Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Poetry Foundation app

Not a creative tool but perhaps a useful searchable database. And it is free. You can explore poetry on your phone or tablet. From Shakespeare to César Vallejo to Neruda and Heather McHugh, this app turns your phone into a mobile poetry library:

Features include:

  • Shake and go to find new poems to fit any mood.
  • Search based on line snippets.
  • Extensive database

More information here http://www.poetryfoundation.org/mobile/ and here http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/poetry-from-the-poetry-foundation/id370143863.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Toothpaste poetry

No. Not poetry about toothpaste.

Poetry you just squeeze out.

Doesn't sound very enticing? But sometimes it has to be done. At worst you will have something to edit later.

Or to take the paste analogy a little further, why not:

  1. Mix up some stuff already written.
  2. Write a minty Sort macro.
  3. Press between thumbs and see what happens.
Don't forget to floss.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Salt Modern Voices: London England 28th November 2011

The second of two Salt Modern Voices readings at The Compass, Islington, takes place on 28th November at 7.30pm. Featuring poetandgeek.com's very own Shaun Belcher alongside Mark Burnhope and Emily Hasler.

More information here http://saltmodernvoices.wordpress.com/.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Cafe Writers Poetry Competition £1900 Prizes DEADLINE 30 November 2011

We don't usually advertise poetry competitions but this is a good one and it is judged by Pascale Petit.

Last and only call btw as it ends on the 30th November - don't worry, you can enter online.

More information here http://cafewriters.awardspace.com/competitions.htm.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


Riddle me, riddle me, rot-tot-tote!
A little wee man, in a red red coat!
A staff in his hand, and a stone in his throat;
If you'll tell me this riddle, I'll give you a groat.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Salt Modern Voices: London 14th November 2011

The first of two readings at The Compass, Islington, takes place on 14th November at 7.30pm. More details on the second with our very own Shaun Belcher to follow.

More information here http://saltmodernvoices.wordpress.com/ and still time to drop in.

Why does nobody tell me these things a bit earlier?

Last call for Issue 3 poetandgeek.com 2011

It is nearly that time.

We are calling for poetry (4 poems or less), images and reviews (literary and technical) for Issue 3 2011. Deadline for copy is November 30th 2011. So that is 2 weeks or so.

Thank you to all who have already submitted, we will be in touch shortly after the deadline passes.

It promises to be a bumper issue.

Abdullah al Ryami tweet poetry

Abdullah al Ryami is an Omani theatrical director, poet and cultural commentator. Born in 1965, he spent his early life in Cairo, where his father had settled after to escape persecution after the Omani uprising.

This tweet poetry is from a translation of the original poem by Sarah Maguire:

the minute I touch it I trespass into the property of strangers the minute I sit down on a rock it sprouts wings and flies off

You can find the full poem here http://www.poetrytranslation.org/poems/3/Please_Don't_Give_Birth! and more poems by Abdullah al Ryami at the Poetry Translation Centre here http://www.poetrytranslation.org/poems/filter/country/Oman.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Robotic tweet poetry

This time it is for you to fill in the words...and Marvim Gainsbug will recite them. "It should come as no surprise, but Twitter can compose existential nihilistic poetry."

Marvim Gainsbug is software based on Twitter that composes and plays songs in real time interpreted by Marvim's distinctive voice. All the components are defined by the tweet poetry itself. The idea was developed by Jeraman and Filipe Calegario using Sphinx4, FreeTTS and Twitter4j libraries.

Better still come up with something yourself and let us know.

More information here:


Browning's avatars

Forgive me if you have heard this one before.

In style, Robert Browning (born 1812 in England and died in Italy in 1889) owes something to Shakespeare's bad characters - especially I would guess Don John in Much ado about nothing. And the speech (iambic pentameter rhymed couplets) of this poet avatar the Duke of Ferrara is meant to be read aloud. What fun you could have had declaiming this poem with its sexy hints of infidelity, jealousy and murder in a Victorian drawing room crowded with chairs, stuffed animals and drapes of plush fabric.

The need to speak it aloud is clear when you consider that the collection from which it comes is Browning's 1842 Dramatic Lyrics. It may be of interest that the collection itself was part of a self-published series called Bells and pomegranates.

My last Duchess

That's my last Duchess' painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat”: such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
—E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

More on the story behind the story here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Last_Duchess.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

no man's land # 6 - Launch Reading 28th November Berlin, Germany

no man’s land launches Issue # 6 with a bilingual reading featuring authors Zehra Çirak, Michael Roes and Daniela Seel.

Turkish-born Zehra Çirak is the current recipient of the Chamisso Prize for writing in German as a second language, along with many other awards. Described as a “poet of the foreign”, Michael Roes is a novelist, anthropologist and filmmaker. Daniela Seel, publisher of Berlin’s KookBooks, is also an experimental poet.

This event takes places at St Georges English Bookshop, Wörther Str. 27, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg  from 20:00 - 23:30 on the 28th November 2011.

More at http://www.no-mans-land.org/ and information on KOOKbooks http://kookbooks.de/.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

T.S. Eliot tweet poetry

This poem has an almost magical hold and perhaps a world record for inspiration to artists per line length. It is of course a dramatic monologue just like Browning's and meant to be read aloud like his.

Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot 1888 – 1965 was a banker (briefly), playwright, literary critic, and poet. This poem was first published in Chicago. Eliot was an American who became a British citizen.


I grow old I grow old I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled shall I part my hair behind do I dare to eat a peach

Prufrock is another attractive avatar or character that allows the poet a freedom and experimental lightness. How much he is an imagination of Eliot in old age? And how accurate that vision?

Find the full poem here:


Yeats' life as a woman

Yeats' Crazy Jane avatar appears in poems ranging from the late 1920s until his very last collected work. She is literally a descent. Naughty (what's the difference between a solid man and a coxcomb?), sexy and maybe mad; and he puts her through it.

She can says things he can't say.

Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
'Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.'

'Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,' I cried.
'My friends are gone, but that's a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart's pride.

'A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.' 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The 5th of November

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

Black-and-white drawing

If you are letting off a firework today anywhere in the world, you may say this poem.

Poetry that commemorates political activism in England in 1605. (Wrapped up a bit with Halloween.)

Poetic avatars

Avatar or voice? It takes a long time for a poet to find his or her voice.

Sometimes it never happens.


Sometimes poets take on personas - like computer avatars. And assume that personality for individual poems (Browning springs to mind with My last duchess et al.) or a series of poems or some poets even return to that character again and again like Yeat's Crazy Jane.

Usually a poet's voice is a character too. How they come across in poetry is not how they are in real life - thank goodness. However later when the poet is dead, the two can conflate. Now some think of Sylvia Plath for example as neurotic or even mad thanks to her later poems and the Bell Jar; when she most often appeared as driven and organised to her peers.

If you are struggling to find your voice, assuming an avatar can help - just as it frees one up in gameplay. The avatar or characters you assume will probably be the building blocks of your ultimate voice.

So it is worth exploring. And you may find that you encounter these characters again and again just like WBY.


btw avatar as a word has a lovely origin in Hindu religion where it means a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, more literally translated as incarnation or appearance.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Heroic couplets and their more prosaic day to day existence

Why do couplets seem less heroic than they used to? Well, like all verse forms, over-familiarity, lack of understanding and especially a strong association with a particular point in history have taken their toll.

Originally the verse form was made widely acceptable by poets including Geoffrey Chaucer at that interesting period of English language development. The one that sealed the southern business variation he used as the choice of the educated and the court itself. The Knight's Tale (part of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) sampled below is written in couplets, iambic pentameter and end-rhymed. The closed rhyme allows us to consider this as a direct antecedent of the heroic couplet but it is freer in form.

The pillers did their business and cure,
After the battle and discomfiture.
And so befell, that in the tas they found,
Through girt with many a grievous bloody wound,
Two younge knightes ligging by and by
Both in one armes, wrought full richely:
Of whiche two, Arcita hight that one,
And he that other highte Palamon.
Not fully quick, nor fully dead they were,
But by their coat-armour, and by their gear,
The heralds knew them well in special,
As those that weren of the blood royal
Of Thebes, and of sistren two y-born.
Out of the tas the pillers have them torn,
And have them carried soft unto the tent
Of Theseus, and he full soon them sent
To Athens, for to dwellen in prison
Perpetually, he n'olde no ranson.

So far so good (and I missing out the joys of Shakespear, Donne, Keats and so much more) but really it is our association of the heroic couplet as the verse form default of Dryden and Pope and the 18th century love of form that drove and sealed the nail in its coffin. In spite of the fact that neither used the form like this themselves - for example, an extract of Alexander Pope's poem the Rape of the Lock is playful with its couplets and its characters..as in this cynical view of the lady dressing

The Tortoise here and Elephant unite,
Transformed to combs, the speckled, and the white.
Here files of pins extend their shining rows,
Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.
Now awful Beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms,
Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face;
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
The busy Sylphs surround their darling care,
These set the head, and those divide the hair,
Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown:
And Betty's prais'd for labours not her own.

But the form fell foul. It became a poetic tic for classical translations and epics which as time moved further from the wit and economy of Dryden and Pope's political and court commentary to imitators telling another big story - all set to the de-dum de-dum de-dum de-dum de-dum of iambic pentameter.

Heroic couplets became tangled with the literally heroic and then after the onset of the 20th century and its wars got brushed up alongside Walter Scott, Rupert Brooke and anyone else who had the misfortune to turn their writing eye on gallantry (however cynically).

Interesting what can happen to a poetic form.