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The Purpose of Poetry April 27, 2012: For poet and songwriter Patti Smith, the social awakening came when she heard Neil Young’s Ohio: That song, she writes in Just Kids, “seemed to crystallize the role of the artist as a responsible commentator, as it paid homage to the four young Kent State students who lost their lives in the name of peace" (157). What percentage of poets in [...] by

Poetry in Motion (Pictures), Part I April 18, 2012: My brother used to refuse to go to any movie whose review used the words "panoramic," "poignant," or (worst of all) "poetic."  Each, he thought, was code for boring.  I have to say:  I think he was right. What such language often implies is a kind of studied poeticism—as if the director is announcing his or her intention to try to be [...] by

Too Late, Spring/National Poetry Month April 16, 2012: As the faculty sponsor of the literary magazine everywhere I've ever taught, I've lived out the same painful ritual every year.  I beg for submissions from Opening Day on, only to be told the same thing by nearly every teacher I ask, "Nothing yet.  But I'll have lots of creative pieces come April."  I get the general association of spring and [...] by

Real/Haiku April 12, 2012: About 15 years ago, when I first heard a North American Haiku Conference was being held in nearby Evanston, I naively pictured something like Comic-Con—you know:  people in space helmets, jet packs, antennae—that sort of thing.  I went, but mostly as a fascinated spectator: Levi-Strauss among the “natives,” an emissary from the [...] by

Slam Poetry: The Difference Is You April 4, 2012: Slam poetry is a forum not a form And the difference is u -- Something living, someone alive, It’s the difference between a boulder, unmovable And being bolder, or At least moving Toward each other Because the difference is u. I am a poetry slam coach at a high school. We just finished our third year of competing in Louder Than a [...] by

So long, Harriet January 16, 2010: The other Harriet -- Harriet Beecher Stowe -- says in Uncle Tom's Cabin that "friendships are discovered not made." Joining this blog over the past few months, I discovered (and re-discovered) many new friendships -- like-minded people and especially people who challenged my mind in different ways. As I sign off, I'd like to thank the Poetry [...] by

Production Notes for February: The Movie January 13, 2010: Production Notes for February: The Movie 1. Snow covers everything like a film. 2. The only theatre in town is showing The Return of the Bride of Quietness. 3. Overhead, a wedge of geese: A greater than sign? Lesser than? A boomerang? 4. The world is as quiet, white, and immobile as a crime scene. Go back to your homes. [...] by

The Narrative Arc of a Semester January 5, 2010: One year I hung a giant sheet of pink butcher paper outside the Writing Center with an invitation for people to jot down thoughts of the day as they walked by. (I guess it was sort of a Stone Age, pre-Twitter feed, come to think of it). The responses were amazing to me and followed a pattern throughout the term that I believe to be nearly [...] by

Resolutions January 3, 2010: I started making New Year's resolutions when I spent some time teaching in Rockview Maximum Security Prison, outside State College, PA. While teaching an extension course for Penn State (back then I joked I was teaching at Penn State and the state pen), I read a lot of prison narratives and found one overwhelming commonality: the convicts who [...] by

Slavery — Then and Now January 2, 2010: Let's say you don't take the North Pole worskshop to be a metaphor for the sweat-shop oppression of slighted people everywhere. Fine, have it your way. Just before the holidays my students and I were reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and considering examples of modern-day slavery. Here's a link to a radio broadcast on [...] by