Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is Poetry Evil? (Plato thought so.)

In today's Opinionator column at the New York Times, Alaxander Nehamas reminds us about Plato's arguments that poets should be banished from his ideal society, and suggests that Plato's arguments may still apply to our times.

"Plato knows how captivating and so how influential poetry can be but, unlike us today, he considers its influence catastrophic. To begin with, he accuses it of conflating the authentic and the fake. Its heroes appear genuinely admirable, and so worth emulating, although they are at best flawed and at worst vicious. In addition, characters of that sort are necessary because drama requires conflict — good characters are hardly as engaging as bad ones. Poetry’s subjects are therefore inevitably vulgar and repulsive — sex and violence. Finally, worst of all, by allowing us to enjoy depravity in our imagination, poetry condemns us to a depraved life."

The same reasoning, Nehamas points out, is at the heart of today’s denunciations of mass media.

(Wow-- so, Grand Theft Auto will, in a thousand years time, have the same status that Homer's poetry had in Plato's time? Well, if Nehamas is right, yes. After all, who are we to judge? We're not even dead yet!

Plato's argument was, in brief, that poets make stuff up, and hence is the enemy of truth.

Enemies of truth! Whoa!

Well, now we have talk radio and political bloggers for that. Same thing, I guess.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Starving Artists present annual 3-Part Slam Series

3-Part Slam Series in Cleveland 2010
[Click poster to see a larger version]

From the Starving Artist Project press release:

It's the 1st Annual 3-Part Slam Series, hosted by the Starving Artist Project. There will be three different slams held at three different venues over three days. Each slam has a different theme, and will be open to poets of all ages. Each competitor WILL be required to pay a $10 entrance fee for each slam they compete in. This money will go into a pot and the top poet will win a percentage of this pot. Each slam will be three rounds and scores will not be cumulative.

The Slams:

September 8th, 2010 - "The Minute Slam" at The Root Cafe, 15118 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, OH. (Each round of this slam will be restricted to a time limit. 1st round - 1 min, 2nd round - 2 min, 3rd round - 3 min.)

September 9th, 2010 - "Women's Only Slam" at the LGBT Community Center, 6600 Detroit Avenue in Cleveland, OH. (This slam is restricted to women poets only, but all are welcome to attend.)

September 10th, 2010 - "Men's Only Slam" at Urbean Joe's Cafe, 14804 St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland, OH 44110 (This slam is restricted to male poets only, but all are welcome.)

Visit the 3-Part Slam's Facebook event page here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

All LIT Up at the Palace on 9/11/2010

All LIT Up

The Academy has the Oscars...The LIT has the Lanterns. Join the Northeast Ohio Literary Community for a celebration of writers and writing in eight different genre categories and be there as we honor Sheila Schwartz and Harvey Pekar with a final tribute.

Saturday, September 11, 2010
Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square
8-10pm / Doors open at 7pm

Cocktails*, Book Browsing, Hob-knobbing, and a LITtle bit of Entertainment
* Cash bar

$35 ticket
$50 ticket includes Turn the Page After-Party

Purchase tix at
or 216-241-6000

Turn the Page After-Party
at the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative
1309 Euclid Avenue, Suite 200
10pm - Midnight
$50 ticket-holders admitted
HURRY - fewer than 50 tickets remain!

As easy as the turn of the page, walk half a block to the CUDC where the celebration with finalists and award-winning writers begins! Enjoy cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and desserts as you connect with the literati against the backdrop of this stunning space and beats by DJ Jugoe.

Follow The Lit on Twitter.
Like The Lit on Facebook.

Read a recent Plain Dealer article about the Lantern Awards here.

The Lit is located in the ArtCraft Building | 2570 Superior Avenue Suite 203 | Cleveland, Ohio 44114 | Phone: 216.694.0000 |

[Full disclosure: Cleveland Poetics - The Blog is in the running for a 2010 Lantern Award.]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ohio Poetry Day: October 15-16 2010

The 2010 Ohio Poetry Day will be celebrated on October 15 and 16 at Heidelberg University, in Tiffin, Ohio.

Ohio Poetry Day is celebrated on the third Friday and Saturday of October. From the page, I see that "Ohio Poetry Day was the first government sanctioned Poetry Day in the United States. It was through this day that other states began to celebrate a poetry Day and eventually National Poetry Month came to be."

The poetry day celebration includes the Friday evening "poets meet and greet," followed by the poets heading to Carmie's for an open mike and other amusements, but the main event on Saturday (October 15), with readings from the Ohio poet of the year, awards to the poets who won the Ohio Poetry Day contests (followed by readings), and various other readings and poetry events; not to mention the book room. The events finish up at 5, except for the after party.

Check the website at for more, and read the Ohio Poetry Day forum if you want to comment, ask questions, or get the most up-to-date information.
If you're on Facebook, check out the Ohio Poetry Association group.

--by the way, this year's winners of the 2010 Ohio Poetry Day contest includes a good sampling of area poets. Just noticing the names who contribute to clevelandpoetics, I see T.M. Gottl, Mary A. Turzillo, Geoffrey A. Landis (um, that would be me), Dianne Borsenik, and Joshua Gage. Congrats, poets!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blind Review Friday

The author shall remain anonymous (unless they chose to divulge themselves in the comments.)

Those commenting are also welcome to remain anonymous if they wish.

Incendiary comments will be removed.

If you would like your piece thrown to the wolves send it to with "Workshop the hell out of this poem" as the subject line.

This week's offering is from a Clevelandpoetics the Blog contributor.

Love is a nail in eternity's coffin
love is a box of rusty needles
love is rotten fruit and a malignant smile
love sweetens and wheedles

la la la, Kathy, will you marry me

Love always ends with somebody dying first
love is a crack of the whip, a jagged tooth

Not today, not ever, Brian.

Love is the giant bass lurking in the shallows
love is a trick God plays on those he hates
Marry me, marry me, Kathy, marry me.

Never, Brian. Go away.

Love is the subway to the hidden message
love eats your heart and spits out the stones

Kathy, will you marry me.

Love is the cat that won't come when you call her.
Love crushes your moral vision like a road-killed rat.


Love is the wilderness behind the horse's eyes
love floats in a palanquin of violets.

We will be so happy, yes, Brian, love, I will be happy forever.

Can I be the bridesmaid who trips on your train?
Can I be the Elvis impersonator in purple vestments?
Can I be the usher who gets drunk and steals your car?
Can we get married in a submarine?
Can we get married on the space shuttle?
Can we get married on the Goodyear Blimp?
Can I carry the ring in my hot little paw?
Can I be the best man with a mosquito bite on his ass?
Can I be the flower girl who cries because she got jam on her dress?
Can I catch the garter and sell it to aliens?
Can I be the late-comer who yells "Stop! I know why they should not be joined"?
Can I wear my vest made of Sillyputty and string beans?
Can I catch the bouquet in my teeth?

Love is a mess of spare parts and elusive perfume
Love is the nail in eternity's coffin.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Late Great Cleveland: Hart Crane

Garden Abstract
by Hart Crane (7/21/1899 - 4/27/1932)

The apple on its bough is her desire,—
Shining suspension, mimic of the sun.
The bough has caught her breath up, and her voice,
Dumbly articulate in the slant and rise
Of branch on branch above her, blurs her eyes.
She is prisoner of the tree and its green fingers.

And so she comes to dream herself the tree,
The wind possessing her, weaving her young veins,
Holding her to the sky and its quick blue,
Drowning the fever of her hands in sunlight.
She has no memory, nor fear, nor hope
Beyond the grass and shadows at her feet.

* * * * *

"Garden Abstract" was composed and first published in 1920,
then collected in Crane's White Buildings [Boni & Liveright, 1926].

Hart Crane's biography & bibliography are available here.

Every Crane poem in the public domain is online here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nin Andrews - Poem of the Day from

Congrats to NEO's own Nin Andrews for being selected as today's "poem of the day" author by the Academy of American Poets!

Click here to read the piece


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Six poets make the top 15 list!

Anis Shivani of the Huffington Post slaps the sh!t out of the literary establishment with his list of the 15 most overrated writers in America.

Oooh! I love it when media pundits slam on writers who aren't me! (especially when the writers being dissed get eviscerated with witty insults.) More! Do more!

(He's wrong about Junot Diaz, though. The man's cool; he teaches at MIT! How cool is that? Oh, and I like Billy Collins, too, so sue me.)

Amazingly, of his list of fourteen* "most over-rated" writers, six are poets. Wow, he thinks Americans rate poetry that highly?? Really? Almost half** of the "most overrated" writers are poets?

Here's his poets, and a quote from his hatchet job each one:

  • John Ashbery (Self-Portrait in a Broken Mirror): "More responsible than anyone else for turning late twentieth-century American poetry into a hermetic, self-enclosed, utterly private affair"
  • Mary Oliver (Porcupines and Toads and Opossums and Turtles): "Publishes a book a year with interchangeable contents--how she has put on the brakes on her own evolution is the real wonder. Poems are free of striking images, ideas, or form."
  • Sharon Olds (Tampons and Lactation): "Childbirth, her father's penis, her son's cock, and her daughter's vagina are repeated obsessions she can always count on in a pinch. Has given confessionalism such a bad name it can't possibly recover."
  • Jorie Graham (The Dream of the Unified Field): "With her last few books, this philosopher of language has sought to become more and more unreadable."
  • Louise Gluck (Odysseus and Ostracization): "She is perhaps our greatest example of mediocrity ascending to the very top."
  • Billy Collins (Angels on Pins and Walking Across the Atlantic): "His poems have lately become mostly about writing poems--in his pajamas, with a cup of coffee in hand."

Lots of responses, on the webs and in the blogosphere, most of which (paraphrasing here) say he's a dick. Maybe the most succinct summary comes from Charles Jensen, who titles his post "everyone's a critic, but you're a bad one."


*(he lists a book reviewer who likes the preceeding authors as his final entry)

**42.9%, really. 40%, if you count the reviewer he saved for last.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Introduction to poetry

So, I see that the Library of Congress has Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry" posted on their site. Good for them! Bruce Weber called him “the most popular poet in America” in no less etheric a place than the New York Times, so I guess it's kinda plebian to like Billy Collins these days, but still, I think maybe he nailed it.

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch...

For some light amusement, check out the whole poem. (My good friend Mr. Google tells me that it's posted about 4,640 places on the web... but it's officially still Mr. Collins' property, and so I'll let you go somewhere else for the whole thing.)

Part of Library of Congress' "Poetry 180" project-- 180 poems on the web.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Late Great Cleveland: d.a. levy

the wandering white
by d.a. levy (10/29/1942 - 11/24/1968)

Tulips burst their languid lips
Riveras Lenin leaps up to world chaos of fresco
shattering HAMMERS
Sombre ugly tongue of protest

if it is too tired to yell
or put it down on paper
slap it in the coughing crib
or laugh it silently
who hears it anyway?
except snakes rippling knives of grass

the blasphemy of your necessity
nigger - jew - faggot - wop
indian squaw we conned the country from your innocence
raped you with cut glass and catholic beads

We Learned So Fast
We Forget The Weight
Of Lions Eyes

Spic don't lay my sister
Chink dont poison my eggroll
Brother dont look me face to face
the color never washes out but the HATE of it IS
ivy entwining limestone

of our death
We Learned So Fast
to forget the scars

We are only clouds that darken
and rains of suffering on ourselves
cast urgent shadows in our paths
we pile our precious gems
they SPARKLE - reflect a melange of
color in the sand our dreams wash
away with the brutal surf
we understand yet
Build Our Dams anyway

We Learned So Fast
We Forgot The Weight
Of Lions Eyes

* * * * *

taken from ukanhavyrfuckinciti bak
originally collected and edited by rjs and
published by t.l. kryss, GHOST PRESS CLEVELAND, 1967

For more levy, visit


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Trenchcoat Manifesto, Borsenik & Burroughs

Trenchcoat Manifesto (Tom Adams and Richard Hearn) will perform at Visible Voice Books, 1023 Kenilworth in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, on Wednesday August 4th at 7 p.m. Featured poets Dianne Borsenik and John Burroughs will join them. Here's just a taste of what Trenchcoat Manifesto do.

And expect the unexpected. Hope to see you there!

Our Facebook event page is here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jack Kerouac: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose

Mary posted this list of advice from Jack Kerouac in her blog the other day (part of a longer discussion on style with Joshua), and I thought it worth reposting. Here's what that ol' dharma bum Jack said about writing more than fifty years ago:

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a list of thirty "essentials".

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside your own house
4. Be in love with your life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

--Jack Kerouac, "Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials" from a 1958 letter to Don Allen, published in Heaven & Other Poems (1958, Grey Fox Press).

Want more advice from uncle Jack? Check out "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

And you Slammers thought you started something...

The Word of the Day for August 01, 2010 is:

eisteddfod • \eye-STETH-vawd\ noun
: a usually Welsh competitive festival of the arts especially in poetry and singing

Example Sentence:

This year's eisteddfod featured some exceptional recorder and guitar playing, but as in past years it was the bards who were the highlight of the festival.

Did you know?

In Medieval times, Welsh bards and minstrels would assemble together for an "eisteddfod" (the Welsh word for "session") of poetry and music competition. Over time, participation and interest in these competitions lessened, and by the 17th century an eisteddfod was far from the courtly affair it once was. The competition was revived in the 19th century as a way to showcase Wales's artistic culture. It was also in that century that an official council was formed to organize the annual National Eisteddfod of Wales, an event still held each summer alternately in North or South Wales. There are awards for music, prose, drama, and art, but the one for poetry remains the eisteddfod's pinnacle.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau