Litblog Roundup is a bi-weekly overview of topics, trends and highlights from the literary Internet. In this roundup: how to host a literary reading, the poetics of failure, and an assortment of creepy children.
Why And How To Have A Literary Reading
There’s a new series of interviews in the Atticus Review blog about how and why to have a literary reading. The first interview in the series is with Alexandra Naughton, host of the Be About It reading series in the bay area of California. She says two things I’m inclined to agree with.
First, on the subject of whether to include an open mic during the reading, she says “I honestly hate open mics. I know why they exist, but I’m not really a fan.” I agree. I feel guilty about it too, because I owe a lot to the open mics that helped me get used to reading in public, but there’s a time and a place for an open mic and I think it’s okay to move beyond that time and place.
Second, on the subject of how often to host a reading, she says “It’s not a regular thing […] I think if I did have a scheduled regular reading, like once a month, it would feel more like work and not be fun.” Again, I agree, because in my experience It’s just too damn hard to fill a consistently awesome lineup every single month.
I can’t wait to read the next interviews in this series.
The Fatal Problem with Poetry
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A writer walks into a bar, and eventually begins a conversation with a stranger. “What do you do?” the stranger asks. The writer is drunk, brave, or bored enough to admit “I’m a writer.” The stranger relates, “I remember poems from school. Had to memorize one. Hated it. Do you have any poems memorized?” There are a variety of punchlines to this one, depending on the telling, but finally the writer responds “I hate poems too. I’m a novelist/play write/biographer/music journalist/essayist/critic/blogger.”
The joke is that it’s foolish to assume that all writers are poets, but the point in telling the joke here, if there is one, is that there’s a widespread suspicion about poetry, even among poets. This week, in blogs like Harriet, Berfrois, and The Page, there are invitations to read an enjoyable entry in the London Review of Books that examines the failure(s) of poetry.
What if we dislike or despise or hate poems because they are – every single one of them – failures?
Letter to a Young (White, Male) Poet
I don’t write about literary awards very often in these roundups. It’s mostly because they’re so frequent, and so popular that they’d take up too much space. If I did write about literary awards more often, then I would also want to round-up the blog posts that respond to the awards. I’ll summarize those responses for you. It doesn’t matter which award or shortlist it is, invariably someone asks why the award(s) aren’t more frequently given to women, to people of color, to citizens of other countries, to members of the LGBTQ community. They ask this question for good reason. It’s an important question, and it can lead to productive discourse. Strangely, though, that discourse can sometimes lead a young, white, male poet to feel… not marginalized, but irrelevant?
There was an anonymous letter published in Electric Literature recently.
“Sometimes I feel like the time to write from my experience has passed, that the need for poems from a white, male perspective just isn’t there anymore…”
Electric Literature replied,
“You should do what you can to make sure your own perspective is not getting more exposure than it deserves – that you’re not taking up more than your fair share of space. … You’re at the lowest difficulty setting in the video game of life.”
Then, and this is novel, the letter got another response in a completely different publication.
“I question the degree to which you elevate your race and gender as if they are the most salient features of your artistic identity.”
The Most Evil Fictional Children
It’s summertime now, and with it comes more children running wild and free. Those of us with workaday lives might be inclined to envy them, which is perhaps why this listicle about evil children has been making the rounds. I’ll leave you with that. Sweet dreams!