Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

Today is the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth. Check out ways to commemorate the day below, complete with cakes, quizzes, quotes and more.

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Bake a Shakespeare-inspired birthday cake

Introducing Cakespeare! To celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London invited bakers to design cakes inspired by the Bard’s prose. See a few below, or check out the full gallery here.

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The Love Lives of Authors

Love is dangerous—best to leave it to the experts.

Spend your Valentine’s Day living vicariously through these writers and their passionate love lives. Because let’s face it, you’d rather be draped in chocolate wrappers than a volatile amour, right? Just me?

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Lord Byron

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The 6th Baron Byron was a Romantic with a capital ‘R,’ but that doesn’t mean he was particularly gentlemanly. His first partner in scandal, Lady Caroline Lamb, described him aptly when she professed he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Indeed, she was just one of many public conquests that rocked British society, several of which produced children. Only one of these was legitimate, the Honorable Augusta Ada Byron, also known as the co-creator of the first computer, Ada Lovelace. Others, save for a daughter he had with Mary Shelley’s sister, were never proven or recognized by Byron. In essence, he was a cad with a weakness for women, or so we can assume from his poem “Don Juan.” I mean, not even his own half-sister was off-limits to him.

But still some come to his defense. Poet Katha Pollitt excused Byron’s bad boy behavior with an interesting take on his contribution to feminism: “Byron’s great insight, in an era where women were expected to be placid and insipid (not that they were!), was to see that women were much like men: They wanted sex and went after it eagerly, if secretly.”

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This Week in Poetic History

Just for fun: we’re celebrating the lives of three poets that were changed this week in history, many years ago, and examining the curious ways one turn of events can change a legacy. Here are three world-altering events from three years in poetic history…

“The Raven” Is Born

Tenniel-TheRavenOn this day in 1845, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” one of the best-known poems in the English language, was first published. But it was no easy feat getting it into print. Poe first submitted the poem his friend and owner of Graham’s Magazine George Rex Graham, who declined. He did, however, give Poe $15 out of what could best be described as pity. The poem was eventually bought by The American Review, for $9. Still, Poe was not yet to become the household name he would shortly be; the magazine printed it under the pseudonym “Quarles.”

It was in the Evening Mirror that the poem first appeared with Poe’s name beneath it. Thanks to this publication, Edgar Allen Poe and his “Raven” achieved Read the rest of this entry »


Erudite Frights for All Hallow’s Night: Ten Spine-Tingling Lines from Literature

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Here at eNotes, we would NEVER let Halloween pass without a few good scares from the masters of horror!  Let’s all take a break from the tedious terror of government shutdowns and 404 Errors of the new healthcare law and enjoy some scares that are a lot more fun.

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1.  “The shortest horror story:   The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.”
― Frederic Brown

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2.  “At bottom, you see, we are not Homo sapiens as all. Our core is madness. The prime directive is murder. What Darwin was too polite to say, my friends, is that we came to rule the earth not because we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest, most murderous motherfuckers in the jungle. And that is what the Pulse exposed five days ago.” –   from Cell by Stephen King 

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Irish Poet Seamus Heaney Dies

Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney, “The most important Irish poet since Yeats,” passed away in Dublin early this morning. He was 74.

934_heaney180In the short time since his death, tributes have poured in from all over the globe. But all eyes are on the people of Ireland, whose loss of a national treasure is deeply felt. President Michael D. Higgins, himself a published poet, has spoken of Heaney, “the presence of Seamus was a warm one, full of humour, care and courtesy – a courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honours.” It is that Irish dignity that Higgins credits with boosting national confidence after the economic downturn the nation suffered in 2010.

He carried with him an Irish legacy, born of rural county Derry, that will live on in poems like “Digging” and “Field Work.” Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke for all of his country when he said the death of Heaney was a “great sorrow to Ireland… “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people.”

Listen to Heaney’s 1995 Nobel lecture below:

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Guerrilla Poetry Projects

T.S. Eliot once observed that “genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”  This is a sentiment that  “guerrilla” poets embrace.  Guerrilla tactics, whether in war or in art, often rely on hit-and-run assaults, leaving the subjects of their surprise attacks a bit dazed and hopefully more aware.

This week, the website Flavorpill (by way of booooooom.com) published a variety of  guerrilla poetry projects that are sneaking poetry into the lives of the largely unsuspecting public.  Here are ten of the best:

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1.  Scottish artist Robert Montgomery installs subversive poetry on billboards, stripping away the large-scale ads for his black-and-white text. Other poems are set on fire. The anonymous works about modern life offer a moment of reflection, away from the consumerist gaze.

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2.  The Itaewon neighbored of Seoul, Korea is littered with colorful dolls. American poet Andy Knowlton creates the tiny figures from found materials he collects on the streets. Each doll is outfitted with a bottle that contains a poem. “I want to surprise people going about their daily routines,” he told website Chincha. “Also, I’ve been writing poetry for several years now and I’m always trying to figure out new ways to get people interested in poetry. These dolls are just another approach to getting the good word out on poetry.”
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3. New York City writer Audrey Dimola started the Compass Project in 2012. She stickers her poems around the city, releasing her work into the wild. They’re tiny signposts for eagle-eyed daydreamers.
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4. London-based artist Anna Garforth is inspired by guerrilla gardening groups, which is why she transformed excerpts from several Eleanor Stevens poems into mossy wall text. The green words are attached with organic materials. Garforth creates the work with the hopes that the letters will grow and spread across the wall in time.
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Top Ten Pick-Up Lines in Literature

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For the Power of Words, I give you Exhibit A: Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, The Crucibleand Marilyn Monroe.

As Exhibit B: Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children and Padma Lakshmi.

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I could go on.

Here are ten great lines from literature that just might help you get lucky, too. 

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1.  “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”

- From The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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