The Mark Blog

Writers’ Reel: Watch This 52 Second Poem by Billy Collins

Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, has been very vocal about using different mediums to bring poetry to the masses. In this video, director/animator Juan Delcan created beautiful, sparse images to accompany Collins's poem “The Dead.” This short film received a ZEBRA Prize for the Best Poetry Film of 2008. Take 52 seconds to celebrate National Poetry Month!   

Bookmark This: “How it Adds Up” by Poet Tony Hoagland

For National Poetry Month, we are featuring the poem “How It Adds Up” by Tony Hoagland. The piece is a beautiful exploration on the elusive nature of happiness. Hoagland’s poem can be found in his collection What Narcissism Means to Me, which became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
There was the day we swam in a river, a lake, and an ocean.   
And the day I quit the job my father got me.   
And the day I stood outside a door,   
and listened to my girlfriend making love   
to someone obviously not me, inside,   
and I felt strange because I didn’t care.   
There was the morning I was born,   
and the year I was a loser,   
and the night I was the winner of the prize   
for which the audience applauded.   
Then there was someone else I met,   
whose face and voice I can’t forget,   
and the memory of her   
is like a jail I’m trapped inside,   
or maybe she is something I just use   
                                       to hold my real life at a distance.
Happiness, Joe says, is a wild red flower   
                      plucked from a river of lava   
and held aloft on a tightrope   
                      strung between two scrawny trees   
above a canyon   
                      in a manic-depressive windstorm.
Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it—,   
And when you do, you will keep looking for it   
everywhere, for years,   
while right behind you,   
the footprints you are leaving   
will look like notes   
                                          of a crazy song. - Tony Hoagland


Writers’ Reel: Celebrate National Poetry Month with Kwame Dawes!

April is National Poetry Month. What better way to mark the first day than by watching this animated video, courtesy of The Poetry Foundation, illustrating Kwame Dawes’s poem “Tornado Child.” Dawes is the author of over a dozen books. His most recent collection of poems is titled Duppy Conqueror and was released by Copper Canyon Press. Watch the video, then go hug a poet!
I am a tornado child
         born in the whirl of clouds; the center crumbled,
         then I came. My lovers know the blast of my chaotic giving;
         they tremble at the whip of my supple thighs;
         you cross me at your peril, I swallow light
         when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin,
         the pine trees bend to me swept in my gyrations.” – Kwame Dawes 


Bookmark This: 15 New Vocabulary Words You Need to Start Using

The folks at BuzzFeed have done writers a solid by featuring 15 underused words that we can all add to our literary repertoire. The best part of the list is that each word and definition is featured in a hilarious gif. The word meliorism (the belief that the world can be made better by human effort) with a gif of a baby sloth handing you a flower? Yes, please!

Check out the rest of the words here. 

Writers’ Reel: Patti Smith Remembering Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf took her life on March 281941 at the age of 59. She was the author of fifteen books, countless essays and even ran a publishing press Hogarth Press. There’s no question that she left quite the mark on the literary world that can still be felt to this day. In this Open Culture post, musician and poet Patti Smith marks the day of Woolf’s passing by giving her own thoughts as to why she left and by reading a selection from Woolf’s novel The Waves

“For myself, I believe she made this decision consciously. It was what she needed to do as a human being and so I do not think of this as sad. I just think it’s the day that Virginia Woolf decided to say goodbye. We are not celebrating the day, we are simply acknowledging that this is the day. If I had a title to call tonight, I would call it Wave. We are waving to Virginia.” – Patti Smith


Click here to read the full post.


Bookmark This: When Are You Really Done?

In online magazine Lit Central/OC, writer Cynthia Romanowski shares her struggle with being unable to complete the first draft, a fear that both emerging and seasoned authors face again and again. Romanowski cites an essay by author David Ulin that details his own frustration and how he learned to accept the uncertainty of writing that first draft to allow the narrative to develop uncontrolled. The essay is an honest exploration of the difficulty of letting go of control and completing a first draft. 
“I liked (and why not?) the idea of being a writer better than I liked writing, which to this day remains an unsteady process, a balancing act between expectation and an almost willful lack of expectation, between my aspiration and my failure, between what I want and what I cannot do. I’m familiar with this now, this ongoing frustration, but then, it used to drive me crazy, the imperfection that sets in with the first written word.” – David Ulin

Writers’ Reel: 29 Tips To Boost Creativity

No matter where you are in your creative process, you can always use reminders on how to keep motivated and on track. This video by lists the 29 ways to be creative. Incorporate a couple of these to break free from the rut. What do you do to boost your creativity?



Bookmark This: Everybody Has a Heartache by Joy Harjo

Poetry magazine’s March issue is filled with innovative pieces. You’ll find new works by poet Joy Harjo (2013 PEN Center USA Literary Award Winner for Creative Nonfiction) and Franny Choi, who recently read at the Dirty Laundry Lit: TERMINAL, presented PEN Center USA at AWP 2014. You can also find powerful works by Natalie Diaz, Danez Smith, and more. 
Everybody Has a Heartache: A Blues

"In the United terminal in Chicago at five on a Friday afternoon
The sky is breaking with rain and wind and all the flights
Are delayed forever. We will never get to where we are going
And there’s no way back to where we’ve been.
The sun and the moon have disappeared to an island far from 
Everybody has a heartache—“ Joy Harjo

Read the rest of Harjo’s poem and the rest of the issue here. 


Writers' Reel: Terry McMillan On Disliking Third Person Narration

Outspoken author Terry McMillan (Waiting to ExhaleDisappearing Acts, and her latest, Who Asked You?) recently sat down for an interview with the New York Times, in which she discusses her disdain for third person, her techniques for controlling her characters, and what she considers “literary masturbation.”

“You need to learn the rules before you can break them. And you need to read everybody. If you’re black, don’t just read black writers and if you’re white, don’t just read white writers, etc. I read everybody across the board, all ethnicities. I’m curious about mankind. I want to know how everybody lives.” – Terry McMillan

Click to watch the full interview:


Bookmark This: Vonnegut’s Shape Of A Story

Back when the legendary author Kurt Vonnegut (Cat’s CradleSlaughterhouse-Five) was just an anthropology student at the University of Chicago, he produced a brilliant graph as his master’s thesis, a project that was ultimately rejected. The concept details how the protagonist of a story has ups and downs that can be pinpointed in a graph, revealing the shape of the story.  As he explained in his autobiography Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage“stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.” adopted Vonnegut’s concept and created the striking graphic below.  

Kurt Vonnegut - The Shapes of Stories