April Is (US) National Poetry Month

… and I know that I have many poets among my readers (and many who appreciate poets). I don’t have a really big soapbox here, or a really loud megaphone, but it’s bigger than it used to be, and bigger than a lot of personal blogs where people are writing amazing and beautiful things that only a very small number of folk get to read.

I’d like to promote some of those people, if I could–if they want me to. Some of you, I am very well aware of your writing, but I would never shine a spotlight on you without knowing you are ok with that. So… what are your favorite (especially modern, living, even unknown or little-known) poets? What are your favorite poems (I especially ask this of the poets themselves)? Send me your favorites, and with permission, I will happily feature them and link to your site.

I am a big believer in poetry, and in verse–constrained writing is thoughtful writing; creativity and novelty arise and flourish in these conditions.

And since it is Poetry Month, not just Atheist Poetry Month (or Science Poetry Month, or any such animal), there are no limitations on what sorts of poetry you can submit. Heh… as if I could stop you.

Code Blue Limerick Emergency Alert!

Ok, people, this one is serious. Spread the word to anyone you suspect might help, or anyone you suspect knows people who might help.

One of the cooler projects in the history of humankind is the OEDILF—the Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form. I first wrote about them here. Their goal is

to write at least one limerick for each meaning of each and every word in the English language. Our best limericks will clearly define their words in a humorous or interesting way, although some may provide more entertainment than definition, or vice versa.

Seriously. Think about that. Every word in the English language. Suddenly I don’t look nearly so obsessive, do I? And, to top it off, they are doing this in alphabetical order. They won’t get to “Nantucket” until maybe 2020. And these are limericists! There are contributors with thousands of limericks to their credit—one author with over ten thousand submitted!

Anyway… I just got an email: for whatever reasons, their limericists are slacking off. (Full disclosure: I’m at least partial author on… wait, really? … on over 100 limericks. I honestly thought it was at least a score fewer. I stopped in 2009 or so because I started this blog instead. So, yeah, I am one of the slackers.) They are currently well below their historic levels of limericks.

You can help. If you read my blog, you are a rare creature. And you are likely to hang around with other rare creatures. So please… spread the word.

Join the OEDILF movement. Start writing limericks. Tell your friends. Especially the ones who have fun with limericks.

I mentioned above, the OEDILF team are moving through the dictionary in alphabetical order; they don’t open up a new set of letters until they have completed a certain percentage of the previous words. Thing is, a substantial number of the uncompleted words happen to be highly specialized—scientific or philosophical terms. You know—the stuff my readers eat for breakfast.

So you are the perfect solution.

You can save the OEDILF.

And you should. It’s worth saving. It is the very definition of a quixotic crusade (they may not get to “quixotic” in my lifetime; that should tell us something).

Ok, a bit of backstory. A good many of my early proposed limericks… were terrible. The people at OEDILF are the best of the best. Their limericks are not forced. Their rhymes are not “close enough”. They have a workshop process that winnows out bad limericks, and improves good ones. Like I said, these people are the best.

When I started submitting limericks at the OEDILF, I arrogantly assumed my verses were good enough. No. My limericks included some forced rhymes, and some metric no-no’s. They’d have been fine for Carl Kassel to read on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’s “listener limerick challenge”, but those tend to be really clunky limericks serving a different purpose.

So anyway, don’t do what I did, and just assume that the workshopping process will fix your limericks. Take the time to polish your work before submitting it, and take pride in being part of a really cool global act of obsession.

And hey, it’s fun!

Verse Form Invades New Niche

Reader Shellity has made good on her promise to pinch my verse form. Even better, her wonderful poem has shown added flexibility–three verses, instead of my usual one or two, showing me that my form has greater potential than I ever suspected! This is how it begins, and before you know it my verse form will be boring elementary school children for generations to come!

While you are at Shellity’s, take a look around; in particular, I loved what I saw in the “Big Angry Sky Daddy” category. I always said I wasn’t the best at what I do. I just got here first.

John Donne On The Temple Shooting

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect (at my privileged distance) of the Sikh Temple shooting, is the obsession with the differences between Sikhs and Muslims. Intentional or not, the implication is clear; it would be understandable if someone shot up a Muslim mosque.


A guest post today from John Donne. The context was different, and this is an excerpt (albeit the best-known excerpt) from a larger meditation (Meditation XVII–Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris (Now this bell, tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.))

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Click and Clack, Redux

While looking for yesterday’s verse–the one I wanted to send to Car Talk, but did not–I came across another car-related poem (part of the same assignment, actually) which I had thoroughly forgotten about. It is a villanelle (most famously exemplified by Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night”), and in this case, the best thing about the poem is its title. Which, as you will see, announces that it is a silly verse, and is a villanelle. After the jump: [Read more…]

Poems For Sale

I love this story (on NPR)

Zach Houston runs his Poem Store (on any given sidewalk) with these items: a manual typewriter, a wooden folding chair, scraps of paper, and a white poster board that reads: “POEMS — Your Topic, Your Price.”

For five years now, this has been his main source of income. Not that it’s necessarily a steady income, mind you.

I don’t think I could do what he’s doing. There are a few times when my verses flow out as fast as I can type them, but when you work in rhyme and meter, a typewriter is a bit intimidating. Give me a delete button, or better yet, an eraser. Actually, I don’t generally erase–I cross out, and put arrows on the page to move things around. Once in a while, I re-write something I have crossed out, which suddenly fits two stanzas later than I thought it would. But a typewriter? I’d need two drafts, and Zach Houston is putting out poems in mere minutes (at least, the examples in the story).

But he’s not starving, which is nice.

Ironically, I got a payment from Lulu today–two people bought my book last month! That brings the number of books sold in 4 years to 161. (Greta Christina broke a thousand in a few hours; PZ will probably have a few thousand pre-orders already.) But hey, Zach Houston shows that hope springs eternal, perhaps particularly during poetry month. So…

Take a look! (And if that doesn’t work, just look to the “Cuttlestuff” tab at the top of this page, or go to Lulu and look for “Cuttlefish Omnibus” if all my methods fail.)