We’ve Moved!

Hello! Glad you’ve made your way to this blog, but we’ve moved to http://www.paradisetossed.org

At the new site, you’ll find all the posts that were originally written here, as well as new content from a variety of new writers and from myself. New posts will resume Monday, 22 June 2009.

As always, we’re excited about being able to provide interesting content with insight on the convergence of poetry and the web. Thanks for stopping by!


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An Unfortunate Announcement

I am very displeased to announce that I am forced to take a hiatus from blogging for the next month or so. The demands of work, school, and my looming future are such that I just can’t continue to provide the level of content that I’ve been giving here previously. Rather than delivering you half-baked, mediocre posts, I’ve decided it’s better to take a break and return in earnest around the middle of June.

I’ve gotten a lot of great response to the blog so far, and I’m really unhappy to have to stop now just as I’m getting my footing.  Thank you all so much for reading, and I hope you will pick back up with me in June!

In the meantime, I will continue to tweet vigorously, and you can follow me on Twitter under @paradisetossed. You can also follow my tweets, diggs, more personal posts, and other occasional internet exploits at my tumblelog.  With these two pieces of social media intact, I will hopefully not drop out of your internet lives altogether.

Again, thanks for your support, and until we speak again in June, keep writing!


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iPod vs. Moleskine: False Dilemma?

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I have two Moleskine notebooks which I guard and love like children.  One is the classic pocket-size that I use for everyday notes, passing thoughts, or writing ideas.  The other is a larger, journal-size version in which I keep my more formal creative writing.  I wouldn’t trade either of them for the world: they are perfect for my purposes and their simple, elegant design is completely inspiring.

I could say the same for my iPod Touch.  In the short time I’ve had it, it’s become an indispensable little gadget.  It functions as an mp3 player, game console, remote control, netbook, and much more. As the Moleskine notebook is to writing, so is the iPod Touch (or iPhone) to portable computing.

Up until now, incorporating the two into my already gadget-ridden life hasn’t been a problem.  That is, until Touch Poet came along.  This fantastic little iPhone app has thrown my conception of what each of my devices is for out the window.  Until then, the iPod was the information aggregator: it answered e-mails, looked up words, updated Twitter, and checked my calendar events.  The Moleskines were the creativity engines: they expressed my individuality, explored my own brand of poetry, and generally helped me take a break from the hustle and bustle.  But Touch Poet made things altogether different.  This app allowed me to create little mini poems from words that were brought in from all corners of the internet.  Take a look:


Granted, the phrases I have up there don’t really constitute poetry, but you get the idea. Words are generated from various news sources, your own e-mail accounts, the works of Shakespeare, Poe, and Kipling, and social bookmarking site Digg. You take those words and arrange them in any way you like.  It’s a simple concept, and a very nice looking app. It even lets you post your final poem to Twitter, which is the most thoughtful feature.

So why did this throw my creative life into (slightly exaggerated) disarray?  Because beyond the initial fun of it, I actually found Touch Poet to be very useful to my creative process.  I started to use the app to find useful phrases that then got incorporated into my larger work.  I wound up with two competing devices, both serving my creativity, to and from which I spent a great deal of my time transcribing.

As you know, oftentimes writing is about rhythm, both structured and unstructured. At first I found that the cacophony of these devices working against one another was interrupting this rhythm, and I felt a strong urge to get rid of one or the other.  With time, though, and even as I’m writing this post, a new rhythm is emerging.  There’s a great partnership to be had between the high tech and the low tech, and slowly but surely I’m learning to balance my time. Until then, I’ll keep writing with my iPod in one hand and my Moleskine in the other. After all, the important thing is that we all keep writing.

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The Wednesday Five

In case you haven’t seen it already, Phil Plait from Bad Astronomy has written a hilarious poem in rhyming couplets called “The ABCs of Skepticism”.  Jonathan Swift, eat your heart out!

In this week’s Five, I wanted to focus on poetry tools instead of poetry databases.  The sites I’ve listed are excellent resources for helping writers, readers, and teachers to deal with complex poetic issues.

1. Wikisaurus
A little known off-shoot of the vast Wikipedia project, Wikisaurus is one of the best online thesauri out there.  I’ve got nothing against Roget’s, but the interactive nature of a wiki fits the idea of a thesaurus perfectly.  It’s like asking thousands of your closest friends, “What another word for…?”

2. Wordle
Wordle Logo

Wordle is a great site for creating “word clouds” out of your own text.  This can be great for spicing up an otherwise serious topic.  A friend of mine used a cloud from Wordle as a title page for her project on literary freedom in Iran.  Also I think that it’s important for poets to never forget that although we deal in words, much of our art is visual in some ways.  Plus, this tool is just plain fun to use!  Here’s a really great anonymous one about Spring:

3. Poetry Forge

Above is a picture of a a great flash poetry tool for metaphor, but Poetry Forge is chock full of a variety of resources for both students and teachers.  Run by the University of Virginia, this site is well-maintained and straightforward: perfect for when you start to feel bogged down by poetic challenges.

4. readwritethink
Learning Beyond the Classroom

Not to be confused with last week’s excellent readwritepoem, this site is a fantastic reading and writing guide from the International Reading Association.  Geared specifically toward education and making poetry work for teachers and students in and out of the classroom, this site is recommended especially for those of you who instruct poetry in some way.

5. twiHaiku
TwiHaiku - Twitter Poetry, the new art of words

Alright, so I’ll admit that this site doesn’t fit with today’s theme, but it fit with last Monday’s post, and I can’t go another week without mentioning it.  This pretty amazing project is part of the makeliterature.com network, a social website that offers itself up as a self-publishing medium.  With your own makeliterature account, you can submit haiku to the twiHaiku site by simply typing it into the right box, just like tweeting yourself.  Your haiku is then displayed on the @twiHaiku Twitter account.  What this creates is a network of dedicated haiku poets who collaborate to provide the Twitter community with a steady stream of original poetry.  If you can’t already tell, I’m simply brimming with excitement about this project, and watching it grow has been great fun!

And that’s it for today.  I’d like to finish by asking a question to all the poetry teachers out there: what are your favorite resources for getting your students excited about poetry?


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Of Travel, Lapses, and General Merriment

To start off I’d like to apologize for having taken such a long unexpected hiatus from blogging.  Last Wednesday I left for Minneapolis to attend the Sigma Tau Delta Convention.  In case you’ve never heard of it, Sigma Tau Delta is an honors society for English majors across the globe, but is mostly made up of American undergraduates.  Anyway, I thought I was going to have more consistent access to the internet while I was there, and this wasn’t the case.  So thanks to all who stopped by looking for articles and didn’t find them; I’ll resume my regular schedule after this post!

I don’t think of this as a space to share my personal experiences with you, but when they pertain to poetry I can’t help but fold it in.  This conference is a gathering of students from all across the country, and in addition to scholarly papers they are permitted to submit and present original works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.  I was accepted for an original fiction piece, and it was nice to be able to travel there and share some of my writing with the larger world.

Needless to say, I spent the better part of the week listening to a lot people read their work.  I was instantly struck by how easily technology could have improved the experience.  Sigma Tau Delta is generally a place for people on the brink, future literature scholars and creative writers who are just finishing their undergraduate degrees and represent the next wave of thinking and writing literature.  The only whiff of technology I got the whole time was a rather unsuccessful proposal for a live-blogging program.  There is no current evidence on the website that this blog even existed.  If the literary world is to move into the 20th century, we must continue to embrace technology and the ways in which it can help us. 

Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress are quick, easy ways to focus a large group of people on a single goal, but for some reason many at this particular conference seemed uneasy to try these approaches.  I’m thinking mainly of the SXSW conference, where for the past three years Twitter has been responsible for main ebb and flow of events.  Had they begun their blogging project sooner, we could have used the site as a way to familiarize ourselves with the pieces before the short readings.  Questions to panelists could have been tweeted to a special account, making it possible to participate in several panels at once.  And though I’m not a huge Facebook fan, a 2009 Conference group would have made it possible to meet people beforehand, and recognize them throughout the weekend.  These are just a few of the ways that social networking can improve conference experiences.  And in an area such as poetry, which thrives on collaboration, social experiences should be enhanced in any way possible.

Overall, the conference was wonderful.  I discovered a beautiful new city, and I enjoyed the time spent with my fellow writers and thinkers, particularly the ones who I have gone to school with for years but never really gotten to know.  I only think of all the other connections I could have made had more people there been willing to use the extraordinary tools that other groups of thinkers have already embraced.

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The Advent of the American Haiku

It’s pretty hard to turn around on the web today without running around, stepping over, or bumping into a haiku. These short, three line poems are quickly becoming ubiquitous, and one of the internet’s favorite forms of poetic expression. I know I’ve commented before on this subject, but I think it’s worth taking a closer look.

Haiku, as you may know, are short Japanese poems, originally and more correctly known as hokku. They traditionally feature a single image, glorifying nature or using the natural world as a metaphor in some way. They are meditative and to-the-point. The writing of Japanese haiku is as careful and methodical an artform as the practice of bonsai. As Wikipedia is eager to tell us, the English-language form of the haiku is much less defined than its Asian predecessor, ranging anywhere from 10-14 syllables. A set number of syllables per line is encouraged but not required. The haiku is a very accessible foreign form of poetry, and as such has gotten wide play in America and other countries with a strong emphasis on cultural diversity in the last several decades. I, like many others, was first introduced to them in elementary school.

The internet, however, has redefined haiku, just as it’s redefined newspapers, phone calls, and pizza delivery. Somewhere along the way, internet poets, amateur and professional alike, have taken haiku and morphed into something new: something that’s both uniquely American and tech-savvy. Because they are short and relatively easy to produce, haiku are now the poem of choice to express the every day, from random spurts of thought on Twitter to hilarious and creative error messages. The contemplative and naturalistic nature of haiku has been replaced by the technological, the delightfully mundane, and the American sense that a poem can be anything it wants to be.

What we see now each day online is the beginning of a new era of popularity for haiku, both in reading and writing. This ancient form of poetic expression is having a renaissance right before our very eyes. Enjoy it while it lasts!

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A Literary Peace Offering

Unfortunately, there’s just not the time today to do the kind of review of the Touch Poet app that I wanted. So as a consolation prize, here’s a great video about online publishing and some related links:

You can also literally register your interest in Author 2.0 here. And I recommend that you follow aptly-named Joanna Penn, the brain behind this operation, on Twitter.

I wish you all a great weekend, and keep writing!

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