Tag Archives: Sylvia Plath

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.

Damn, Poetry’s Hard

In Adam Frank’s recent article on NPR, the writer compares poetry to physics. He begins his discussion with T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, which is 434 lines. In other words, it’s long. For some readers, that length provides something to hold onto a bit longer. An author might claim that more space allows for them to create greater meaning. But for some readers, longer poems can be daunting.

However, length isn’t the only thing that makes certain poems more difficult for some than others. Why someone may not “get” a poem can be for many reasons. In Frank’s article, the writer interviews John Beer, poet and professor at Portland State University. Beer had this to say about the subject:

There are, it seems, as many ways for a poem to be difficult as there are for it to be a poem at all. For most people, a lot of poetry written before the twentieth century will be a challenge: the vocabulary will often be unfamiliar, the syntax may be more complicated than we are accustomed to reading, and allusions, especially to classical learning, abound.

Literary Paraphernalia: Writerly Art Prints

After several months of simply thinking about getting around to buying furniture at some possible date in the near future, I have decided to actually buy furniture. My walls feel empty, and I’m no longer in that awkward in-between-paychecks-and-jobs stage. In the spirit of filling up my empty walls, I took a look around on Etsy. I found a shop called Obvious State that sells literary prints and other bookish goods, like custom-picked notebook sets.

But really, I lingered at Obvious State’s shop because of their section of literary prints, each well-designed and with similar aesthetics. I imagine one or two posters above my writing desk, a reminder of why to keep going. Below are just a few posters from the Etsy shop’s inventory, but I found these ones particularly relevant to writers.

“All Truths Wait In All Things” Walt Whitman Poster

“Do A Fabulous Story” F. Scott Fitzgerald Poster

“Write Drunk; Edit Sober” Ernest Hemingway Poster

Four Literary Desserts You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

My significant other is a cook, and over the past few years, I’ve had the luxury of watching his talent grow—and my waistline when he’s on a roll. As a writer, I find the intersection of our two careers to be interesting. A good writer can describe food so well it will make your stomach grumble. And great food, like certain books or poems, stay with us. They fill us with nostalgia for our mother’s cooking and bring memories with them. Like how spaghetti makes me think of the time my father demanded I sit at the dining table all night and finish my bowl of pasta because there were children in Africa who didn’t have that luxury—but that’s another story.

The act of cooking can be meditative. I once read somewhere that our mind’s default mode is daydreaming, which is why you can drive from point A to point B without having any recollection of how you arrived there. And when you’re cooking or baking, I imagine the same thing happens. Your mind turns off while you chop, mix, and pour, and while it’s off, your imagination wanders. And it’s during these moments that inspiration can strike.

Besides writing poetry, baking inspired Emily Dickinson. She’d often send cakes and other sweets to friends along with her letters, or lower gingerbread down to the neighborhood children through her window with the help of a basket. She did this during a time in her life when she had become a complete recluse. But while baking, she would sometimes jot down a poem on the back of a recipe. She wrote “The Things that never can come back, are several” on the back of a coconut cake recipe (the original recipe can be found here).

However, the beautiful cake below was made by Cara Nicoletti, a writer, butcher, and former pastry chef living in Brooklyn, who created the blog Yummy Books. Little, Brown will be publishing a book about her love affair with reading and cooking next year.

Emily Dickinson Coconut Cake

 

Books for Feminists – Big and Small, Part 4: Classics

This is the final installment of our Books for Feminists series. If you missed it, there are three other parts: feminist books for children, feminist books for teens, and contemporary feminist books for adults. Now we’re going to talk about classic feminist literature.

Feminism has been around for a long time in the United States. From Abigail Adams’ letters to her husband, John Quincy Adams, asking him to “remember the ladies” when he worked with the constitutional congress on the establishment of this new nation to Sybil Ludington, the woman rider who rode twice the distances as Paul Revere on the same night to warn the Americans that the British were coming.

Feminism isn’t a movement restricted to one geographic location, indeed, it spreads across landmasses, nations, color, and gender. The books included on this list come from around the world and are all essential to any feminist’s reading.

(Image Source: Amazon.Com)

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

This book by Mary Wollstonecraft was first published in 1792. It is considered one of the first manifestos of women’s rights. Wollstonecraft’s classic book makes an argument for women to be educating, noting that “Tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavor to keep women in the dark, because the former want only slaves, and the later a plaything.” Her assertion that women should be educated to enable their independence was radical at the time it was made, despite women’s education not being questioned in current times. This book shows the evolution of thought and how it sometimes takes a radical to get an idea started that later becomes part of the common practices of a culture.


(Image Source: Amazon.Com)

Madame Bovary

Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is a French classic, first released in 1857. While the link above is to a translated version of the text, I hear reading it in its original language is an absolute-must for people who are able because a lot of nuances can be lost in translation. Emma Bovary is bored. She’s a housewife and life couldn’t be duller for her, so instead of being an obedient wife, she pursues an affair with Rodolphe. This novel is often credited with being one of the first modern realism in addition to being celebrated for its poetic craftsmanship.


(Image Source: Amazon.Com)

The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote this short story based off of her own experiences with depression (from the semi-autobiographic story, it can be asserted that she had postpartum depression) and her lack of power over her own treatment for her ailment. When the woman in the novel asserts that she would really feel better if she was able to get up, move, write, and see her baby, her husband, a doctor, banishes her thoughts on her own medical treatment and insists that she ascribes to his prescribed rest cure. Being locked up in an old nursery, unable to write, interact with people, or exercise her own will and judgement, the narrator slowly goes mad and starts seeing a woman in the yellow wallpaper of the room.


The Blurry Line Between Fiction and Creative Nonfiction

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the line between fiction and nonfiction exists—specifically creative nonfiction. When we read a textbook or a biography of some dead president or washed-up celebrity, we expect what we’re reading to be factual. For it to have actually happened. And if the names change (more than likely to protect someone’s identity) we are accepting of that. But with creative nonfiction, when stories read more like novels, when, you think, there’s no way they can possibly remember each of these experiences with as much detail as they’ve just conjured, it’s easy to forget that this “story” was actually someone’s life.

In case you have no clue what creative nonfiction is (I wouldn’t blame you), Lee Gutkind, the founder of Creative Nonfiction Magazine, has said it’s “true stories well told.” That’s the most succinct definition you’ll find. It’s not made up. It’s fact. But the telling of those facts reads like fiction. There’s dialouge. Description. A narrative arc. But as Gutkind reminds us, there is still a cardinal rule present in creative nonfiction and that rule is that the author can’t make “stuff” up.

So that’s the line then, I suppose. Only it’s more complicated than that (of course it is). In a piece the journalist Roy Peter Clark wrote for Gutkind’s magazine, he says, “To make things more complicated, scholars have demonstrated the essential fictive nature of all memory. The way we remember things is not necessarily the way they were. This makes memoir, by definition, a problematic form in which reality and imagination blur.”

15 Historic Poetry Recordings We’re Lucky to Have

Technology has made the life of writers and readers much easier. We can store thousands of books in an e-reading device; write, edit, and save stories with a word processor; and use our phones as a dictionary and thesaurus and skip lugging the heavy books around. Now that many classic literary texts have been entered into the public domain, readers can find some of the greatest works in history with the click of a button. And as William Faulkner once said, “Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.”

That same logic applies to poetry too, of course. And as poetry is often read aloud, it’s a great idea to listen and learn from some of the masters. Thanks to technology, we have the ability to access historic recordings of some classic poets, like Dylan Thomas and Langston Hughes.

You’d be surprised by how many great poets can’t read well. By that, I don’t mean they’re illiterate, but, for whatever reason, when they read their poems they don’t engage with their audience. Personally, Ezra Pound’s voice grates at me, but I really enjoyed Anne Sexton’s recording of “Letter Written on a Ferry.” It was honest and soothing; it lulled the listener in.

But listen and decide for yourself. I’ve included fifteen historic recordings, with links to The Poetry Archive, where you can hear them, below.

1. “Anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e.e. cummings

Ezra Pound - Creative Commons
e.e. cummings 1917 passport photo

2. “The Waste Land Part V – What the Thunder said” by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Necklaces for Word Lovers

Generally speaking, I try to find some clever way of introducing these Literary Paraphernalia posts, but the truth is, it’s just me, plugging away all of the literary stuff I wish I wasn’t too broke to purchase. But I’m okay with that. In truth, there’s something cathartic about putting it down. It helps me get it out of my system. And there’s always the off chance that my boyfriend happens to come across a post (yes, Chris, I would like ALL the jewelry) and decides to surprise me. A girl can hope, right?

In reality, it’s more likely that a friend comes in to class, waving her newly-bangled arm in my face and thanking me for introducing her to the literary Etsy shop that sold it to her—a page from a book glued to its surface. Hi Missy.

This week, I happened to stumble across a necklace, the words “I am I am I am” dangling from the chain—the same words I plan on getting tattooed on my skin one day. The words come from Sylvia Plath’s book, The Bell Jar, and while they may mean something different to each person who reads them, their rhythm closely resembles that of a heart beat. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”

And that, my friends, was the inspiration for this week’s post—the Plath necklace being the first item.

“I am I am I am” Necklace

“The Great Oz” Key-Pendant Necklace

The Hobbit Necklace

“Down the Rabbit Hole” Necklace

Other Writers Are The Best Motivation

Sometimes it’s hard to write. Most of the time, it’s hard to write. Or at least to just get started. For me, motivation comes from many places. I may spend a year revising a poem, but that initial draft generally comes in one fell swoop.

I’m on the bus or walking around the city and an image plants itself in my brain and refuses to let go. It can be anything. The woman tying one end of a tarp to a light pole and the other to a grocery cart so she can sleep at night without the rain soaking her. Something a friend says in passing. The man on the street corner passing out miniature versions of the old testament.

But Neil Gaiman once said “If you only write when inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist.” His words are blunt, but there’s a certain truth to that. With short stories or novels, one image isn’t enough—in the way it might be for a poem. Sure, one image might get the gears turning, but it’s not enough to sustain the piece or your own motivation for that matter.

During down time, I sometimes go on Goodreads. Not to stare at the pitiful amount of books I’ve read this year in between my full-time course load, but to read what other writers have to say about the act of writing. Some of these quotes are plain beautiful, while others are plain honest—making me realize that the only thing stopping me from becoming the writer I hope to be someday is myself. Here is a sampling of some of my favorite quotes about writing that I’ve come across over the years. I hope they provide you with as much motivation as they have for me.

“Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” — Philip José Farmer

“If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.” — Natalie Goldberg

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” — Virginia Woolf

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” — Madeleine L’Engle

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” — Anais Nin

“Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.” — Joss Whedon

“Write about the emotions you fear the most.” — Laurie Halse Anderson

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” — Truman Capote

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” — Robert Cormier

“So okay—there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.” — Stephen King

“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” — Martin Luther

“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” — Gloria Steinem

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” — Beatrix Potter

“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” — Junot Diaz

“Half of what I write is garbage, but if I don’t write it down it decomposes in my head.” — Jarod Kintz

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.” — William Faulkner

“I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card…and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.” — Joyce Carol Oates

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Literary Prints for the Home

Next week, I’m moving to a new studio in Downtown Portland, and because I can’t afford a Picasso, I decided to stick with some cheap prints that show off my love of words. Here are a few of my favorites:

Get it here.

 

If you know me at all, you know that I love Sylvia Plath and her one and only novel The Bell Jar. The Etsy shop Pomalia sells many prints with the black-and-white typography based book covers. You can get a few of your favorite titles and display them on a wall in your living room.

 

Get it here.

 

If you’re a Kurt Vonnegut fan, you may recognize this quote from Slaughterhouse-Five. This sentence in particular has been a favorite of many readers. It simultaneously accepts and dismisses everything. In other words, it gives zero fucks.

 

Get it here.

 

This famous Shakespearean line comes from Hamlet. It is the last piece of advice that Polonius gives to his son Laertes, who is itching to get to Paris. However, the phrase originally didn’t have such a new-agey meaning. Instead, it meant put yourself first, because then you will be in a better position to help others.

 

Get it here.