I’m wary of saying that writers have an obligation to do anything in particular — most often, you’ll find someone who doesn’t do whatever thing so beautifully that they redeem its absence — but it’s hard to imagine an essay that would be satisfying without complexity, and it’s hard to imagine complexity without some version of what we’re calling problematizing: the negative capability of holding multiple possibilities at once.

Question Sunday – Can Poetry Be a Visual Medium?



Bit of a continuation of last week’s question:

Can poetry be a visual medium? Is it always a visual medium, never a visual medium, or sometimes a visual medium?

My answer: It is a visual medium as long as it is being read on the page. The way words look will always…

Got this response in my ask box from one of my first followers (and one of the first I followed), snake-oil-lullaby. I thought it was a great response, and I learned some things, so I’m sharing it!

“In response to the Sunday question, I think poetry can be extremely visual. There’s three examples I can use from my background as a U.S. Marine, a graphic designer, and a newspaper editor.

1: In many Islamic countries, iconography is forbidden. To get around this, they will use Arabic Calligraphy to make art. Some of the most beautiful verses of the Quran are made far more poetic by the flowing strokes of a master calligraphist.

2: Typography is the arrangement of the letters on the page.  The fonts used and even the spaces between individual letters (tracking and kerning) can give a message more meaning and stress or enforce certain words. A prime example would be Tristen Tzara’s use of typesetting in his Dadaist Manifestos.

3: They’ve done studies on the size of type in newspaper print to determine the impact it has on the reader’s comprehension and how they react to certain variations (and even if their moods can be changed by the font and weight selected.)  I was gonna get more into that, but I didn’t.

So I would say that, yes. Poetry is a very visual medium, but like any art it goes beyond that, and channels something that we can’t really see.

Sorry if that was a bit lengthy, but that’s what I think.”

Question Sunday

Poet-to-Poet – National Poetry Month 2014


For National Poetry Month 2014, we introduce Poet-to-Poet, a multimedia educational project that invites young students in grades 3-12 to write poems in response to those shared by award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.

STUDENTS: To participate, watch the videos then write your own response poem. (Follow the directions on the site.)

TEACHERS: If you are interested in using Poet-to-Poet in the classroom, we worked with a curriculum specialist to design a series of activities, aligned with the Common Core, especially for you. Click the link to the Lesson Plans.

Excerpt from Men We Reaped – Jesmyn Ward

From 2000 to 2004, five Black young men I grew up with died, all violently, seemingly unrelated deaths…That’s a brutal list, in its immediacy and it’s relentlessness, and it’s a list that silences people. It silenced me for a long time. To say this is difficult is understatement; telling this story is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But my ghosts were once people, and I cannot forget that.

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward, 2013

After Suicide- Poets.org – Poetry, Poems, Bios & More


Big congrats to Matt Rasmussen, whose book, Black Aperture (winner of our 2012 Walt Whitman First-Book Award), was named a National Book Award finalist! Click here to listen to Rasmussen reading “After Suicide.”

After Suicide- Poets.org – Poetry, Poems, Bios & More

A new novel takes vengeance on Google, Facebook

A new novel takes vengeance on Google, Facebook

Books Are Flourishing – Tess Keegan

It’s hard to say whether it’s more charming or disturbing that the most rebellious thing someone my age can do is read a book. And I do not mean a chemistry textbook. I mean the ones that force you to remember nuance, the relativity of perspective, and the gorgeous way words can illuminate the truth and still sound like poetry in that secret, fiendish way of all great works.

Above all, books tether us to all the people, struggles, spirit and imagination that came before us…

Books serve as the greatest lessons that insistent perseverance toward a better day, a better self, a better society, a better world will not go overlooked. We are merely links in a very very long chain that is still trying to wrest itself from all the kinks. It has always been about the vast, inventive ways to inflict suffering inward and outward, and those courageous enough have resisted this status quo and refused to accept necessity or inevitably as a valid cause.

Books are resilience. Books are flourishing. Books are about relishing novelty and the enormous array of ideas the human mind has gleaned. Books give us the confidence to savor the bittersweet mystery of the future ablaze with chance and choice. Books…are hot.