Friday, August 30, 2013

Well said, Bill Watterson

This cartoon by Bill Watterson was found at cartoon by Bill Watterson was found at specifically here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


When I taught English composition, I used to show my students the first 10ish minutes of this speech. It's amazing for teaching rhetoric and powerful speaking rhythm, plus I just think my students should hear it. My students in western Wisconsin knew MLK Jr. made a famous speech in which he said "I have a dream." Some had heard it before, even studied. Most of them knew that he gave this speech in Washington D.C. at the Million Man March. Which means they also likely knew, or may have guessed
  • the event was well-attended
  • the event suffered no debilitating organizational problems
  • the event was peaceful
  • the event was overall successful
If you see the march through this comfortable historical lens, you don't realize the planning, the worry, and the straight-out risk involved in putting on this event and showing up to be a part of it. That's why I'm so thrilled about following the @today1963 tweets, which put us back in real-time, in all its excitement and uncertainty. I applaud the researchers and the one(s) who came up with the idea and made it happen. Hurrah for great teaching.


Here's an excellent use of twitter:

Follow @today1963 to see an NPR reporter tweeting about the million man march on Washington (50 years ago today) as though it were going on this morning.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tyehimba Jess

I'm off to spend a week learning how to produce for radio. Here's a powerful poem by Tyehimba Jess to sustain you. I quite like the poems of his that I've read. This one, oh poetry scholars, you'll appreciate, as its dogged irresistible rhythm seems a modern take on Paul Celan's powerful Holocaust poem "Death Fugue," which begins (as translated from the German by Jerome Rothenberg) 

Black milk of morning we drink you at dusktime
we drink you at noontime at dawn we drink you at night
we drink and we drink

I read Jess's "it speaks" and in my mind, I'm hearing "wir trinken"


Black milk of morning we drink you at dusktime we drink you at noontime and dawntime we drink you at night we drink and drink - See more at:
Black milk of morning we drink you at dusktime we drink you at noontime and dawntime we drink you at night we drink and drink - See more at:
Black milk of morning we drink you at dusktime we drink you at noontime and dawntime we drink you at night we drink and drink - See more at:

Poem of the Week:   
Tyehimba Jess                         

Tyehimba Jess  


the war speaks at night
with its lips of shredded children,
with its brow of plastique
and its fighter jet breath,
and then it speaks at daybreak
with the soft slur of money
unfolding leaf upon leaf.
it speaks between the news
programs in the music
of commercials, then sings
in the voices of a national anthem.
it has a dirty coin jingle in its step,
it has a hand of many lost hands,
a palm of missing fingers,
the stump of an arm that it lost
reaching up to heaven, a foot
that digs a trench for its dead.
the war staggers forward,
compelled, inexorable, ticking.
it looks to me
with its one eye of napalm
and one eye of ice,
with its hair of fire
and its nuclear heart,
and yes, it is so human
and so pitiful as it stands there,
waiting for my hand.
it wants to know my answer.
it wants to know how i intend
to show it out of its misery,
and i only want it
to teach me how to kill.

-Tyehimba Jess
Used by permission.

Tyehimba Jess' first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. A Cave Canem Alumni, he received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, was a 2004-2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and won a 2006 Whiting Award. He exhibited his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference. He is Assistant Professor of English at College of Staten Island.    

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.   

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

upcoming courses

I am happy to announce that I'll be teaching two poetry writing workshops in Eagle River, WI in September. Sponsored by Many Ways of Peace and The Warehouse Four Season Center for the Arts, these classes are geared toward beginning and intermediate/advanced poetry writers, respectively. Come join!

The Art of Poetry
Instructor: Emily K. Bright
Time: Tuesday, September 10th,      9 a.m. to noon
Location: 217 S. Main Street, Eagle River WI

Are you intrigued by poetry? Do you write poetry for pleasure or for sharing with others? This low-pressure, hands-on workshop is open to everyone who is interested in further exploring the art of writing poetry. We’ll look closely at the work of several contemporary poets, including Wisconsin Poet Laureate Max Garland, and consider not only what they say but how they said it. Bring pen and paper, because we’ll be doing writing exercises designed to stimulate the imagination. You’ll leave the workshop with plenty of ideas for writing new poems of your own. Coffee provided.
Cost: $35 Call 715.480.4697 or email to register.

Finding Your Voice
Instructor: Emily K. Bright
Time: Saturday, September 28th,  9 a.m. to noon
Location: 217 S. Main Street., Eagle River WI

This class is for writers who find themselves falling back on the same old phrasing or forms in their poetry and are looking to stretch their voices.  In this hands-on workshop, we’ll read wonderful poems by a range of contemporary artists, taking time to discuss each poem and analyze how it works—their line breaks, their sounds and images, the way they address the audience, etc.  We’ll borrow their techniques and try them out for ourselves in free write exercises. Feel free to bring poems you are “stuck” on. You’ll leave this class with ideas for new poems and more tools in your writing toolbox to help you say what you want to say in new ways. Coffee provided.
Cost: $35 Call 715.480.4697 or email to register.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Yesterday, we took my 19 month-old daughter to pick blueberries. She took to it right away, planting herself in front of the bushes that grew to just her height and just shoveling them into her mouth. Unlike the famous children's book Blueberries for Sal, we didn't even bother to give her her own tin pail. Sometimes, she just grabbed handfuls out of our bucket. Seriously, that child was aiming to eat her weight in blueberries. Despite my worries that she would have a very upset tummy later (she did not), it was a delight to see. I think we can count yesterday as the day she learned what the color blue was (as opposed to green "yucky" unripe berries).

Since then, I've been thinking about abundance. We spent two hours going from plant to plant. Picking blueberries is a constant exercise in delight and discovery. Look, there's a perfect one! Look how round, how big, how blue it is! There's another! There's the pleasantly tactile activity of plucking the berries, the slight tug as they pull free from the plant and tumble into your bucket.

I am grateful to be alive.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Six Most Influential Women Writers You've Never Heard Of

Thanks to Val for passing on this article: "The Six Most Influential Women Writers You've Never Heard Of." Who can resist a list like that? Reading the names, I want to add Nelly Bly, whose undercover journalism exposed the horrors of the "care" given to those deemed insane. Then again, I've heard of her, so by definition I can't put her on the list.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Eireann Lorsung

A pleasure to see my former classmate Eireann Lorsung's poem live in a new medium (note that I'm avoiding saying "brought to life," because what would that say about poetry?) through Todd Boss's fabulous Motionpoems: