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‘Art’s whatever you choose to frame…’

‘…a poem is simply a piece of writing which, when I read it, I recognise as a poem and not just as something pretending to be one. What is the difference between poetry and prose? Prose fills the page-width; a poem has white space around it. (‘Art’s whatever you choose to frame,’ as I found myself writing at the end of a poem about how looking at paintings in a gallery changes one’s view of the world outside.)’

– Fleur Adcock, Not Quite a Statement (2000)

‘There is nothing more disenchanting to man…’

‘There is nothing more disenchanting to man than to be shown the springs and mechanism of any art.  All our arts and occupations lie wholly on the surface; it is on the surface that we perceive their beauty, fitness, and significance; and to pry below is to be appalled by their emptiness and shocked by the coarseness of the strings and pulleys.  In a similar way, psychology itself, when pushed to any nicety, discovers an abhorrent baldness, but rather from the fault of our analysis than from any poverty native to the mind.  And perhaps in aesthetics the reason is the same: those disclosures which seem fatal to the dignity of art seem so perhaps only in the proportion of our ignorance; and those conscious and unconscious artifices which it seems unworthy of the serious artist to employ were yet, if we had the power to trace them to their springs, indications of a delicacy of the sense finer than we conceive, and hints of ancient harmonies in nature. ‘

Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays in the Art of Writing

‘…the values of creative work…’

‘Often when my friends pronounce responsibility about the values of creative work I experience a loss of contact. I want at such times to voice what may appear to be an antagonism, maybe even a wilful stupidity, about “culture.” To “learn the tools of writing,” to “understand the essentials of the craft,” to “base my practice on models that have proved to be fundamentally sound” – these apparently winsome and admirable phrases put me in a bleak mood. When I  write, grammar is my enemy; the materials of my craft come at me in a succession of emergencies in which my feelings are ambivalent; I do not have any commitments, just opportunities. Not the learning of methods, not the broadening of culture, not even the preserving of civilization (there may be greater things than civilizations), but a kind of dizzying struggle with the Now-ness of experience, that is my involvement in writing. And I believe it is this interaction between imagination and its embodiment as it develops which sustains the speaker and the writer – and sustains the artist in other materials.’

– William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl

Poetry Cartoons

In a moment of boredom, I typed ‘poetry’ into Google images. Among the results was an abundance of the much-expected photos of fountain pens and loopy handwriting, along with plenty of pictures of famous (and not so famous) poets.

However, there were also these little gems, from Savage Chickens:

‘…the way we assert our title is by writing…’

‘As poets, we have a title to assert – a part of our inheritance lies unclaimed. And the way we assert our title is by writing. The way we refute, say, the death of the sonnet, or the reported demise of the epic, is not by argument but by assertion. My sonnet asserts that the sonnet still lives. My epic, should such fortune befall me, asserts that the heroic narrative is not lost – that it is born again, perhaps in some form which seems hardly at first recognisable, but nevertheless, there it is, born again.

As poets we do not ask permission before we begin to practise, for there is no authority to license us. We do not inquire whether it is still possible to pen a drama, for the answer to that question is ours alone to give. It is our drama, spoken or sung, that asserts our right to the title of poet. It is our decision that counts, and not the opinion of some theatre management, or the ponderings of the critic, or even the advice of our friendliest mentors. It is our decision, our assertion, that alters the whole state of affairs.

This is possible, we assert, because this is what I have just done. This is achievable, because I wanted enough to achieve it.’

 – James Fenton, An Introduction to English Poetry

‘Poets are always taking the weather so personally.’

Poster by Evan Robertson.

View more of Robertson’s literary quotation posters here: http://www.flavorwire.com/308256/pithy-literary-posters-perfect-for-writers-salons?all=1

Things We Think You’ll Like:

There are many many things that we think you’ll like. Warm summer days, for instance, or chocolate-covered strawberries. We couldn’t possibly list them all here. But here are just a few choice pieces, that we really think you ought to see.

  1. At the top of our list, a free (yes, that’s right, FREE) online course from the University of Pennsylvania, in Modern & Contemporary American Poetry.
    Information on the course here:

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  2. We also want to promote a challenge on the Young Poets Network. If you’re under 25 and a lyricist (or if you’re under 25 and fancy turning your hand to it), there’s a challenge to set some words to music. And the lovely Young Poets Network people have provided a video, too, so here’s some more information.

    To take part in the challenge, or to find out more about it (or both), go to the Young Poets Network’s page about the challenge.
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  3. Not far behind is a short story by Roald Dahl, entitled ‘The Great Automatic Grammatizator’. We don’t know what the rest of the blog is saying, or even which language it’s in, but this part is definitely worth a read.
    I know that this site is all about poetry, rather than short stories, but thematically it fits. It’s all about the art (or ‘art’ of writing).
    Read it here.
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  4. This one is another short story. We won’t say too much about it, because we don’t want to give it all away before you’ve read it, but there’s a bit of a theme running with our reading suggestions tonight. It’s called ‘Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore’, by Robin Sloan. Quite aside from our loving the idea of a 24-hour bookshop, this is an eerie and modern story, and well worth a read.
    You can do so right here.
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  5. And finally, a picture of a graffitied rabbit (taken in a graffiti lane in Melbourne, Australia). Because let’s face it, who wouldn’t enjoy that?

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Sleep tight.

‘It is the poet who goes further than any human scientist…’

‘It is the poet who goes further than any human scientist. The poet who with her dredging net must haul up difficult things and return them to the present. As she does this, the reader will begin to recognise parts of herself so nearly buried that they seem to have been buried from birth. She will be able to hear clearly the voices that have whispered at her for so many years. Some of those voices will prove false, she will perhaps learn to fear her own fears. The attendant personalities that are clinically labelled as schizophrenia, can be brought into a harmonious balance. It is not necessart to be shut up in one self, to grind through life like an ox at a mill, always treading the same ground. Human beings are capable of powered flight; we can travel across ourselves and find that self multiple and vast. The artist knows this: at the same time that art is prising away old dead structures that have rusted almost unnoticed into our flesh, art is pushing at the boundaries we thought were fixed. The convenient lies fall; the only boundaries are the boundaries of our imagination.’

– Jeanette Winterson, ‘The Semiotics of Sex’, in Art Objects