On the Italian island Lampedusa— “politically Europe, but geographically Africa”—as a wave of African immigrants is due to arrive from Libya by boat, ruining the tourist season.
Poetry Dec 2011
Inside the Shel Silverstein archive.
One of the things you learn is that “polymath” doesn’t even begin to describe Silverstein. His creativity extended in so many directions that his archivists must be versed not just in turn-of-the-century world children’s literature, but Waylon Jennings’s deep cuts; not just in reel-to-reel tape preservation, but how to keep an old restaurant napkin scribbled with lyrics from falling apart.
Poetry Jul 2011
An essay on poetry and madness.
People still think of poets as an odd bunch, as you’ll know if you’ve been introduced as one at a wedding. Some poets spotlight this conception by saying otherworldly things, playing up afflictions and dramas, and otherwise hinting that they might be visionaries. In the past few centuries, of course, the standard picture of psychopathology has changed a great deal. But as it’s often invoked, the idea of the mad poet preserves, in fossil form, a stubbornly outdated and incomplete image of madness. Modern psychiatry and neuroscience have supplanted this image almost everywhere else.
Poetry May 2011
In pre-modern poetry, Shakespeare, who mentioned everything, would probably have name checked products if he could, but there were few goods with the maker’s name on them: though he would specify the street or town which had given origin to a certain cut of sleeve.