Day 30: William Shakespeare

Who else to feature on Valentine’s Day than the Bard?! Shakespeare’s sonnets come to mind often as the cliché love poems. It is for that reason that one of my favorite Shakespeare poems is Sonnet 130.

The sonnet satirizes the stereotypical idealization of female subjects in romantic poetry and criticizes the hyperbolic language used to describe them.

Day 29: Taylor Mali

I was first exposed to slam poet, Taylor Mali, when I saw a viral video of him performing “What Teachers Make,”which remains one of my favorite performance pieces. If you haven’t seen it, you need to as soon as possible. Mali is an extremely talented performer; winner of the National Poetry Slam four times over, recipient of countless regional awards, and anthologized in three collections of spoken word poetry. His passionate platform is education—drawn from the nine years he spent as a teacher in a classroom. I have the utmost respect for our teachers, but especially those that have so much passion and talent.

What makes him all the more enjoyable as a poet and teacher is his profound knowledge of the growing mind of children and their curiosity and wonderment at the world. I read “Undivided Attention” today, which, after watching his performance poetry, illustrates Mali’s ability to switch from passionate and powerful to reflective and thoughtful.

Day 28: Tracy K. Smith

I read Smith’s book, Life on Mars last summer when I was living at my girlfriend’s apartment and working in Iowa City. She’d picked the book up from a place she’d worked a few years ago, where it had been left behind by another student. I enjoyed reading the book for my own reasons but my favorite part was observing her notes in the margins. I believe good poetry deserves a closer look: it should challenge you to ask questions and take a chance at your own interpretation, whether it’s “right” or not. I think a reader’s projection of meaning is just as important as what I have in mind as I create new poetry.

That being said, one of my favorites from Life on Mars is “My God It’s Full of Stars


Day 27: Linda Hogan

Hogan is a  Chickasaw writer and environmentalist. In an interview with John Murray for A Journal of the Built + Natural Environmentsan online nonprofit magazine, Hogan talks about keeping her personal journal, which is where the detailed observations of her natural surroundings were first recorded.

“I used to keep a journal religiously. That was how I began every morning. I’d get up and write in my journal. It seems that when I started writing fiction and essays, the energy that normally goes into journal writing had another outlet, although I do miss it.

I also realized that I was writing about the same things every day anyway. Every morning I would remark about the beauty of that particular morning and what the birds were doing, what the trees looked like, whether it was raining. I finally realized that probably I could do more for nature in other, less private, kinds of writing.”

I especially enjoyed her poem, “The History of Red.”

Day 25: Billy Collins

I’ve discussed with many of my colleagues and teachers the difficulty in avoiding writing about writing. As writers, the thing we are probably most qualified to write about is that which we are already doing, and although writing about our own processes is at times cathartic, reflecting life and living outside of the realm of writing is equally important.

In some of the poetry of Billy Collins that I read this morning, it seems that he is able to incorporate familiarities from both the writers life and the outside world. I selected “The Death of Allegory” as today’s poem because I really enjoy the fusion of lighthearted, relatable humor and powerful metaphorical imagery.

Day 23: Alexander Pope

A central figure to the Neoclassical movement, Pope was considered a master of the rhymed couplet form, and he applied it to philosophical and satirical social criticism. What I found most fascinating about him, however, is that he was the first known full-time writer by trade, supporting himself on subscription fees for his translations of Homer and Shakespeare.

Here is Alexander Pope’s “Ode on Solitude.”


Day 21/22: Charles Bernstein & Leslie Scalapino

Bernstein and Scalapino were foundational members of what is known as language poetry, which emphasized an intentional lack of meaning in one’s work. Readers are instead supposed to observe and interpret the poem as a construction of language itself.

Charles Bernstein: “Design

Leslie Scalapino: “walking person who has sky flowing–by one who beside is as if

Day 20: Stephen Dunn

In my last meeting my mentor suggested I take a look at the poetry of Stephen Dunn and didn’t give me a reason why. The suggestion was quickly realized after reading his poem, “Why I Think I’m a Writer.” We share a kind of meandering narrative—a conversational stream of consciousness—style of writing. It’s reflective and tells a story. Dunn has written several books of poetry and is praised for his profound yet accessible poetics.

I enjoy this relatable quote in which he describes the evolution of his writing process:

“For twenty years, I’d work almost every morning. I had a kind of driven-ness back then, combined with a kind of writing-as-practice. Maybe it had to do with an early sense of mortality because my parents died so young—a sense that I didn’t have a lot of time. Now I tend to do a lot of work in the summers, usually at one of the writers’ colonies. But during the year I work haphazardly, without a fixed schedule. And my poems have to pass harder tests before I let them go or even call them poems. I spend more time worrying them into existence.”