Adventures at AWP! Strangers on a Train

Posted on March 17, 2011 by poetryinternational

Strangers on a Train: What Poets Can Learn from Hitchcock

This panel featured several poets, including Ralph Angel, David St. John, and LA’s own Suzanne Lummis.

Lummis praised Szymborska’s ability to create suspense in a poem, sometimes even more masterfully than Hitchcock. Both artists created effective suspense by knowing when to withhold and when to reveal key information, like the presence of a bomb, whether it be in a boy’s bag or under the table at a dinner party.

David St. John discussed layers of narrative in Hitchcock and in poetry, and particularly


Adventures at AWP 2011!

Posted on February 14, 2011 by poetryinternational

by Mariel Romero-Ocaranza

Attending the AWP Conference in DC was a valuable professional experience for me because it allowed me to connect with editors from other notable journals. What made the conference truly amazing for me, however, was the opportunity to meet some of my favorite authors at several panels. From an academic standpoint, Francisco X. Alarcón, Rigoberto González and Juan Felipe Herrera’s work will all be featured in my thesis.  But on a personal level, there was nothing more exciting than hearing them talk in person about their books, the value of the Latina/o voice in literature and learning about poet activists against senate bill 1070 in Arizona. Going to AWP was an invaluable experience. I invite writers, poets and grad students to go one year. You never know how the workshops, readings and panels will thrill you to the bone, or even help you in your career!

Mariel Romero-Ocaranza is a Contributing Editor at Poetry International, and a graduate student specializing in Children’s Literature.


Adventures at AWP 2011!

Posted on February 12, 2011 by poetryinternational


Jen Lagedrost’s Legit Jubilation

Support for JL’sLJ is brought to you by late mornings in bed remembering.  This is “Some Things Reflected”:

Attending my first AWP Writer’s Conference this year in D.C. was like hurtling into the main square bazaar of Writer Mecca, at the crossroads of Scholarship and Creativity.  The book fair alone drew me to journals and organizations, from Poetry Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts to innumerable Universities’ journals and independent presses who block-print and hand-bind their own books.  Among the color and racket of bright book covers, fonts, featured new poets and honored veterans of the art, was a section of the book fair called Table X.  This series of tables formed a tunnel of curious writers squeezing in to lean over the creations of presses like 6X6 or Octopus, featuring accordion-fold, cardstock-torn, sheet-metal-pressed and hand-drawn ink illustrated books, from broadsides to rebound vintage matchbooks with a volume of tiny poems inside.  In this muck and music of ingenuity, I found another piece of the poetry world.  This piece is where creativity and craft bring the writer’s pen to the art studio.  Even larger names had unique creations; McSweeney’s featured their Issue 36 as a cube wrapped in the face of a carnival ringleader’s head that opens into a collection of small books and bits of writing.  Just being present in this soup of innovation further inspired within me a world of possibility for writing—and I haven’t even mentioned the panel discussions or readings of famous poets yet.  My mind is still braiding together ways and works from that marketplace to weave poems into visual containers of art.  Art is expression, is presentation, is sharing our human passion for the vivid.


Adventures at AWP 2011!

Posted on February 7, 2011 by poetryinternational

The Poetry International crew had a great time at the AWP conference this year in DC! We enjoyed seeing all of you who came to our table. Here’s a snapshot of some of the PI staff loving life, literature, and table time.

Jen, Dean, and Monika work their table magic.


Notes From the Undergrads #5

Posted on January 10, 2011 by poetryinternational

Notes from the Undergrads is a series of posts written by SDSU Engl. 576, a publishing and editing class, comprised primarily of undergrads, with a few grad students thrown in for color.  They explored issues of literary life ranging from book reviews to literary graffiti, live readings to the writing process.  Today, enjoy the work of the Magnified editorial board.

A Meaningful Discovery
By Kristina Blake

I don’t read poetry.

One of the few poetry books I remember reading in its entirety was Shel Silverstein’s 1974 collection of children’s poetry “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” My fourth grade classmates and I would giggle as our teacher read the straight-forward funny pieces. I had my mom buy me a copy soon after.

To be fair, it’s not that I hate poetry. I just don’t usually understand it.

So, if I have free time to read for pleasure, I usually settle down with a good book. And because I’m a journalism and political science major, a lot of my time is spent reading news stories.

That’s why I was a little worried when I sat down to read required material for my English course, Rachel Galvin’s poetry collection “Pulleys and Locomotion.” I know that poetry is open for interpretation. But is there really no intended meaning for each piece? This is what’s kept me from appreciating poetry in the past.

Galvin’s collection didn’t change this for me. At first.

I struggled through some of her poems because of their non-colloquial words and references I simply did not get. At first glance, I didn’t even quite understand the significance of one of the most simple, yet beautiful of Galvin’s poems, “The Baker Folds What He Does Not Remember.”

After class discussion, Galvin’s visit to our class and her poetry reading on campus, however, I have changed my mind about poetry.

I used to read poetry like I read everything else – straight through. Poetry shouldn’t be read this way. After hearing Galvin read her poems to a particular beat, I’ve learned that I should take my time and appreciate the language used. Galvin chose every word for a reason. Therefore, I should slow down and take my time to discover why.

I used to want to immediately discover the meaning of every poem I read. I’ve learned that reading a poem slowly, and even re-reading it a number of times, is part of the fun. Just like with a song, the writer of the poem may have a meaning he or she wants the world to know. But if readers are truly lucky, they will develop their own meaning as well.
Beauties from Ashes
Rebecca Josephsen

In light of the recent tragedy that unfolded with Chelsea King, I began to reflect on the special relationship between literature and social issues. A few months ago, a local Poway girl who was a friend, daughter, and athlete, was raped and murdered. This event rocked a tight-knit community, and parents began frantically buying their daughters mace and pepper spray, and various schoolchildren tied blue ribbons on trees in respect of a young life so tragically taken from us. Although this scenario is monstrous and heartbreaking, it is not unique in its tragedy. Every day young girls and women are beaten, sexually exploited, or murdered. Throughout the world women suffer rape and sexual violence, genital mutilation, and abuse. Sex trafficking is potentially the number one worldwide crime, with half of the victims found in Asia. Although not as widely known, America also sells, exploits, and damages young girls’ lives. These offenses are deeply hidden from the public’s eye, and it takes individuals like intrepid and creative artists and authors to give these girls not only a name and voice…but hope.

Literature can commemorate and focus the public’s attention to certain particular social matters, as well as personalizing the issues and bringing it close to home. The various stories and essays of families who have gone through the experience of losing a child like Chelsea King, or women who have been the victim of child prostitution are easily accessible in neighborhood bookstores or online. Books can also help the victim work through their pain and anger like Stacey Patton did in her memoir, That Mean Old Yesterday, about the terrible abuse she suffered at the hands of her foster mother.

Not all girls who suffer these horrors can give voice to their affliction. But the pen is a mighty tool and there are many who wield it with compassion and tenacity. Art for Humanity is a South African non-profit organization whose mission is to promote awareness of controversial topics through art and print. In their Women for Children series, the organization paired up poets and artists to campaign for children’s rights. Kareemah El-Amin’s powerful and disturbing poem is accompanied by Angela Buckland’s photograph.

“My birthday Wish”

He said he doesn’t want to die,

My hymen for his life

I’ve saved 100 lives since birth

Between my legs is his salvation

He speaks of love and understanding, piety and grace

With his penis in my face

Gifting me with the sacrament of his unholy communion

I turned nine today

Blow out the candles, and make a wish

“Father, please forgive my sins…

Let me join you before I turn ten”

Whether we are writers or artists or readers, we all can all take an active role in preventing gender based violence by strengthening and encouraging the hands of our fellow daughters and sisters. Inspired by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel who prophesied life to dry bones, the author Lisa Sharon Harper in her poem “And to the Little Ones” declares sweet hope:

And to Taka and Takisha
to their rattling bones
to the little ones
who bear God’s image
The Lord God says,

Writing and rewriting: the gradual development of a literary text

Anna Toftgard

For some reason I have always thought of literary texts as stable, something finished and stationary. When writing something of your own you realize this is not the case. The final version isn’t so final; often it’s where you left off because you got sick of it and just wanted to be done with it. If by any means your text is finished it is simply because you decided that it was finished. Up to that point it had been something fluid and subject to constant manipulation, your decision to label your text “completed” is the only thing with the power to make it such. As someone thinking of a future in publishing I have become more and more interested in this fluid nature of a literary work. The space between the first draft and the published work is where the door to further writing, rewriting, revision, editing and proofing is open. Looking at something like the special edition from 1971 of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, with the original manuscript and his editor Ezra Pound’s annotations, is truly fascinating in connection to this idea. Pound was absolutely ruthless in his treatment of Eliot’s draft, slashing out large parts of the manuscript. But ultimately, his insightful editorial advice helped Eliot distill down his work into one of our greatest modernist texts.

For anyone interested in the stages of creating a literary work, I recently stumbled upon the online site, a project devoted to providing a genetic edition of a text by Virginia Woolf. The text in question is Time Passes, a passage later embedded as a central part of her novel To the Lighthouse, published in 1927. Woolf kept careful track of her own writing process so there is extensive material to draw from. The website offers seven different versions of the same text: handwritten draft, typescript, proof, the first US edition and the first UK edition. In addition, contextual sources such as letters, diaries and newspapers from the time period when she actively wrote this text are made available. You can follow what Virginia Woolf wrote each day, what changes she made and how she adapted and tailored her work for the UK and US markets. It is an intriguing illustration of the process of writing.

In the age of digitalization, when manuscripts can be written as well as edited in digital form, the same kind of records of a text’s different stages of development might not be retrievable. But on the other hand, computers also offer new possibilities. Texts rich in intertexts like Eliot’s The Waste Land or difficult to navigate like Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury are ideal candidates for hypertext editions. Allegedly Faulkner wanted to differentiate sections in Benjy’s narrative by use of six different colors in order to simplify the reading. Today, not only this kind of color-coding, but so much more can be done– including the use of links, other media or multiple frames in order to read the literary text and the corresponding notes simultaneously. Layers of the text, such as references to other authors or works, previously available to scholars or through critical editions with an abundance of footnotes are now within the reach of the average reader by the click of a mouse. In this aspect the hypertext editions highlight the dialogue with other texts and contextual sources that is characteristic of literary works.

It is in fact not so surprising that I used to think of literary texts as fixed; they appear before the reader in their final and published form without any trace of the different stages of the creative process leading up to the ultimate version of the text. Looking at a literary text from an editor’s perspective seems fundamentally different from that of a reader. Suddenly the text goes from being something frozen solid and fixed to being shifting, mobile, and changeable like water. Personally, I find genetic research on texts interesting though it is a little like starting at the end and painstakingly feeling your way back to the beginning. What a marvelous thing to instead be able to witness and assist the process in the other direction, from beginning to end.

A Poetic Reaction
Natalie Scott

When reading the latest issue of Poetry International, I found a poem by Lauren Watel called “It’s Cool”. It was short and simple to read with a little sense of humor.

We were driving each other mad again, so

we left the highway and found an empty space

by the ruins of a house. I stroked your chest

and straddled your lap; you kissed me with a low

moan, your skin gold in the light; I cupped your face

between my palms like an artifact; you moved

my hips; and when you pressed your lips to my breast

you grasped. There was a man outside the window.

“It’s cool,” the man said, “just find another place

to do it.” Then he tipped his hat, unimpressed

with the exhibition. Our mood now improved

dramatically, we waved to the man and drove

back to the highway feeling restored, well-loved,

glistening like two jewels in a secret trove.

I was immediately drawn to this poem because I felt like I knew the characters from a story. It opened as if it were an excerpt from a novel. The mood of the couple seemed like they were having a fight in the car and pulled over to discuss their feelings, which came out as physical passion for one another. I felt like this poem was about two high school students madly in love with each other. This love, which feels as though it is full of passion that doesn’t matter where it is expressed. This couple’s passion for one another is the only thing that matters in this moment and you can feel it as you read this poem. Calling their act an “exhibition” added a little humor to the poem in a very awkward situation. Getting caught actually made the moment that much exciting for them. The last line of the poem is my favorite part. “Glistening like two jewels in a secret trove.” It is such a beautiful way to express a young couple in love. Overall, this poem is well-written allowing you to step inside the lives of two people passionately in love with one another.


We Have a Winner!

Posted on November 20, 2010 by poetryinternational

Congratulations to Rochelle Hurt, winner of the 2010 Poetry International Prize for her poem “Helen’s Confession,” selected by judge B. H. Boston. Ms. Hurt, an MFA student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, will receive a $1000 cash prize and publication in Poetry International. Well done, Rochelle!


Notes from the Undergrads #4

Notes from the Undergrads is a series of posts written by SDSU Engl. 576, a publishing and editing class, comprised primarily of undergrads, with a few grad students thrown in for color.  They explored issues of literary life ranging from book reviews to literary graffiti, live readings to the writing process.  Today, enjoy the work of the Ramblings On editorial board.

Good Ol’ Uncle Shelby

by David Pope

If you’re reading a literature blog like Poetry International, odds are that you’re a bit of an English nerd. And if you’re an English nerd, odds are you started reading early. And if you … you know what, I’ll just cut to the chase. We all read a Shel Silverstein book or two growing up, right? Right.

Everyone remembers “Where the Sidewalk Ends” but how much more do you know about Uncle Shelby? I was always kind of suspicious about children’s lit writers. In my mind, they’re all just like my kindergarten teacher: into quilting, arts & crafts and cats. You know the type. But in my English 528 (Shel Silverstein: American Iconoclast) class at SDSU with Joseph Thomas, I’ve discovered that Silverstein is anything but.

For those who don’t know, Silverstein got his first “big break” as a cartoonist for Playboy Magazine. Yes, THAT Playboy Magazine. While some of his drawings and limericks that appeared in Playboy were indeed “adults only,” a couple of his works, including “ABZ” and “Silverstein’s Zoo”, which were later printed in the form of children’s books, originally appeared in Playboy, nearly identically to the versions that eventually showed up in the children’s section.

With most (good) children’s literature, going back and re-reading the works as an adult can give you a newfound appreciation you never had as a kid. But viewing some of Silverstein’s most memorable work in the pages of Playboy, between an article on LSD experimentation and a centerfold of Miss November, gives his stories a fascinating new context and elevates and complicates them even further.

I’m reminded of cartoons like Rocky and Bullwinkle, where the innuendos and other jokes go straight over any kid’s head, but their parents watching along with them get a laugh for themselves.

Additionally, it turns out Silverstein was a total womanizer and kind of a bad ass. A bad ass with a killer beard, at that.

My point? Shel Silverstein’s plight is a perfect example of how research on the personalities behind some of your favorite pieces of literature can give you a better, deeper understanding of them. (I refuse to use the “don’t judge a book by its cover” cliché, but you get the idea.)


On eBooks

by Loretta Roddy

There is a revolution going on, but it’s not taking place on the streets, being covered on the eleven o’clock news, or hashed out in the political arena.  It’s taking place in living rooms, coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores.  I’m talking about the e-book.

The convenience and ease of electronic books appeals to many literatis.  Travelers no longer have to worry about packing a mini anthology on trips; they can download and read any number of books on the fly.  Rather than purchasing a multitude of novels and books for class, students can download all their course books on Kindle – never to be caught unprepared again (plus they may avoid back problems later in life)!  Paperless, and compact, e-books boast to be the eco-savvy literature of the green movement: no more printing of tree-consuming novels, no more throwing away (or hopefully recycling) of read books.  Rather than filling up shelves, boxes, and the space underneath your shoe collection, e-books are stored neatly on computers, MP3 players, or e-book readers, like Kindle or the iBooks application for the new iPad.’s Kindle has become a wish list item for many.  For $259.00, this lightweight (it only weighs 10.2 ounces!) and magazine-slim portable library can download a book in one minute, no PC necessary.  It has a long lasting battery life, built in 3G wireless accessible in over 100 countries, and advanced screen technology to mimic the look of paper and lessen the strain of screen-reading on the eyes.  Kindle can hold hundreds of reasonably priced “books” and access them at the touch of a button.   A book can be purchased instantly, without ever leaving the couch, eliminating the trip to the bookstore, the perusing of the aisles and titles, and the buying more than you came for (or is that just me?).  Finish a gripping novel?  Can’t wait to get the sequel?  No problem.  In a few minutes you can be whizzing through the next thrilling page turner (or button pusher, in Kindle’s case).

With all of these wonderful features, how can I still think of Kindle and the electronic book as a weak substitute for reading?  The answer is a combination of philosophies and personal preferences.  One, old school is cooler.  Superficial reasoning? Maybe.  Still, there is something to be said for certain “traditional” methods of doing things.  For example, receiving hand written notes in the mail, from someone other than the crazy old aunt in Ohio, is such a simple pleasure.  It is so nice to find a note from a friend among the pile of bills and credit card advertisements that pile up in .  Writing and sending letters is always appreciated, yet often bypassed for the quicker easier e-mail. In the music world, records have the best sound quality of any form of recordable sound, yet tapes, CDs, and now MP3s have made records seem like ancient memorabilia from the stone age of our parents.  The ITunes empire, the email takeover, the digital camera’s supreme reign, the cell phone (I could go on for days), all of these ingenious 21st century inventions remove a part of the ritual in the action.  Taking a picture becomes a detached action. Point and shoot.  Maybe print them off the computer later, maybe never see them outside of cyber space again.  Please don’t misunderstand my stance here: I freak out when I leave my cell phone at home too, quickly jump on ITunes to download the latest Jay-Z and Taylor Swift, and can be seen carting around a digital camera.  But there is something to be said for doing it “old school,” or in this case, pre-1980.

What about the paper, the pages, the bright cover, the unique bindings?  Where do you dog-ear your place, star your favorite passages, smooth the crinkles of traveling at the bottom of a beach bag?  How do you flip through the measured pages to find your spot, feel the glossy, rough, or smooth cover, take in the whole work, backside and inner flaps as well?  Different sizes, editions, hardcover versus paperback, note-friendly margins, size ten font with no paragraphs — these are the characters of the BOOK, not of the story.  These details make the creation the reader holds between his or her hands.  The printed letters staring at you from the cream, or white, or beige, or eggshell colored page, imploring “please read me! Decipher my hidden secrets, explore my wonders! Feel the excitement, the suspense, the sorrow, the relief.”  Can Kindle match this?  Can the iBook compare?  A screen covered with typeset, facing the reader, expecting to be loved the way its predecessor has been for thousands of years?  Is this possible? Have we reached the 21st century and surged forward with a renewed devotion to the detached, electronic, out with the old, in with the new lifestyle?

Lots of questions, but unfortunately not a lot of answers.  I have to admit, I have never owned or read a book on Kindle.  Aside from examining a fellow classmate’s Christmas gift, Kindle remains a sort of taboo in my opinion, something to be observed, but to actually own?  That would never do.  It would be a betrayal of my colorful, packed, unique, diverse bookshelf.  Old friends who wish me good night and rally me awake each day, old friends, new friends, unread friends.  Books contain not only their own stories, but those of previous owners, reminders of events come and gone with the language between the covers, happy lazy summer days on the beach, stressful all-nighters cramming to finish the last page.  A book is an investment of time, dedication, love, and adventure.  Can this be replaced?

The e-book revolution’s will-power remains to be seen: will it take over the way other such electronics have ousted their predecessors? Or will it fall to the wayside, a fad to be remembered on the TV special “I love the 2000s”?


Writers Block and The Search For Inspiration

by Jeff Matson

Chances are if you are reading this you have had some experiences with creative writing, and if you’ve experienced creative writing, you have also experienced what is commonly referred to as writer’s block. The two go hand in hand along the path to artistic expression through language. It happens to everyone. Whether you can’t seem to make your characters real, your plot has gone static, or you just can’t seem to find that elusive last line of a poem, all writers have to overcome writer’s block.

The one major hurdle with creative writing is that it requires one to be well, creative. When you just cannot seem to put the pen to the paper, remember that the source for inspiration can come from just about anywhere.  A good writer has a distinct perspective of the world. It is his job to try as hard as he can to make others understand and appreciate his unique vision through his words. But, in order to begin to sculpt your creative literary masterpiece, you must first open your eyes and ears to the world. A writer is a professional observer, with a flair for language, viewing the world through art-tinted glasses.

Here are a few exercises that have helped fellow writers and myself in the past. Hopefully, these tips for inspiration will get your creative juices flowing and your dendrites firing so that, with any luck, you may conquer your writer’s block.

-First, and I know this may seem obvious, READ! Try reading some new material or re-reading an old favorite. If your piece was inspired by another work try revisiting the original work or other work by that author. Try poetry, short fiction, even screenplays. By surrounding yourself with the work of others, you may find that one spark that can ignite a whole surge of new ideas for the work you are stuck on. Think of it this way: if you were an architect you would study other buildings. If you were a mechanic you would study cars. You are writer so you study books.

-When I’m stuck on a page I often revert to what I refer to as the blank-page method. Simply pull out a blank page of paper and a comfortable pen and let loose. Write whatever comes to your mind. It may be that you just need to get some things down on paper to clear your mind enough to find inspiration for your work. When attempting this type of free-write I usually go by one rule: Let it flow, Let it go.

-For those who are multilingual, translating a piece of writing from another language, like a poem, can be very stimulating and helpful for spawning new ideas and stirring up older ones.

-If you are like me translating a poem from another language isn’t really an option. A useful cure for writer’s block is the writing prompt. Try to get your thoughts flowing again by writing for a specific situation or prompt. It’s much easier to start writing if you already have a purpose. For example: Write about a time you did something embarrassing to get noticed or write about your favorite childhood memory. Any experience can be fuel for your writing.

-One of the most fun ways to get some fresh ideas for your work is to simply listen in on the conversations of others. If you are trying to create a character or dialogue that you want to ring true to life on the page there is no better example than real people in real life situations.


Poetry forgive me, I have done you wrong.

by Susan Todd

As I sat skimming through my copy of Poetry International 13/14 searching, I felt futilely, for a poem that would catch my interest and keep it, I found, much to my surprise, not just a poem, but pages of poetry that did just that. This most recent edition of Poetry International contains within its bindings works that even the most unenthusiastic reader of poetry can enjoy. There are poems that speak to all types of people, to all experiences great and small, from the bite of a mosquito to a couple making love. I enjoyed what I read, and could not have been more surprised because of it. I chose this poem to share with you because, of them all, this one fits in with a genre of fiction I readily admit I enjoy, romance.

It’s Cool

By Lauren Wattel

We were driving each other mad again, so

we left the highway and found an empty space

by the ruins of a house. I stroked your chest

and straddled your lap; you kissed me with a low

moan, your skin gold in the light; I cupped your face

between my palms like an artifact; you moved

my hips; and when you pressed your lips to my breast

you gasped. There was a man outside the window.

“Its cool,” the man said, “just find another place

to do it.” Then he tipped his hat, unimpressed

with the exhibition. Our mood now improved

dramatically, we waved to the man and drove

back to the highway feeling restored, well-loved,

glistening like two jewels in a secret trove.

Poetry spans all genres. It can be dramatic or funny. It can tell a story of love or hate, be mysterious and suspenseful, or mythical and mystical. Poetry has romance and danger and adventure. I have often said that poetry was of no interest to me. I told people I hated poetry and I believed it, but how can you hate what you don’t really know? The answer is, you can’t. So poetry, I admit it, I owe you an apology… and here it is.


I have wronged you. All these years I have neglected you, belittled you, and maligned you to all my friends. You were like that kid who was different from everybody else. The misunderstood one that I never tried to get to know, that I never spoke with to see if maybe, possibly, we had some common interest. I rejected you before I really knew you and for that I am truly sorry. I feel as though I’ve missed out on what could’ve been years of great friendship, for you see, I’ve learned the error of my ways. We do have a common interest. You do have something to say that I want to hear. I was wrong to judge you by form alone. It’s what’s inside that counts and in your work I found something to connect to. I hope that you can forgive my reprehensible behavior, and if so, I look forward to a long and happy friendship with you.

Repentantly Yours,

Susan Todd


Poetry Investigational Unit – Inaugural Post

Posted on November 11, 2010 by poetryinternational

Welcome to the first installment of Poetry Investigational Unit (PIU for short)!  Every couple of weeks a different member of PIU will take you on a journey through the web’s literary finest in search of interesting articles, moving poetry, interviews with your favorite authors, book reviews, and so much more!

This week, our Investigator Jillian provides us with some stunning material – enjoy!

“Poetry at its best changes things.”
– Eli Lynch, Elizabeth Cheever, Libby Howard
On October 23 the final of the National Youth Poetry Slam Competition, Brave New Voices, was shown on HBO. To watch highlights or learn more go to the Brave New Voices website. Check it out here:

New York Magazine has a, `Crash Course in Rap Lyrics’ from self-professed “studier of words”, Sam Anderson. The article reviews The Anthology of Rap, Yale University Press, edited by Andrew Dubois and Adam Bradley. The anthology focuses on lyric poetry through, “pure rap: just the verbal magic, triple-distilled, free from the superfluity of hooks, beats, sales, bling, clothes, videos, hairstyles, and even the voices of the rappers themselves,” (Anderson). As someone who has never been a fan of rap, I enjoyed this article. Read the article here:

Check out Anne Finch’s take on `The Poetry of Autumn’ on the Poetry Foundation website. Read it here:

“He [Bradbury] recently told me he still lives by his lifelong credo, `Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.’”
– Sam Weller
The Paris Review has an interview with Ray Bradbury on their website.

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman direct James Franco stars as Alan Ginsburg in Howl. Check out an essay on the movie at:

The Rejectionist has some good advice for its readers: Do Not Covet Your Ideas. Read more at:

We would also like to spend a moment thanking our Veterans – no words can describe how much we appreciate what you do!

Have you found anything PIU worthy online? If so, comment us! See you next time!


Notes From the Undergrads #3

Posted on October 21, 2010 by poetryinternational

Notes from the Undergrads is a series of posts written by SDSU Engl. 576, a publishing and editing class, comprised primarily of undergrads, with a few grad students thrown in for color.  They explored issues of literary life ranging from book reviews to literary graffiti, live readings to the writing process.  Today, enjoy the work of the Undercurrents editorial board.


Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

by Lindsey Messner

I’m not usually the one to jump onto the bandwagon when it comes to newly released novels.  I didn’t read A Million Little Pieces, the Twilight Saga or any one of Nicholas Sparks’ hundreds of mushy gushy romance novels.  However, when I went into a bookstore last week, I couldn’t help being sucked into the obsession with the living dead and blood-sucking fiends all of the preteens rave on about.  I knew of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as his other novels, but his most recent publication, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter instantly grabbed my attention, and I was hooked – Abe Lincoln was a killing machine?  Unthinkable!

But apparently true, in the world of fiction anyway: “Abraham Lincoln would never take another life.  And yet he would become one of the greatest killers of the nineteenth century” (21).  This monster mash-up novel exposes the unknown truth of America’s sixteenth president.  Grahame-Smith presents the reader with selections from a newly discovered historical document, Lincoln’s journal describing his struggles to destroy the vampire population in the United States.  To avenge his mother’s violent death by a supernatural killer, Lincoln, with his unnatural height and his trusty ax in hand, uncovers the sinister deeds of the vampires: using slave owners as pawns and keeping slaves as a food source.

Not only is the story interesting, but the amount of effort put into making this novel into a faux factual piece of historical evidence is astounding.  Along with journal entries, pictures document the truth behind Lincoln’s time spent in the White House before his tragic end.

For those looking for an action-packed thriller, this book may disappoint.  Because the author is trying to achieve the tone of a historical text and not a fantastic work, the tone is fairly flat and dry.  However, this creates a sense of credibility for the author from the audience that would have not been achieved if the subject matter weren’t taken seriously.  The direct connection between vampirism and slavery is astonishing, and, if the living dead existed, surprisingly plausible.

Although I hate to be one to jump on the bandwagon, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is fresh, intriguing and innovative.  I recommend it to everyone who likes a good vampire novel with a side of historical documentation.


Why Books Rule and Movies Drool

by Rachel Ford

You read an amazing book and hear it’s being retrofitted into a movie.  You can’t wait!  You loved the book, how great will the movie be?  All they have to do is follow the book and it will be wonderful!   You can’t wait to see your favorite characters brought to life on the big screen!  Fast forward a few months.  You’re exiting the movie theatre wondering if you walked into the right movie.  How could they have gone so far wrong?  Wasn’t someone there to tell them what the book was about?  Bueller?  Now, most importantly, people that never read the book now never will.  How annoyingly familiar is that scenario?

When a movie based on a book gets it right, it makes you want to re-read the book, or read it for the first time.  It’s that enticing that you have to know more.  You are interested.  In today’s society that word is a big deal.  “Interested” means they have won your attention in a culture constantly competing for it.  I can barely get my Starbucks without being twittered to death.

Why are movies not able to re-create the emotions and depth of story that books do?

1)     Books have more time whereas a movie usually has two hours to get it all done.  Certain things need to be cut or altered.  Classic example, Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.  She has two children from her prior husbands in the novel but only one with Rhett in the movie.  Apparently this decision was made to make her character more sympathetic in the movie version (which is accomplished); whereas the book had more time for details to make you sympathetic towards her.

2)    Books and Movies are different art forms.  A film leaves very little to the imagination.  In a novel you are creating your own movie in your head.  You imagine a scene a certain way and there is no budget limit.   It’s very difficult for a director to re-create that scene to match the masses imagination.

3)    Directors don’t always cast roles the way we want.  Twi-hards freaked when Robert Pattinson was cast as Edward Cullen in their beloved Twilight series.  They simply couldn’t imagine him as Edward.  Now they love him and have accepted him.  However, at the initial announcement it was hard for them to picture him in that role.  He just wasn’t their idea of Edward.  For me, Tom Hanks was cast incorrectly in The Da Vinci Code.  I pictured Russell Crowe or Harrison Ford.  I loved the book but sat through only half the movie; Tom Hanks just wasn’t believable in the role.

4)    Movies aren’t “just like the book.”  This is probably the most popular complaint.  Screenplays are adapted from the book and don’t follow the book word for word.  The majority of readers can handle a change or two; however when large chunks are missing and important scenes altered, faithful readers will lose their minds.

5)    You prefer the medium presented to you first.  Most likely if you’ve made the argument the book is better than the film, you’ve read the book (we hope).  The majority of the time the book is read first.  Popular books are usually turned into movies, not books nobody reads (although it does happen on occasion).  If you’ve read the book first then you have a personal connection to the story from experiencing it on a deeper level.

I’m not saying that they should stop making movies out of books or that we should stop going to see the films adapted from books.  I love reading and I love seeing movies made from the stories I admire.  However, I do think as readers we need to be guarded when watching adapted films.  We need to let ourselves enjoy them for what they are, someone else’s interpretation.  They will rarely live up to our personal expectations, especially if we loved the book.  Loving the book is what started it all, let’s focus on that and pass the popcorn.


Communal Music

by Raymond Currie

One of my current personal projects in music is to devise a series of what I call communal pieces. These are works where anyone, both musicians and non-musicians, can perform the works. The emphasis is not on “quality” of the performance; rather, it focuses on participation. This is a very old concept and is still practiced by many tribes such as the Suya Indians of Central Brazil or Inuit of the Northern Pacific, where the influence of the modern world has not reached. Maybe this is hard to understand since most people reading this are from a modern society. We are trained to think, in our culture, of music as a competition or game, therefore communal music could be viewed as an oxymoron. We divide people from music, or other arts, based on talent. This composition is designed to get away from the idea of competition. It is community driven music. There are three musical things everyone can do: talk, sing, and tap a rhythm. If you can do these three things you can make music. It does not matter if you are a great singer, musician, or whatever, the idea is not quality, it’s participation. With that said, let’s try an experiment:

1)    Pick a note or series of notes in your mind. Sing it aloud and if they are different notes try to keep them the same, but if it varies a little that is okay.

2)    Pick a phrase in your mind (ex. I’m a freaking rock star). With your note(s) speak the phrase without saying the words. Use a single sound for each syllable (ex. I’m a freaking rock star = da da dada da da). Don’t tell anyone the words of your phrase. You are now Voice 1.

3)    Find a friend to repeat steps one and two. Guess what? That Person is Voice 2, and remember Voice 2, use your own phrase and keep the words to yourself.

4)    Repeat step one and two to add as many voices as desired.

The composition can now begin.

1)    Voice 1 begins reciting their phrase (keep repeating it over and over).

2)    Voice 2 begins their phrase after a few repetitions of Voice 1. If they are unsure of when to begin, start ten seconds after voice one. Entry for each additional voice is the same process.

3)    Continue repeating your phrases separately for at least a minute.

4)    Begin to listen to the other voices and begin mimicking another parts voice.

5)    All voices continue mimicking other voices until all voices are singing the same thing.

6)    When all voices are singing the same thing repeat for a few seconds, look at each other, and stop.

Hopefully this was a fun little venture and gave you a better understanding of communal music. Or maybe it just gave you a headache. Just try it sober first.


Review: Living Writers Series
by Matt Silva

The Living Writers Series began at San Diego State twenty-five years ago.
Since the time it has been running, the writing series has achieved
national recognition as one of the longest running reading series across
the country.

During these past twenty-five years, The Living Writers Series has brought
established as well as up-and-coming writers to the beautiful campus of
San Diego State. Although I have only been able to catch a handful of
readings in my short time at San Diego State, I thought it would be nice
to share how great my experiences have been.

What makes these writing series even more special, is that most writers
that attend not only participate in readings but classroom lectures and
workshops as well.

Scripps Cottage, where the readings are usually held, would best be
compared to a diamond in the rough, as it’s situated close enough to the
hustle and bustle of students making their way to and from classes and
while at the same time blending into the landscape that surrounds it. The
average student most likely ponders what occupies the quaint cottage as
they bask in the sun next to the turtles and their pond.

They would be THRILLED to know however what I know.

What I know, is the enthusiasm and great spirit that fills that cottage is
unlike any other readings I have ever been to (which have been more then a
handful). The work that is read there is alive and detailed. Whether
it’s an old shmo professor that’s trying to test out his latest work or a
well known author that’s traveling the states, the work is always
interesting to say the least.

I remember one time I was there earlier this year and the two writers that
were presenting were Katherine Towler an award winning author and San
Diego State Professor Joseph Thomas. Thomas, already known to be a corky
individual to say the least, got up there before award winning Towler and
 it was hilarious to watch and listen to the things that came out of his mouth. 

Not to mention the way he presented himself and the way in which he described 

his methodical way of writing.

The audience that attends can be heard buzzing with anticipation
beforehand and active in participation afterwards with comments and
questions for the readers.
The readers that attend The Living Writers Series at San Diego State WANT
to be there and to me that’s more important then anything. I’ve never
gotten the impression while being there that anyone was too good for
anyone else. The unpredictable and sometimes bashful MFA students that
participate in the readings before the big dogs take stage are also given
equal respect. Everyone that attends these readings does so in good
spirit with wide eyes and ears.

The Living Writers Series is a good spot to meet fellow writers and enjoy
the friendly hospitality that the hosts of the program provide. Whether
it’s a local writer, better known participant, MFA Student, or unknown,
The Living Writers Series in Scripps Cottage at San Diego State University
is an excellent place to spend some time and listen to fellow writers.