Jan 30

Who Called "@" "The Strudel"?

Received an eccentric little book of poems from Tim Leach, Corncurls for the Medulla Oblongata (Word Tech Editions, 2016), mostly poems of three or four lines, called aphorisms, and what charmed me is his short poems about punctuation marks. Although it’s only part of our job, editors have intense relationships with punctuation marks, and people think editing is a very dry business and that editors are dried-out and irritable nitpickers precisely because we used all our juices tending to proper punctuation.

It was refreshing to find in the middle of the book this untitled poem about commas:typewriterkeyboardtop

 Commas are tadpoles
 that surface for breath
 when read.

and then a poem titled “&”:

 Asking for more,
 the ampersand is a squatting monk
 who holds up a begging bowl.

 He sits in for “and,”
 who always wants more too.

Leach looked closely at the punctuation marks’ appearance and function and gave them life. Corncurls includes more punctuation poems, including the @ (“at”) which came out of utter obscurity—it wasn’t even on typewriter keyboards!—to rule the digital age. I used to work with an Israeli engineer who called @ the “strudel.”
Oct 04

The Joy of Printing

jenwithpressPhoto is of poet Jennifer Tappenden who decided she could either take a vacation or start a press. And she started Architrave Press, hand-setting and hand-printing a first edition of 250 copies each of 10 poems selected after she called for submissions. She learned the letterpress printing process from scratch and uses this 1957 press that was once motorized but now operates entirely manually, cranking out with a sound like thunder finished poems inked on beautiful paper. Jennifer re-conceived the poetry book or anthology, asking, Why can't people buy and collect only the poems they like, the way they download only the songs they like? When the poems are offered separately, a buyer can build his or her own collection, and the hand-created nature of the pages gives them value.

I spent an evening in a Cherokee Street storefront watching this process, all hand-done from setting up the poems as Ben Franklin or Walt Whitman had done it, with lead letters, backwards, in little frames. Then there was the piling of quality paper, the skilled inking of the roller, which has to be just right, and the roll of the ink over the letters to make: poems. At hand was the print shop's black dog, named Smudge. What's an "Architrave" you ask? A stone or wooden beam held up by columns, usually over a doorway, as in classical architecture. Architrave Press is holding its first reading event Friday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at a venue new to me, The Tavern of Fine Arts, 313 Belt Avenue in the Central West End. I hope to see you there when my "Self-Portrait on Greyhound Bus" makes is debut in print.
Feb 15

Did You Accidentally Hire a Poet? A Checklist for Employers

Poets deliberately withhold from their resumes and job applications the fact that they are poets. You may not be aware you have poets on staff. There is absolutely nothing worse. This list of “poet behaviors” will help you root them out. A poet:

  • frequents the post office
  • reads books and magazines with no pictures in them
  • cannot tell you the current date and time
  • claims to have cremated one “Sam McGee”
  • has studied "humanities"
  • frequently finds important workplace communications to be “vague” or “hilarious”
  • brings bearded individuals to the company party
  • claims to possess talents which, however, are undetectable and unquantifiable
  • says, without context,  things such as “’twas the wily Boche that got me”
Find one? Ready, aim, fire!