How Do We Write Now?
On creativity in the age of Trump.
On creativity in the age of Trump.
Teaching Emily Dickinson at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida.
Searching for home at a cowboy poetry convention in Elko, Nevada.
“We take it that all young writers overestimate their work. It’s impossible not to—I mean if you recognized what shit you were writing, you wouldn’t write it. You have to believe in your stuff—every day has to be the new day on which the new poem may be it.”
"His friends remembered when Richard became famous. It was the year the hippies came to San Francisco. Richard had published one novel, A Confederate General from Big Sur, but it had sold miserably 743 copies and his publisher, Grove Press, had dropped its option on Trout Fishing in America."
“He was untouchable, or he thought he was. But that era is over, for all those guys.”
An essay on depression, art, and growing up.
On the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, women express themselves through fierce short poems.
The adventures and controversies of the avant-garde poet Kenneth Goldsmith, who believes plagiarism is an art form.
An accidental evening with Yeats, in the spring of 1937.
A trip to the Famous Poets Society convention/contest in Reno.
The “insane playfulness, deliberate infantilism, nutty haikus, naked stripteases, free-form chants and literary war dances of the beats” and their leader.
On the parallel sadness of Thom Gunn and Elizabeth Bishop.
Drug trips in space; from Motherboard's new science fiction series.
"During the Earth trials, someone told her that being in orbit was just falling around the planet forever. Back in the safe house somewhere in the Midwest, with 2,000 milligrams of MDMA ricocheting across her brain stem, it wasn't practical information. But she had retained it. Ground Control didn’t know the first thing about throwing a party. The drugs were free, but those nights on Earth always ended with psychonauts sobbing in the corners of the room, touching each others’ faces in the darkness. Of course, the Earth was falling too—around the sun."
An academic marriage dissolves into a grotesque, demeaning power trip.
"I had always loved Olivia’s fearless and outspoken brilliance. It was one of the things that first attracted me to her—along with her perfect bubble butt and sailor’s laugh. But I suspected she didn’t honestly believe what she said about Dickinson’s poetry. Sometimes, especially after multiple martinis, one or the other of us would find the slightest reason to engage in some sort of verbal jousting. It was the manifestation of a lot of other problems we had buried over the past five years of marriage. We had both been divorced, both had children, both were in our forties, both should have understood the tensions of remarrying in mid-life. And we both should have known how alcohol—which we loved and self-medicated with—was the match that lit the fuse to these confrontations every time."
“But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.”
A profile of the internet’s poet, Patricia Lockwood.
W.H. Auden’s quiet, personal pursuit of kindness and honor.
A poet's first day of teaching in an inner-city school.
"She looks at me through squinting eyes and waits. I drag out one poem about someone’s bad day, to let the students know that poets have bad days too, and that poets’ lives can be mundane and that poets’ lives can be like their lives, and that, therefore, they too can be poets. She takes a large black felt pen and crosses out words. I’m so shocked I just stand there speechless. I’d assumed we were all together in this old school in the depths of Brooklyn, hoping to reach and educate the kids."
On the writers, poets and beats in a reclusive California town, where residents repeatedly tear down highway signs indicating its location.
A history of erasure as literature.
On Patti Smith.
It was easy for lazy journalists to caricature her as a stringbean who looked like Keith Richards, emitted Dylanish word salads, and dropped names—a high-concept tribute act of some sort, very wet behind the ears. But then her first album, Horses, came out in November 1975, and silenced most of the scoffers.
"I don't know if I was as angry as much as I was misunderstood. A lot of the things we did contained a lot of humor that went over people's heads."
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.
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.