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Loving Poems But Not Poetry Books

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Although Americans’ love for poetry has yet to reach the wild heights of Abu Dhabi’s hit reality show Million’s Poet where 70 million global viewers watched dueling versifiers vie for a $1.3 million cash prize, Americans are actively involved in reading it—particularly outside the traditional literary arenas of bookstores and libraries.

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Don’t Throw the Clichés out with the Bath Water

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Most people think clichés aren’t worth a hill of beans, but over at Salon, Orin Hargraves says they just haven’t gotten a fair shake. Hargraves thinks clichés are just a red herring; if you want to make sure your writing really is one-of-a-kind, he has this advice:

The best way to free your speech and writing of unneeded and detrimental clichés is to construct it thoughtfully, paying close attention to the common tendency to insert a ready form of words in a place where it easily fits.

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Gateway Literature

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Over at the New Yorker, Stephen Burt reviews Ariel Schrag’s Adam, a graphic novel about a straight man who finds himself in the midst of New York’s queer scene. Almost as interesting as the novel’s contents is its publicity: where trans characters were once cast as charity cases, psychopaths, anything but simply human, now Adam is being marketed as mainstream literary fiction:

…it tries not to lose readers unfamiliar with the complicated labels and the sometimes surprising bodies of the gender-variant people Adam meets: he’s learning about them, and from them, and (the novel assumes) so are we.

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Delving Head-First into Wonder

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Often times readers dismiss graphic novels as too unrealistic to posses literary merit. That would be a mistake, argues Stefan A. Slater at The Airship, because reality isn’t inherently part of good story telling. Plenty of other fictional forms flaunt the rules of the naturalistic universe while retaining literary value, and graphic novels often contain strong narratives confronting contemporary issues:

A good story is meant to transport.

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Does Poetry Matter?

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Yesterday’s New York Times posed this question to poetry superstars Tracy K. Smith, Martin Espada, William Logan, Paul Muldoon, Sandra Beasley, Patrick Rosal, and our own David Biespiel. Whether by “educat[ing] the senses,” combatting irony, or “ritualiz[ing] human life,” suffice it to say, the answer is Yes.

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Weekend Rumpus Roundup

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First, “Creative Thinking,” by Grant Snider.

Then, the grandiosity of nature suffuses Ketchum, Idaho, the setting of the Sunday Essay and the place where Ernest Hemingway spent his last days on earth. Author Eileen Shields, who lives part of the year on the same street as the old Hemingway house, offers us a thoughtful meditation on “Papa’s” death and the strangely masculine American mythology of suicide by gun.

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Libraries Are Essential

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Libraries are not “Netflix for books,” Kelly Jensen argues over at BookRiot, but serve as centers of their communities. Corporations like Netflix are driven by profits, while libraries, at least in North America, are free for their users. The real danger is in training people to think of libraries not as essential public services, but as services users pay for:

The biggest issue with equating the library with a Netflix for books is that it sends a false message that libraries are worth little more than $8 or $12 or $20 a month.

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Notable NYC: 7/19–7/25

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Saturday 7/19: Sean H. Doyle, Faith Lyla, Lucy K Shaw, Natalie Eilbert, and Mike Bushnell read for the OHSO Book Release party. Mellow Pages, 8 p.m., free.

Sunday 7/20: Helena Duncan, Bo Fisher, Oona Robertson, Cara Dempsey, and David Miller are all former interns of Matt Nelson, Mellow Pages Library curator, and will all read together tonight.

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The Science of Creativity

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For the Atlantic, Cody C. Delistrarty ponders whether a person can learn to be creative, or if he or she is simply born with the trait. Framing his essay on Mary Shelley and her writing process for Frankenstein, Delistrarty presents several prevailing theories, among them that an “openness to experience” is often crucial for an artist’s work.

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Nights to Remember

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I offer all of this not by way of aimless self-revelation, but as a way of provoking you to remember your stories about similar incidents in your life, stories about the night, and who smoked what and who was doing who mixed in with outside events, such as the politics of your time, mixed in with the books you were reading, the films you were seeing, the poems you were memorizing, because all of it is your source material.

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This Week in Short Fiction

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On Monday, Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell began tweeting a short story called “The Right Sort” in multiple daily installments, compiled by Sceptre Books, readable from the top down. Set to conclude today, the story takes the Valium-filtered perspective of a young teen in 1970s England.

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Believer Now Accepting Classifieds

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Say you want to rant somewhere it’ll be seen. Or send a love letter, publicly. Or write short, realistic fiction in the form of ads about how your grandmother has been captured by neo-Nazi zombies demanding a large vat of non-kosher, organ-based meats in return for her safety.

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The Literary Underground

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Raphael Allison, at Guernica, fuses together his experience at this year’s MLA conference in Chicago with the subculture of the modernists in order to discuss the “crisis in the humanities”:

Mods and literary academics are caught between the allure of wildness, ingenuity, and nonconformity and the desire for some sort of stability, recognition, and achievement.

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A Journey to the Center of the Literary Canon

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In the Weekly Standard, Algis Valiunas debates the literary legacy of Jules Verne.

“William Butcher, the foremost English Verne scholar, boasts that his man is “the world’s most translated writer, the best-seller of all time, the only popular writer to have increased in popularity over more than a century.” Yet in the next breath the enthusiast bleats that too few know that Verne, in fact, reigns supreme in worldwide popularity and that all too few serious persons realize how serious Verne really is.

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