400 Years After Shakespeare’s Death


Believed to be one of the only true portraits of William Shakespeare. A lot of the others that depict him old and bald are just artists’ interpretations.

On April 23rd, 1616, it is believed that William Shakespeare passed away. While we don’t have records of his death, we do have records of his funeral which occurred two days later on April 25th, 1616.

At the age of 52, Shakespeare left behind a body of work that has captivated pop culture and has been the favored subject of academia (think of your high school literature classes) for the past 400 years. Shakespeare’s works have lead to an unparalleled phenomenon across cultures and well past his time.

This blog has continually looked for Shakespeare from searching for Shakespeare in bookstores in Taipei, Taiwan to visiting a bookstore with his namesake in Berkeley, California. Speaking of books, we’ve reviewed the Star Wars Shakespeare-style books, have shared our own stories about Shakespeare, and have made so many freaking posts about Shakespeare loot it’s kinda ridiculous.

Lauren Sumabat and I geeked out over plays like Richard III and shared it here for the world to see. I’ve also shared my research project that created three lesson plans for teachers in the Common Core system to use in an 8th through 12th grade classroom. We’ve done instructional posts on how to read Shakespeare for the first time, explored Juliet’s question on the meaning of names,  and have tackled current events like the revelation of a new Shakespeare play. I could go on and on and on about this blog’s coverage of all things Shakespeare because his works play such an important role in the literary world he and they, of course, play an important role in our blog about literature, creative writing, and education.

On April 23rd, 2016, 400 years after the beloved playwright, sonneteer, and poet passed away, his work is still alive and out there for you to see. All around the world, Shakespeare’s life is being celebrated on the anniversary of his death in countries like MexicoCanadaEngland (of course), and Japan.

Where I live, in Los Angeles, California, there’s plenty to do to celebrating the passing of this great influence on western canon:

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Poems for National Poetry Month

April is my favorite time of year. Not for the showers (although, rain’s nice), nor for the beginning of spring; rather, April is my favorite time of the year because it’s officially National Poetry Month and that means I get to spam everyone I know on Facebook with poems everyday, and sometimes twice a day, for a whole month. It’s also the month of William Shakespeare’s birth and death, so I like to pay special attention to his sonnets and poems, as well as poetry that celebrates his work, during my favorite time of the year.

It’s really an English degree holder’s dream.

I want to share poetry with everyone this time of the year, and you are not immune. Here’s a poetry month starter kit of poetry for you to share with your friends, or to just read an enjoy, during my favorite month of the year.

National Poetry Month
by Elaine Equi

When a poem
speaks by itself,
it has a spark

and can be considered
part of a divine

Sometimes the poem weaves
like a basket around
two loaves of yellow bread.

“Break off a piece
of this April with its
raisin nipples,” it says.

“And chew them slowly
under your pillow.
You belong in bed with me.”

On the other hand,
when a poem speaks
in the voice of a celebrity

it is called television
or a movie.
“There is nothing to see,”

say Robert De Niro,
though his poem bleeds
all along the edges

like a puddle
crudely outlined
with yellow tape

at the crime scene
of spring.
“It is an old poem,” he adds.

“And besides,
I was very young
when I made it.”

Spring is like a perhaps hand
By E. E. Cummings
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Politics and Poetry: John Milton


Is it weird that I really dig John Milton’s hair? I wish mine curled that well without product. I’m just assuming they didn’t have hair products in the 1600s.

John Milton lived during the Restoration period (1600-1798), also known as the Age of Enlightenment which occurred just after the Renaissance (1485-1660), in England and was one of the most celebrated poets of the era.

It was Milton’s goal to not just be a poet, but to be a great poet. He achieved this by hiring tutors to continue his education after his schooling had finished. In addition to studying hard to be a poet, Milton wrote and he wrote a lot. John Milton was a prolific poet, creating an extensive body of work from sonnets to a twelve book-spanning epic poem.

What Milton is probably most recognized for is that twelve book epic poem, better known as Paradise Lost. This epic poem recounts the fall of man from the Christian bible from the perspective of none other than Satan himself.


“Paradise Lost” by Terrance Lindall, executive director of the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, at the center’s new exhibition in honor of John Milton’s 400th birthday. Credit Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

You might also recognize Paradise Lost from how long the opening line is if you read it at all in high school or in college:

Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s Brook that flow’d
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.

And that is, of course, all grammatically correct (ah, the power of proper punctuation).

If you’ve ever sat through a literature course, a course on poetry, or read this blog, that information was probably something you were already aware of. Besides being the beloved author of the epic poem Paradise Lost, Milton was a revolutionary that helped overthrow a king. Continue reading

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Literary Paraphernalia: Adult Coloring Books

As soon as adult coloring books became a thing (I really don’t know what defines “a thing” – I just know that everyone I know is talking about them), I wanted to do a post taking a look at the trend.

What I was really curious about was what made a coloring book “adult” versus one for kids or one for all ages. The general answer seems to be that adult color books are a heck of a lot harder to color because the lines are a lot closer together and the coloring area is fairly small.

But, a more fun answer is that the subject matter changes. Children’s color books tend to be about, say, monsters. Adult coloring books are about dinosaurs getting high (featured later in this blog post, so I won’t link it here). Now, if you’re interested in adult coloring books, you can always head down to your local chain-market and make a purchase of something generic filled with flowers or birds or what have you, or you can check out these adult coloring books from Etsy.Com, support an artist, and have a truly unique coloring book.

Without further ado, here’s a crap-ton of amazing adult coloring books I found on Etsy.Com. For funsies, I’m going to list these as most all-ages friendly to least all-ages friendly. So if you want the raunchy stuff, skip to the end.

You’re Weird: A Coloring Book for Strange Creatures of All Ages

Damn right I am.

This little coloring book has 20 pages total with hand-drawn and hand-lettered pictures, ranging from the adorable (a puffy cat saying woof) to the sweet (a page telling us to “stay strange” covered in funky characters). Weird children and weird adults alike, and even those who aspire to be weird and aren’t quite there yet, can buy themselves a version of this book and have fun with it.

Flat Faced Friends: A Pug & French Bulldog Coloring Book

It’s like all the cutest pictures of pugs on the internet came together and turned into a coloring book!

Even if you’re not a dog person, you’re going to want to fill these pages with color. Seriously. Look.

They are like Pokemon – not in that they are animals, but for the compulsive need to collect them all and fill them in with strange colors.

A to Z of Unicorns

Fat unicorns are the best unicorns.

I may have a soft spot for unicorns, as my best friend and godchild have an affinity for them. I know they’d both dig this coloring book, and I figured a lot of you would too.

I can see myself finding my zen while coloring a fat unicorn in a pretty garden.

Cthulhu Coloring Book

Remember, he’s running for office, people. Cthulhu 2016: Why vote for the LESSER of two evils?

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The Martian v. The Martian

The Martian novel, written by Andy Weir, is a self-publishing success. In 2011, he self-published the book and it got enough attention to garner him a contract with Crown Books. In 2014, The Martian was re-released with the help of Crown and became one of the top selling books on Amazon.Com. And then it became a movie.


Is it just me, or does it look like he’s doing a happy dance?

I started reading The Martian last year and, between applying to graduate programs, moving (twice!), picking up a few side jobs (on top of my main jobs), and all the rest of life stuff that gets in the way of fun stuff, it took me a while to finish the book. Mind you, I really enjoyed the book as I was reading it and I even got students of mine to read it as well.

Now that I’ve finally finished reading and watching The Martian, I can compare and contrast the two different media used to tell Andy Weir’s story of an astronaut left behind on Mars for your (and more likely my) amusement and declare one better than the other (because all things must be ranked!).

If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, this post contains spoilers. Though, if you’ve clicked on this blog because of the title, I’m assuming you kind of already knew that, but I thought I’d be nice and post a warning anyway.

Overall, despite the difference in media, the story of astronaut Mark Watney is pretty much kept in tact, with the exception of the ending. Both the film and the book rely on narration, which works well in the novel but not as well, at points, in the movie (I felt).

The main mode of telling a story through text is narration. With text, that’s pretty much the only way to tell a story. But when we change medium from text to film, new story telling elements arise. Film has an added dimension of spectacle through its visual nature that text is lacking. While a novel must take up time and pages describing costumes and sets, the spectacle element of film allows costumes and sets to be shown. While a novel must have a narrator tell us what’s happening in the story, the film has the option to show us, the audience, what’s happening so we experience it first-hand instead of through a re-telling or another character’s eyes.

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Mashups are a popular thing, right?

Only if you watch this show.

Wait, let me try that again.

Has this ever happened to you?

You: Hey, I want to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I also want to participate in No Shave November for cancer awareness. I can’t do both at once, can I?

Me: Wait! You can! You CAN do two things at once.


Why yes, in this scenario, you are Bender from Futurama.

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Busy? Break Your Writing Projects Into Small Chunks

I have a confession: this blog has been going strong for 3+ years and lately, because the other editor (Mel) and I have been really, really busy, we haven’t been posting nearly as often as we used to.

That’s because writing takes time, and with her new gig as a publisher (everyone say CONGRATULATIONS to her, by the way) and my 5-6 academic jobs (and I’m not exaggerating there!), we’re fairly low on time between the two of us.

Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and - wait, I don't have time to write poetry!

Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and – wait, I don’t have time to write poetry!

Today I was helping a student plot out a large paper assignment and the advice I gave him is the advice I need to follow myself and that I recommend anyone without a lot of time and a penchant for writing follow: break down your writing assignment into small, digestible chunks you can finish in about a half-hour every night.

I know that sounds pretty easy, but being able to judge your own ability to get a task done isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Here are a few tips that’ll help make the process easier.

1. Planning should be sessions 1-3, at the least. Planning takes time, and sometimes people feel that if they aren’t at a keyboard typing, they aren’t getting any work done and that simply isn’t true. You’re going to need to start planning before you can really start doing anything else. Continue reading

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The Two Book Rule

My friend is much wiser than me. He, you see, brings at least two books with him every place he goes.

I sometimes bring a book, or my kindle, but sometimes I forget and I’ll just leave the house with myself, my keys, my wallet, and my cellphone.

Sometimes I get really, really bored.

He, on the other hand, always has two books with him to read, so he’s generally always got something to do if conversation slows down or if there’s a wait somewhere or something of the like.

The other day I asked him, out of curiosity, “friend, why do you always have two books with you? Why not just bring one?”

He gave the simplest, most elegant answer I could imagine, “Well, what would I do if I finished the first book and didn’t have the second book? Not read?”

So now, personally, I’m implementing a new rule that I’d like to share. I call it the two book rule. The rule is as follows:
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WWII: Not an Original Setting Anymore

I’m part of a book club at work. We enjoy getting together and discussing a book every two weeks over lunch. But, for some reason, more than half the books we read are set in WWII. All of the villains are, generally, Nazis.

This is the current book I’m working on for book club. It’s not bad, but I’m tired of WWII. Maybe if I hadn’t of read 6 other WWII related books for book club before, I’d be more into this one.

I was wondering if this was just related to the tastes of my book club – maybe they all are WWII enthusiasts or like, really hate Nazis.

But then I realized, maybe, just maybe, the reason we read so many WWII fiction books is because there are so damn many of them on the market.

When I do a search in Amazon, for example, for WWII under books, I get 20,203 results. If I narrow it down to non-history books, I still get about 5,000 books from literature, fantasy, mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, teen, etc.

I hate to say it, but guys, WWII is an unoriginal theme. Don’t make it your setting. Don’t make your bad-guys stereotypical Nazis. It’s been done. It’s been done so many times. How many times? 20,203 overall, or, if you just want to go into the fiction realm, at least over 5,000 recently.

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Throwback Thursday: 10 Male Authors who Bring Sexy to the Paperback

Authors are known for a lot of things–being eccentric, loving cats, even, well, being dicks–but being sexy isn’t usually one of them. For that reason, we at The Poetics Project have decided to shed a little light on all of the sexy male writers out there.


1. Rupert Brooke

(Credit: Public Domain)

(Credit: Public Domain)

Rupert Brooke was born in 1887. Brooke wrote for most his life; he was known for being quite dashing and befriended people like Winston Churchill and Virginia Woolf, which helped him get his work published and read. When World War I reached England, Brooke enlisted, and in 1915, on an expedition with the Navy, Brooke died of blood poisoning brought on by a mosquito bite. Brooke, the charming, beautiful, young poet became a symbol of the tragic loss of youth brought on by the war.

2. James Franco

(Credit: James Franco's Facebook Wall, also know as a Selfie--which he should feel free to post more of)

James Franco’s selfie. Please, post more. (Credit: James Franco’s Facebook Wall)

This man needs no introduction. The fact that James Franco is an author at all frustrates many people, but just shut up and look at him.

3. William Faulkner

(Credit: Carl Van Vechten)

(Credit: Carl Van Vechten)

William Faulkner, although probably better known for pieces like As I Lay Dying, wrote poems almost exclusively for much of his life. He attended Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi) where he was in a fraternity and received a “D” in English. However, several of his poems were published in campus literary journals during this time. He later went on to have a career as a screenwriter, as well as several affairs–one with Joan Williams, who wrote a novel about their time together, called The Wintering.

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