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Tag: Poetry (21-30 of 37)

James Franco talks poetry, 'Broken Tower,' and a whole lot of higher learning

James-FrancoImage Credit: Jon Furniss/WireImage.comJames Franco sat down with the Poetry Foundation to sound off on his latest poetry obsessions, including gay modernist poet Hart Crane, who he played in the upcoming biopic The Broken Tower (he also directed). Reading Franco’s lengthy, detailed responses, you can detect not only the caffeine that he undoubtedly needs in order to function—the man has a lot going on—but also a deep knowledge and genuine geek-fandom of his poetry heroes.

While Franco’s proves himself a discriminating poetry connoisseur, he seems equally opinionated on the finer points of the many institutions of higher learning he’s attended. Naysayers might have taken issue with his admission to Yale’s English PhD program, but the Ivy League doesn’t bow to his every wish just because he’s a movie star—Columbia wouldn’t even let him take poetry and fiction classes at the same time. But at this point, we know there’s so stopping this guy from getting educated:

James Franco: When I was at Columbia there were some great poets there, and I wanted to study with Richard Howard. I was in one of his lectures, but I wanted to take a poetry workshop with him, but they just said no [laughs]. You can cross over in the lectures and seminars, but fiction writers are not allowed to go to the poetry workshops. So I asked this guy named Ian R. Wilson, who taught me at UCLA Extension, what I should do. I had gone to UCLA when I was 18 to get my bachelor’s in English, and then I left after a year to act. I went back eight years later to finish, but before I re-enrolled, I took some classes through UCLA Extension. And I took a couple of writing classes with this guy named Ian R. Wilson.

It’s funny because the UCLA Extension writing classes have a great history—Michael Cunningham taught there, and John Rechy and Janet Fitch—so I took some classes there, and this guy Ian R. Wilson was my teacher. He wrote both fiction and poetry, and so when Columbia told me that I couldn’t take the poetry classes, I was pissed off. So I asked him, “Where should I go? I want a place so I can study poetry seriously.” Even though I am at Yale now, sure there are some classes on contemporary poetry, but not in the way that it’s studied at Warren Wilson.

At Yale, you study the Romantics, you study Whitman, but not contemporary poetry. Ian said, “For my money, Warren Wilson is the best poetry program in the country as far as the faculty goes and the way the program is run and the attention you get. You should go there.” And so I applied and they let me in.

Yeah. And he hasn’t even named all the schools he’s attended or taught at. It’s all very admirable, but is there a word for an addiction to education—maybe pedantiphilia?

Megan Fox's poetic new tattoo: Does anyone know the source?

megan-foxImage Credit: Splash NewsCelebrity tattoos can be meaningful (Angelina Jolie’s veritable UNESCO of cultural runes), amusing (Johnny Depp’s palimpsestic “Wino Forever”), and unfortunate (everything Steve-O has ever done to himself), but rarely are they truly mysterious. Now, of all people, Megan Fox is stirring up literary debate over who is the source of her latest inking.

With all the words written on her body, it makes you wonder whether she might be suffering from some Memento-style amnesia, but this newest text is probably a little too cryptic to be of any practical use. Her right side now reads “Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” The Guardian is asking its readers whether anyone knows who is responsible for these words. An online search returns the mysterious “Angela Monet,” a poet apparently known, by some bizarre Google-triggered closed loop, solely for coining that phrase. Other sites attribute a present-tense version to comedian George Carlin, while some Guardian readers suggest it belongs to Friedrich Nietzsche. Personally, my guess is that it came from Michael Bay and was his original tagline for Transformers 2. What do you think?

Wimbledon gets an official poet, might this start a new trend?

wimbledonImage Credit: Julian Finney/AFP/Getty ImagesAny sport in which “love means nothing” has got a bit of poetry to it to begin with, and now Wimbledon has made it official. The British tennis championship has appointed British wordsmith Matt Harvey as its official poet, and as such he will be composing a poem a day for the entirety of the two-week proceedings.

He’s already written his first contribution, entitled “The Grandest of Slams.” It starts “Excuse me. I’m sorry. I speak as an/ Englishman./For the game of lawn tennis there’s no better symbol than Wimbledon.” Harvey is the first person to hold this newly minted position. (No, Walt Whitman did not write Leaves of Grass about the Wimbledon courts.) I think this is a great precedent to set, and I wouldn’t mind seeing official poets for other athletic events, as well. I could see a number of sports working well: Football (“In New Orleans did the NFL/A stately Superdome decree”), hockey (“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackhawk”), and even golf (“Tiger, Tiger burning bright.”) What do you think? Do poetry and athletics go together? Is this a good way to smarten up sports, a good way to dumb down literature, or both?

Bill Murray reads poetry to construction workers: 'What's the name of this gal? Oh yeah, Emily Dickinson... '

Sometimes it’s best just to let the words (and images) wash over you, as Bill Murray seems to know.

And who knew he was a Lorine Niedecker fan?

'Admission' and 'It's Not You, It's Me: The Poetry of Break-Up': Two terrific books from Jerry Williams

As we arrive at the final week of National Poetry Month, I recommend that you immediately grab a copy of Jerry Williams’ Admission, as funny and tough and thrilling a collection of poems as I’ve read in some time. In this volume, Williams specializes in poems that dare you to believe they’re autobiographical or confessional, and which can quickly become both intricate and artfully exaggerated. The opening poem, “Unadorned,” is a vehement list of the things he’s done “for you,” whoever “you” is. Here’s a chunk of it:

I let a dog in the park lick my face for you.

I pretended not to know the murder rate in Denmark for you.

I’ve tried to stay ugly for you […]

I worked in a cardboard box factory for you.

I gave up skin for you.

Whenever love metastasized, I ran over it with my lawnmower for you.

I wrote “Stairway to Heaven” for you.

I did the whole Reverend Dimmesdale thing for you…

Williams writes poems about HBO and The Tonight Show; he has a poem called “Imaginary Family Vacation” that made me wince and wonder whether Williams had rooted around in the back of my skull for memories.

Williams is also the editor of a fine new anthology, It’s Not You, It’s Me: The Poetry of Break-Up. It’s a collection featuring terrific poets such as Mark Halliday, Tony Hoagland, and Ai (a fine poet who died just last month). It’s Not You, It’s Me is divided into three themed sections “One Foot Out The Door,” “In The Middle Of The Storm,” and “The Aftermath.” This may be an anthology for anyone who’s been broken-hearted, but it’s not an anthology for anyone who’s faint-hearted: Treacly, romantic, winsome little poems are entirely absent Williams’ from conception of the messiness of breaking up with someone.

In his superb introduction, Williams says bluntly, “I have endured four major break-ups in my life. Each one nearly killed me.”

You think he’s kidding… and then he goes on to describe each one. Williams is as good a prose writer as he is a poet. Get hold of this guy’s stuff and read it.

Move over, Random House! Novel from Bellevue Literary Press wins Pulitzer

The 2010 Pulitzer Prizes were announced today, and the winners included a few surprises (although sadly, still no recognition for critic extraordinaire Jay Sherman). The prize for fiction went to Paul Harding’s Tinkers, a debut novel about a clock repairman recalling his childhood on his deathbed. The book comes from Bellevue Literary Press, a nonprofit publisher operating out of a tiny office at New York University’s School of Medicine since 2005.

The Pulitzers for history and biography went to, respectively, Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, about the Great Depression and T.J. Stiles’ robber-baron bio The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Here’s the full list of those who won for books:

Fiction: Tinkers by Paul Harding

Poetry: Versed by Rae Armantrout

History: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed

General Nonfiction: The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman

Biography: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles

EW Exclusive: Poetry reading by Cynthia Nixon and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Cynthia-Nixon-Zeta-JonesImage Credit: Bill Davila/Startraksphoto.com; Andy Fossum/StartrWho said poetry readings had to be stuffy, unglamorous affairs? Scores of celebrities, including Sex and the City‘s Cynthia Nixon (pictured, far left) and Catherine Zeta-Jones, are creating their own verse-case scenarios. On April 2, GPR Records will release Poetic License, a three-CD set that features 100 poems performed by 100 famous names. (The disc will be available on Amazon and iTunes.) Each star picked a favorite poem to read on the spoken-word compilation, which is arriving just in time for National Poetry Month. Selections include Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (Jason Alexander), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Day Is Done” (Florence Henderson), Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” (Kate Mulgrew), and Edward Field’s “New Yorkers” (veteran TLC host Paige Davis).

EW is pleased to share two advance tracks from Poetic License. First, it’s Cynthia Nixon reading A.A. Milne’s “Vespers,” the first work the author wrote featuring his son, Christopher Robin. (Milne went on to write a book of children’s poetry, When We Were Very Young, that included a verse about a then-unnamed teddy bear who “however hard he tries grows tubby without exercise.”) You can easily imagine Nixon reading “Vespers” at bed-side to her own children.

Cynthia Nixon reading “Vespers”

In our second audio clip from Poetic License, Catherine Zeta-Jones reads William Wordsworth’s springtime classic “Daffodils.” She intones the poem in classic fashion, with more of a trained stage voice (the actress is now appearing on Broadway, after all, in A Little Night Music) than the Welsh lilt of her childhood.


Catherine Zeta-Jones reading “Daffodils”

New Shel Silverstein book slated for 2011 release: Which of his poems is your favorite?

shel-silversteinImage Credit: Everett CollectionThe second posthumous collection of poetry and illustrations by beloved children’s author Shel Silverstein will be released next year by HarperCollins, Publisher’s Weekly reports. The currently untitled volume will include 120-130 previously unpublished works, which are being curated by the author’s longtime editor, Antonio Markiet. There is no shortage of material from Silverstein, who died in 1999 at the age of 67. His first posthumous collection, Runny Babbit, was published by HarperCollins in 2005.

Silverstein, whose body of work includes Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up, depicted the innocence of youth in a unique and engaging way. He has remained immensely popular with children and adults due to his creative and eccentric observations about life, typically geared toward the kid in all of us.

My favorite poem has always been “Sick,” which related the elaborate lie one little girl tells her parents to avoid going to school. “I cannot go to school today, said Little Peggy Ann McKay,” she proclaims, only to discover that it is actually the weekend. “What’s that you say? You say today is…Saturday? G’bye, I’m going out to play!” Silverstein’s miniature hypochondriac captures the imagination we all had — and may still have — especially when it comes to those highly coveted chances to remain home, dodging any and all responsibilities (adults: substitute work for school?). Writing about issues of the kid world made Silverstein not only entertaining, but extremely relevant.

What about you ShelfLifers? What’s your favorite Shel Silverstein poem? Do you plan on purchasing his new collection?

Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' wins National Book Critics Circle Award

Hilary Mantel’s Tudor-era novel Wolf Hall won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction at a ceremony Thursday evening in New York City. The acclaimed book also won the Man Booker Prize last fall.

Blake Bailey’s Cheever: A Life won the biography prize, while 92-year-old Diana Athill’s rumination on old age, Somewhere Towards the End, won for autobiography. The nonfiction prize went to Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science.

Rae Armantrout’s aptly titled Versed won for poetry and Eula Biss’ Notes From No Man’s Land took the criticism prize.

In addition, the uber-prolific Joyce Carol Oates received a lifetime achievement award from the NBCC, which has bestowed awards annually since 1974. In addition, veteran New Yorker writer Joan Accocela accepted the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

Mary Karr, Edmund White among National Book Critics Circle finalists

Mary Karr’s Lit and Edmund White’s City Boy were among the finalists named on Saturday for the National Book Critics Circle‘s 2009 awards. The two will compete against Diana Athill’s Somewhere Towards the End, Debra Gwartney’s Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love, and Kati Marton’s Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America in the autobiography category.

In fiction, the finalists are Bonnie Jo Campbell’s National Book Award finalist American Salvage, Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women, Michelle Huneven’s Blame, Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall, and Jayne Ann Phillips’ Lark and Termite.

The biography category is dominated by books about writers: The finalists are Blake Bailey’s Cheever: A Life, Brad Gooch’s Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, Benjamin Moser’s Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, Stanislao G. Pugliese’s Bitter Spring: A lIfe of Ignazio Silone, and Martha A. Sandweiss’ Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line.

Nonfiction finalists are Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History, Greg Grandin’s Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, and William T. Vollman’s 1,300-plus-page Imperial.

In criticism, the short list includes Eula Biss’ Notes From No Man’s Land; Stephen Burt’s Close Calls With Nonsense: Reading New Poetry; Morris Dickstein’s Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression; former EW staffer David Hajdu’s Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture; and Greg Milner’s Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music.

And file under better late than never: 93-year-old poet Eleanor Ross Taylor’s Captive Voices is among the poetry finalists, joined by Rae Armantrout’s NBA finalist Versed, Louise Glück’s A Village Life, D.A. Powell’s Chronic, and Rachel Zucker’s Museum of Accidents.

The uber-prolific Joyce Carol Oates will receive a lifetime achievement award at the NBCC’s annual awards ceremony, which will take place in March. In addition, veteran New Yorker writer Joan Accocela will pick up the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

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