Monday, May 18, 2009


"Sometimes, I wish I could read faster."

If you can relate to that statement, check out this little animation I found on the website of the Boston Book Festival.

Monday, May 11, 2009

No Time for Writer's Block

Wishing for more time to write is a trap into which we writers often fall. What's more important is to make the best of the time you have. I can fit small poems quite easily into the chinks and pauses and cracks of my life. Even novelists such as the wildly successful Jodi Picoult have managed to write little bits at a time. (No, I haven't read any of her books, but I do respect her dedication.)

In a recent interview in Time, Picoult said, "When I started writing, I had a newborn baby and then I very quickly had his brother and sister. I didn't have time for writer's block. I wrote every few minutes that the kids were napping or at nursery school or watching Barney on television. Because of that, I learned how to really sit down quickly and focus when I needed to. I've always sort of believed that writer's block is a luxury for people who have time on their hands. If you don't, you don't get it."

If you're using lack of time as an excuse not to write or do whatever it is you love to do, that's what it is - an excuse. Begin where you are, and do what you can in the present moment.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You'll Know You're Famous When Your Words are Carved in Stone

Every so often I like to take my country self into the city - Boston, that is - and tool around with my urban poet friends. On my last visit, as I walked into the Stony Brook stop on the orange line, I stopped to read words that I saw carved into a triangular granite pillar. I'd recently returned from a trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I was still in tourist mode - stopping to look at and read everything.

I was expecting something historical, something mainstream and maintaining the status quo - such are the words I've often seen carved into rock. But these words were more lively: two poems, by Martin Espada and Rosario Morales told an alternate history of immigrants, injustice, and working class heritage.

Apparently there is literature carved into such stones all over Boston. Like this author, my friend and guide through Jamaica Plain had walked by these solid monuments to literature on a daily basis before noticing them. It always helps to see your own city through the eyes of a tourist.

Thanks to KL Pereira for the photos.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Poetry off the Page

One of my friends is teaching poetry in her son's elementary school, as a community service. She had a book called The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet: 104 Unusual Ways to Write Poetry in the Classroom and the Community. Many of the exercises in this book have the class write poems on objects - chairs, foam heads, etc.

I love poetry best when it's performed or read aloud. That's when the words truly come alive - when they are embodied. This allows a connection to occur between two or more individuals - and that, to me, is the essential different between poetry and prose. I'm happy to read a novel alone, curled up in my favorite chair. I'll also read nonfiction that way. But poetry is so much better when I read it to someone or someone reads it to me. Poetry is music, is performance. Performing poetry - through the voice or via a physical object - gives it a temporal, momentary, golden quality.

One of the best writing workshops I ever attended was based on the creative practices of John Cage. One thing the leaders did was give us various objects on which to write - coffee filters, cash register receipts... changing the surface changes the writing, and pushes the creation into more of a performance space.

A class at the University of Auckland in New Zealand is doing some cool things in this realm: the realm of poetry off the page. Check it out - then grab a napkin, or a matchbox, or some duct tape, and create!