Lord knows the world has changed since I wrote this talk, but when the world falls to pieces around us, especially when the world falls to pieces, writers will still sit down to write. As Beckett tells us, even when we have “no power to express” and “no desire to express,” we still have “the obligation to express.” Telling stories allows the reader or the audience to see through the eyes of another, and generates empathy that we need now more than ever....more
Posts Tagged: Kenyon Review
It’s actually a good thing for writers to step away from the keyboard every once in awhile. On the Kenyon Review blog, Aaron Gilbreath reminds us of the importance of tending to and strengthening the mortal vessels that our brilliant minds travel inside:
Build a literary life if you want it, but don’t forget that when it comes to the body, it’s use it or lose it.
Our personal pasts aren’t factual records. They’re made up on the spot, synthesized from disjointed details to answer questions we have in the present.
For KROnline, Natalie Mesnard and Patrick D. Watson work towards an excavation of memory from the points of view of poetry and neuroscience....more
Poet Safiya Sinclair, author of Cannibal, takes part in the Kenyon Review Conversation series with insight into race in America from a Jamaican’s point of view. Living in a white academic bubble in Charlottesville, VA, immersing herself in slavery-era texts and James Baldwin, she describes how she discovered the ways racism is reduced to the symbolic and coded into language—“hidden in plain sight.” “For example:” she says, “Why is the name ‘killer bee’ interchangeable with ‘Africanized bee’?… coded language makes its way into our vernacular, often shielded under the unimpeachable banner of science.”...more
At the Kenyon Review blog, Brian Michael Murphy celebrates the sheer density of reference and intricate structuring of rap lyrics revealed by a computer program, The Raplyzer, and its Rhyme Factor Scale. Murphy dissects the lyric genius of Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck and others:
I remember the feeling from when I was 16, the sense that they were doing cosmically illegal things with language, crunching it down into a density that tested physic’s laws, with lines impossibly packed, like collapsed stars, greedily bending light toward their hidden centers.
I was recently asked by a young interviewer if writing, with all the time it takes and its use of paper (though I compose on a computer) is not antithetical to what is needed now, the speed that is, to push a speedy change of consciousness and behavior.
George Saunders! America’s greatest satirist! The heir to Mark Twain’s estate! And I thought, Oh, what I wouldn’t give to hear Saunders weigh in on Trump. And then I remembered that, in a way, he already had.
I never bring my computer with me to the basement, and the discipline of the method is to force myself to work out the ideas, the arrangement of the argument or story before I start building paragraphs and sentences.
For the Kenyon Review, Brian Michael Murphy talks about how locking himself up in a basement has made him a better writer....more
What fuels such savagery against human and animal kind? What, but the promise of great profits, the lure of luxury items, fine ivory jewelry and statues, or healing potions, gloves and seal skin coats, and free slave labor leading to the amassing of great wealth; all of which seem available merely for the taking.
I want to get to why this grumbly, axe-grinding, British review of Vendler relates to two trends I see now in American poetry—the confusion over the critic’s role and the rise of literary teams—but first, the question that’s probably foremost on your mind: does Daniel Swift have a case?
I used to work more deliberately at resolving contradictions in my work. Now I tend to see contradictions as evidence that I’ve gotten close to saying something true. When we’re honest, we’re conflicted.
The Kenyon Review interviews Garret Keizer about how his writing has evolved over the years....more
Prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay have access to 18,000 books in 18 different languages, including Arabic translations of King Lear, Anna Karenina, and Stephen King thrillers. But books deemed critical of the US government, including Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Noam Chomsky’s Interventions, and various John Grisham novels, are banned....more
Elicit feedback. Let them know it is OK to not like certain poems, and explore moments of disappointment and discomfort. Have them address the authors directly. Encourage them to see the authors as peers.
For the Kenyon Review blog, Dora Malech interviews Adam Kaplan about his experiences teaching poetry to incarcerated youth....more
For me, the perfect metaphor for rethinking our relationship to other species comes in the form of a dog named “Human,”owned and “curated” by French artist Pierre Huyghe, in his retrospective currently on view at LACMA. Ironically enough, such a simple act of naming invites deep rethinking of our own human position in the world.
“If your teachers suggest that your poems are sentimental,” she writes, “that is only the half of it. Your poems probably need to be even more sentimental. Don’t be less of a flower, but could you be more of a stone at the same time?”
For the Kenyon Review blog, Cody Walker takes another look at Mary Ruefle and the balancing act between sentimentality and logic....more
Every good story is rooted in conflict, and most of us learned the different types of conflict in our high school literature classes like clockwork, year in and year out: man v. man, man v. self, man v. society, man v....more