
from yesterday’s parties. [read more]

5. “The Naming of Cats” by t.s. Eliot

image via Brain pickings
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
     It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
     Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—
     All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
     Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter—
     But all of them sensible everyday names,
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
     A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
     Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
     Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum—
     Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
     And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover—
     But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
     The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
     Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
          His ineffable effable
          Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular name.
Cover image via Collider

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Five Ways to Fight Reader’s Block

Do you live under the looming weight of the sword of Damocles that is your TBR pile? Does it watch you day and night, unconquerable and ever growing? Do you fear you’ll be crushed one day if you close a door too hard? This article is for you.

Image result for loving books
Image via Dr. Bristol’s Prescription

It happens to all of us. Plenty of good books to read, at least a little time (there’s always time for books), and yet, do books get read? There are a thousand comics about how many MORE books we’ll buy, even when the TBR pile starts to take on a life of its own. I don’t know what’s to be done about that, but I do know some tricks for getting out of a slump and back to what matters.

 

Read Something Shorter

Image via Deposit Photos

It can work! Have you been reading every LOTR book back to back like I tried to when I was twelve? I was a FOOL, and you are too, no offense. I know why you’re not reading. Get yourself out of a rut with something lighter, or even just physically smaller. I like to pick up poetry chapbooks for this, but anything will do, poetry, short stories – try and pick something with bite sized pieces, so you can feel accomplishment with much less focus.

 

Borrow from the Library

Image result for library books
Image via Stamma

I know, I know, you have them in your house! But hear me out. No, It’s not about the fines, though I obviously don’t want to pay the fines either. If I keep library books too long, I feel bad! They expected it back! Someone might be waiting for it! I gotta get it back on time. This might be more of a me thing, but do you want to let librarians down? Please. The ticking clock might lead you to finish the book quickly. Plus, checking out books proves that people use libraries, making it harder to cut their funding.

 

Try Audio Books

Image result for audiobooks
Image via Medium

I’ve never been an audio book person – at least since I was a kid – but they’re great for reader’s block, or if you’re super busy. You can cook, or clean the house, or listen on the bus. Plus, if you just don’t find yourself reading, an audio book takes almost no effort to experience. If you’ve ever felt like you don’t read like you used to when you were a kid, this might be a good way to get back in your stride, and quickly check a few things off your TBR.

Also, and you didn’t hear it from me, you can get audio books from libraries for free. Ask a librarian!

 

Try a New Genre

Image result for book genres

Have a huge pile of science fiction you can’t seem to get through? Maybe grab a biography or a graphic novel. Too much historical fiction got you confused on who had affairs in real life and who was made up? Read some manga or get a book that’s pure fiction. If your book is already all biographies or something, try something a little less dry, throw a thriller or some high fantasy in the mix. Maybe even a genre you really don’t read. Shake it up!

 

Reread a Favorite

Image result for used books
Image via Book Riot

Everyone has a handful of books they could read a thousand times. Even if it doesn’t feel productive, rereading a book you love can get you back in the swing of things, and remind you what you love so much about reading. Plus, it’s always nice to revisit an amazing book, whatever the reason. After that, you can go on and find a new favorite book, or three. I miss reading. Let’s get on this, friends.


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Featured image via Shutterstock

5 Poems To Get You In The Mood For Winter

The seasons have always been a point of interest for poets, writers, and artists. Winter, of course, is no exception to this rule.

So, to get you in the mood for winter, here are five poems (with links provided) that you should read this season.

 

 

1. Winter: My Secret by Christina Rossetti

 

image via Britannica

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I;

Perhaps some day, who knows? But not today; it froze, and blows and snows,

And you’re too curious: fie!

You want to hear it? well:

Only, my secret’s mine, and I won’t tell.

 

 

2. The Snow Fairy by Claude McKay

 

image via poetry foundation

Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,

Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,

Whirling fantastic in the misty air,

Contending fierce for space supremacy.

And they flew down a mightier force at night,

As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,

And they, frail things had taken panic flight

Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.

I went to bed and rose at early dawn

To see them huddled together in a heap,

Each merged into the other upon the lawn,

Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep.

The sun shone brightly on them half the day,

By night they stealthily had stol’n away.

 

 

3. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.

 

image via Britannica

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

Very much so a classic!

 

4. A Winter’s Tale by Dylan Thomas

 

image via walesonline

IT is a winter’s tale

That the snow blind twilight ferries over the lake

And floating fields from the farm in the cup of the vales,

Gliding windless through the hand folded flakes,

The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail,

 

 

5. Winter Love by Linda Gregg

 

image via the new yorker

I would like to decorate this silence,

but my house grows only cleaner

and more plain. The glass chimes I hung

over the register ring a little

when the heat goes on.

I waited too long to drink my tea.

It was not hot. It was only warm.

 

 

Featured Image Via Public Domain Pictures

 

 


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