By Deb A.
The Washington Post and the Financial Times have already gotten a head start on end-of-year recommendations, offering up their picks for the best poetry books of 2018. But not every poet can win a Grammy like Leonard Cohen, whose The Flame is a must-read according to the Financial Times, or be hailed as a "Living Legend" by the U.S. Library of Congress like Ursula K. Le Guin, who made the Washington Post's list with So Far So Good. Which is why some Columbia University students set their sights much, much lower, on the 33rd annual Alfred Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest.
Held by the university's Philolexian Society, a literary and debate society that aims to "promote wit and humour on campus," the contest honours Alfred Joyce Kilmer and his meticulously rhyming contributions to the poetic canon. Nearly 40 contestants took to the stage this year, unabashedly embracing terrible metaphors, obnoxious rhymes, and pretentious language in their efforts to drive the three professors judging the proceedings to despair.
There were limericks. There was performance art. There were several modern takes on old classics. The winner was freshman Dylan Tymel and his "A Story of Unrequited Love in 5 Haikus", in which he recruits a "sweet, rotten, rhymeless" orange to provide the necessary imagery.
Your pith in my nails
As I peel you, stinging juice
Squirts into my soul
(From "A Story of Unrequited Love in 5 Haikus" by new poet laureate Dylan Tymel)
(If that strikes your fancy, you might want to check out some past winners.)
As per tradition, the event ended with everyone in attendance reciting Joyce Kilmer's "Trees":
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
By Deb A.
What did you do last Thursday? In 2005 UNESCO designated the third Thursday of November World Philosophy Day. This year, the Institute of Art and Ideas celebrated with a list of 70 philosophy books everyone should read. With its own caveat that it is "by no means exhaustive" and that some key titles and thinkers are missing, it is nonetheless a decent overview that refuses to linger around old white males for too long; categories include ancient Indian philosophy, Japanese philosophy, Islamic philosophy, feminism, and African philosophy alongside the usual line-up of Greeks, Romans, Enlightenment thinkers and phenomenologists. The full list is here, but we've got some of the highlights for you below.
Ancient Indian philosophy: The Upanishads (8th to 1st century BCE) are a collection of over 200 religious and philosophical texts. Each Upanishad stands alone but taken together, they offer both a univocal account of the importance of religious knowledge and conflicting messages about reality and the individual self.
Japanese philosophy: The ideas of Nishida Kitarō were crucial to the development of Japanese philosophy in the twentieth century. An Inquiry Into the Good (1911) marks the start of his thinking around the concept of "pure experience," a concept he expresses through Zen Buddhism.
Islamic philosophy: Averroes, or Ibn Rushd, argued from an Islamic legal perspective in The Decisive Treatise (1178) that philosophy is not in conflict with Islam; he claimed that not only was it allowed, it was actually mandated in the Qur'an.
Feminism: You've heard of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949) and Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1929), but what about Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), where she takes on a report presented to the French government that suggested that women were not suited for formal education? Wollstonecraft argued that women are indeed rational—they appear otherwise specifically because they have been denied a proper education.
African philosophy: Kenyan philosopher Henry Odera Oruka began his Sage Philosophy Project in the 1970s to document the thinking of wise men and women in communities across Africa. Sage Philosophy: Indigenous Thinkers and Modern Debate on African Philosophy (1990) countered the Eurocentric bias against viewing traditional African sages as philosophers.
Postcolonialism: While her professor and lover Martin Heidegger did not make the IAI's list (perhaps due to readability issues, or his involvement with Nazism), Hannah Arendt did, with The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). Her analysis of Nazism and Stalinism is often lauded as one of the best nonfiction books of the twentieth century; it experienced a new surge in popularity after the 2016 U.S. elections.
By Deb A.
What makes a book difficult, and is that a bad thing? (The Guardian)
The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation has announced its shortlist for next year's prize.
Behind the scenes with the impressive list of celebrities reading children to sleep on CBeebies Bedtime Stories. (BBC)
Jawohl! The Deutsche Welle has put together a list of 100 must-reads translated from German into English.
Artist Tania Willard's recent work turns the wind into a poet. (CBC)
The science is in on how to become a successful artist. (artnet; full study, published in Science, available here)
The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Books are here!
By Deb A.
Americans, don't forget to vote this week!
By Deb A.
Hallowe'en is looming, so we turn this week to something a little more gory. This month not one but two blood-based art projects have hit the headlines, both with a political message.
Marc Quinn will draw blood from 5000 people for his next piece in order to highlight the global refugee crisis and, crucially, raise money for refugees worldwide. Billed as "a monument to our common humanity" that emphasises "how there is more that unites us than divides us," Odyssey will feature two cubes, each containing one metric ton of frozen blood--one cube will hold blood drawn from refugees, while the other will hold blood drawn from non-refugees around the world, including celebrities such as Anna Wintour and Jude Law. The cubes will be unlabelled, pushing viewers to recognise the basic humanity that is shared by us all. If you would like to stand in solidarity with refugees, or even if you just fancy the idea of your blood mingling with Paul McCartney's DNA, you can buy the chance to donate your blood to the artwork. Odyssey will debut outside the New York Public Library in Autumn 2019, then go on a global tour.
Earlier this month Khaled Jarrar stood on Wall Street selling vials of his own blood from a cooler with the aim of drawing attention to the role of America's military industry in war and violence. In his performance piece Blood for Sale, Jarrar sold his first eight bottles of blood for $19.48 to mark the price of Smith and Wesson stock and the 1948 Palestine War. The rest were valued according to the stock prices of 15 major American defence contractors: from $75 (Science Applications International Corporation) to $347 (Lockheed Martin). Interested passers-by who preferred to simply make a donation or buy the accompanying certificate without incurring the inconvenience of having to carry blood around for the rest of their day were rebuffed: As taxpayers to the American government, they already had blood on their hands, Jarrar reasoned. Proceeds of the sales of the 50 10-ml samples will be donated to hospitals in Yemen and Gaza.
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