Archive for the ‘ Article ’ Category

Two Lists of A-List Journals (For Submission Purposes)

This is the list I latched on to when I started submitting again in 2011 (46 to go…):

Top 50 Literary Magazines, via Every Writer.

It probably should be called “50 Top Established Literary Magazines” (not necessarily “best,” since that’s so hard to quantify), and it does need further updates (for example, Barrow Street has been taking online submissions for quite a while). It also leaves out online-only journals.

And this is a list I check as it is updated every year, a great resource:

Perpetual Folly Literary Magazine Ranking — Poetry, via

Hope these are useful.

Anglo-Saxon Cryptography: Secret Writing in Early Medieval England

At the very end of an eleventh-century manuscript copy of St Augustine’s Confessions, an Anglo-Saxon scribe wrote “Fknktp Lkbrp χρp prfcpnkB rfddp”. Rather than garbled gobbledegook, these words were written in a simple but popular code: the vowels have been replaced by their neighbouring consonants in the alphabet: a=b; e=f; i=k; o=p; x=u. 

The scribe’s words actually read: “Finito libero Christo [the Greek letters χρ is a well-known abbreviation for Christ] preconio reddo”, which is Latin for something along the lines of: “The book is finished, I give a laudation to Christ in return”. Apparently, this scribe was happy that his job was done and rendered thanks to Christ in an encoded message.

The same motivation seems to underlie another encrypted colophon at the end of an eleventh-century Gospel-book made in England: “DFPGRBTKBS AMΗN”:

The first two words of this colophon read “DEO GRATIAS” [thanks be to God]; the last word is “AMEN”, with a Greek capital Eta instead of the E (and a weird M and N, which I haven’t been able to identify).

Thijs Porck, Anglo-Saxon Cryptography: Secret Writing in Early Medieval England

(colophon — 1: an inscription at the end of a book or manuscript usually with facts about its production; 2: an identifying mark used by a printer or a publisher.)

And Yet More on “Patterson”


 I suppose the most common sort of characterization of “the artist” is the Irving Stone-type (van Gogh, Michelangelo), the grimacing, hyperventilating, tormented nut-job and outcast, railing at the heavens, suffering greatly at his enterprise. Another popular characterization is the drunk with an aggravated impulse-control disorder. This is a type that I’m very familiar with and actually exists in fair numbers; the other almost never at all. In fact, the standard-issue “poet-artist” in North America for the past couple of generations teaches in a master of fine arts program at a university and possesses the temperament of sales person or mid-level bureaucrat, but with an exalted opinion of himself.

(No women poets?)

August Kleinzahler, on Paterson.

A “Cocoanut” Cake From Emily Dickinson

Dickinson discussed baking in many of her letters — evincing both her trademark wit and a zest for life that belies the common image of her as a depressed figure. Note the animation in her letter to a friend about some burnt caramel rule: “I enclose Love’s ‘remainder biscuit,’ somewhat scorched perhaps in baking, but ‘Love’s oven is warm.’ Forgive the base proportions.”

A Coconut Cake From Emily Dickinson: Reclusive Poet, Passionate Baker, by Nelly Lambert
      The “cocoanut” cake recipe in Dickinson’s own hand.

Is My Work Any Good?

Elisa Gabert (of Dear Blunt Instrument) on that question:

There may be important and famous writers who went to the grave tortured and doubtful of their own talent. It’s possible that you can find great success as a writer without ever feeling like you “know” if you’re “good.” To me, that sounds like no way to live. So when I write, the standards I try to meet are my own: Do I want to read what I’m writing? It’s that simple. If I write a poem or an essay that I want to read and re-read after I’ve finished writing and editing it, then it’s good by my own lights.

If you don’t feel that way about your own writing, the challenge becomes:  Write something that you would want to read. It may sound obvious, but I don’t think most writers hold themselves to these standards. Did you know that people are faster to recognize photos of themselves that have been photoshopped to make them look slightly more attractive? Self-assessments are often self-flattering. (It’s not easy, but I think working at being a better reader and editor of other people’s work makes you a better reader and editor of your own work too.)

Ok, I want to say, but what if my taste is no good? Or out of touch with what the journals I want to get into are publishing?

Read more to improve my taste? And hope I am capable of such improvement.

Here’s the entire article, which is very much worth reading in its entirety.

Paterson: The Movie

In Jim Jarmusch’s  Paterson, a poet named Paterson drives a New Jersey Transit bus in Paterson, New Jersey:

Because Paterson [the movie] regards these people with the same kindness and interest as its main character, we too become interested in them and their world. And Paterson seems to find something to praise or encourage around every corner — partly because his idol is William Carlos Williams, the New Jersey poet who wrote a five-part epic poem titled — you guessed it — Paterson. Williams, a master of imagism (a movement in poetry that strove for clear language and precise description of images), intended the poem to be a sort of documentary of the place, and published it as five books between 1946 and 1958. (Williams also wrote the “The Red Wheelbarrow,” studied by American schoolchildren for decades.)

But Williams had another vocation: He was a physician, and chief of pediatrics at Passaic General Hospital for almost 40 years, a job requiring no small measure of attention and compassion. The interplay of vocations, both artistic and more quotidian, is a strong theme in Paterson: Everyone’s got something they do on the side to brighten the world, whether it’s chess tournaments or country music or acting or poetry.

Alissa Wilkinson: Paterson, the quietly philosophical tale of a bus-driving poet, is one of 2016’s best films

Emily Dickinson at The Morgan

I would love to see this:

Often typecast as a recluse who rarely left her Amherst home, Dickinson was, in fact, socially active as a young woman and maintained a broad network of friends and correspondents even as she grew older and retreated into seclusion. Bringing together nearly one hundred rarely seen items, including manuscripts and letters, I’m Nobody: Who are you?—a title taken from her popular poem—is the most ambitious exhibition on Dickinson to date. At New York’s Morgan Library and Museum, January 20 through May 21, 2017, the exhibition explores a side of her life that is seldom acknowledged: one filled with rich friendships and long-lasting relationships with mentors and editors.  

The exhibition closely examines twenty-four poems in various draft states, with corresponding audio stops. In addition to her writings, the show also features an array of visual material, including hand-cut silhouettes, photographs and daguerreotypes, contemporary illustrations, and other items that speak to the rich intellectual and cultural environment in which Dickinson lived and worked.

Morgan Library and Museum