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Common Terms and Phrases

according to e. e. cummings

By The Editors on 5.07.10

If you’re not familiar with the “common terms and phrases” feature on Google Books, then you should probably get familiar because it’s pretty great.  It lists the words and word groups that appear most frequently in any full text available on Google Books. In novels, this list is often overrun by character names.  But in E. E. Cumming’s Erotic Poems, things are a bit more interesting. For your Friday afternoon pleasure, please enjoy the Top Ten Most Unexpected Common Terms and Phrases in E. E. Cumming’s Erotic Poems:

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A Poet and Her Editor

By Kimiko Hahn on 5.06.10

What does it mean for a poet to have someone edit her collection? I am not sure what that might involve for other poets—aside from having some lines cut or stanzas rearranged—but my own experience has been extraordinary. On a panel last year, I spoke to a room of emerging writers on this topic; seated beside me was my editor at Norton, Jill Bialosky. This column feels like an appropriate place to relate some of my comments.

Mosquito and Ant was the first manuscript I submitted to Jill, who was familiar with an earlier book of mine, The Unbearable Heart. She found the new book intriguing but not quite ready—that was the gist of her response. A year later, I tried again and she returned the manuscript with a few comments on the parts that felt most compelling to her. She suggested I add a prose section (what I’d been calling zuihitsu, a Japanese genre) that would give the dominant sequence some kind of backdrop. I love assignments, and so I wrote two zuihitsu: “Reflections Off White” (a sort of catalog of weddings) and “Morning Light” (a more narrative piece on a wife’s leave-taking). If memory serves, I already had two other such zuihitsu: “The Downpour” (written in response to a Sei Shonagon millennium celebration at The Poetry Project) and “Sewing without Mother” (a prose elegy). I saw that Jill was right: these changes added some backdrop and the manuscript felt richer. After about another year, I sent this new version. At that point, the collection resembled the finished book—except for arrangement. Given that Jill is a writer herself, I’ve often wondered how she finds the time and energy to offer such guidance. Even with no guarantee of publication, I was intensely grateful.

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Julie Sheehan unveils Bar Book at KGB

By The Editors on 4.28.10

Whiting award winner Julie Sheehan’s third collection, Bar Book: Poems and Otherwise, will be published on June 7th. But she’ll be giving a sneak peak of the new bar-themed volume at New York’s legendary KGB Bar on Monday, May 3rd at 7pm [more info]. She’ll be reading with David Lehman who actually co-founded the Monday night poetry series back in 1997. Who else needs a drink?

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 8 of 8

An Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.26.10

Now, the conclusion of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores now. [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5 | Read Part 6 | Read Part 7]

My plane did not leave until the following morning. I spent Tuesday night in the casino. The Nugget is not actually as big as I’d thought at first—a trick of mirrors—and most of my time was passed at the Aquarium Bar. The musical entertainment came in the form of a well-oiled duo known as Bobby and Ricky, whose engagement was listed as “indefinite.” Bobby was a sax player with a genial smile; Ricky, a guitarist in a leisure suit with curly gray hair. When I arrived Bobby was tying up the last few bars of “Secret Agent Man.” When the song was through he grabbed the microphone and shouted, “Have some more tequila!” pronouncing the last word with a lascivious sneer. The mostly geriatric crowd responded with a lusty yell. I noticed a table of famous poets, all wearing their medallions and drinking heavily. Bobby and Ricky started into “Unchained Melody.” Dancers crowded the floor. An elderly couple stood in the center, barely swaying, locked in an embrace. A man wearing a cowboy hat and a shirt patterned with the American flag asked one of the poets to dance. I knew her. She had bent my ear the night before, telling me all about her unhappy marriage that fell apart a few years back and the poetry that had helped her through it. Her first poem had come to her on her birthday at the exact hour of her birth. Smiling, she gazed up at the cowboy and laid her hand on his outstretched forearm. Some of us began to sing along with Bobby. The din of the slots died away. Out of the fake thatched roof descended Apollo, god of song. The waitress stood and watched, her tray full of tequila shots, limes, salt. The muse of the lyre visited Ricky, and he strummed a lovely chord. Time and loss for us seemed distant, made-up things. At the center of the world were Bobby’s lips, singing the immortal verses, and in these verses our hearts were gladdened. This was poetry.

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 7 of 8

An Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.22.10

Now, Part 7 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores now. [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5 | Read Part 6]

The Famous Poet’s Society had impressed upon us throughout the convention that we were all winners: that as far back as the first night when we had put pen to paper we had ceased to lose. But some would leave Reno with less than others. This fact was underscored by the $6,000 in door prizes that greeted our return to the Rose Ballroom.

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 6 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.19.10

Now, Part 6 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores today! [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5.]

That night at the Shakespeare banquet we hashed out the odds on the twenty-five grand. From the open field a few favorites had emerged. At my table a dental hygienist from Dallas advised that the smart money liked a man from her class. “His name is James Stelly,” she said, “and he’s given his whole life to going around and telling what drugs did to him. He can bring tears to anyone’s eye that hears him.”

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 5 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.15.10

Now, Part 5 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores on April 19th. [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4.]

The judged readings had been going on since eight a.m. in the Celebrity Showroom, an old dinner theater with heavy tables and plush cocktail booths. This was the Nugget’s swankiest venue. The railings were dark polished mahogany. Red velvet covered the walls. A gold lamé curtain bordered the stage, bunched in dazzling symmetrical folds around the proscenium. Tiny Tivoli lights outlined the aisles and the steps and the ample round lip of a stage that had been trod by the likes of Dick Dale, Pasquale Esposito, and Gordon Lightfoot.

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 4 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.12.10

Now, Part 4 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores on April 19th. [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3.]

On Monday morning I woke in a tangle of sheets and lay there turning things over in my head. The confidence I’d felt after the first homeroom session was shaken. Clearly I needed to be dramatizing my poem if I wanted to win the $25,000. This kid with the Ricky Martin routine was going to walk all over me. How would it feel to come all this way and lose to a dance routine? I ran over my poem a few times, looking for places where I might go down on a knee, but my poem did not seem to lend itself to that kind of theater. The clock was ticking. Class Six was scheduled to read before the judges at three p.m. I threw on some clothes and headed downstairs for Joel’s morning lecture, “How to Be a Poet on Your Feet.”

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 3 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.08.10

Now, Part 3 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores on April 19th. [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2.]

After a short break, we reconvened for the Master Workshop, presented by Al D’Andrea. Al affected a professorial demeanor, repeatedly snatching off his reading glasses and gesturing philosophically with his hands. He ranged over a number of poets, from William Carlos Williams to Lucille Clifton, each one serving the overall point of his address, which was called “Saying Yes: Embracing the Life Force of Your Poem.” He closed with a poem by James Scully entitled “What Is Poetry?” Having just witnessed the dramatic opposition of Rigg’s experimental soundscape and Joel’s corny baseball rhymes, and with $25,000 hanging somewhere in the balance, I found the question pertinent. Unfortunately, Scully offered no definitive answers. He posed instead a series of odd counter-questions, such as “if it were a crib / would you trust your baby to sleep in it?” Al added to the weight of these quandaries by chewing on his glasses.

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Now Accepting Submissions: The Amy Award

By The Editors on 4.07.10

In the world of poetry awards, the Amy Award stands out. Why you ask? Not only does it support young women writing poetry and offer the opportunity to give a large public reading in New York City (a rare occurrence for an unpublished poet), but it also honors the memory of an extremely talented writer and actress, Amy Rothholz, who died at 25.

Poets & Writers is now accepting submissions for the 2010 Amy Awards, open to women poets age 30 and under living in the New York City metropolitan area or on Long Island. The deadline is June 1st. For full submission instructions, go to the Amy Award site.

Full disclosure: I was one of the winners last year, and I can honestly say that winning this award was one of the best experiences of my writing life.  Awards and contests come and go (along with the award money), but I’ll never forget reading for a packed house with three other incredible writers. My own poems that I read that night have since been edited or abandoned, but the poem I read by Amy will be with me for a long time.

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