Notary on a Unicycle and an Award!

NotaryUnicycle.jpgI’ve been working on a series of ink and ink wash illustrations of snippets of conversations I’ve overheard randomly – thus I’ve been affectionately calling them “Overheards”. The conversations are already out of context in most cases, and I’ve tried to heighten that by making the conversations between fruits and birds. Don’t know where this will go, but may I present to you the first one and say that there are more on the way!

Right before I left for my Asia trip, I was nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award by Steve D’Adamo of Red String Paper Cuts. Luckily, I don’t think the nominations expire, so here I am, accepting it a month later! Thank you, Steve! Thank you also for introducing me to several more really cool bloggers in your nomination post!


To accept the award I must:

Thank the bloggers who nominated me and provide a link to their blogs.

Write a post to show my award.

Give a brief story as to how my blog got started.

Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

Select 15 other bloggers for this award.

Comment on each blog to let them know I nominated them and link them to this post.

Thank the bloggers who nominated me and provide a link to their blogs.
I was nominated by Steve D’Adamo over at Red String Paper Cuts. Steve and his friend Jesse Gutierrez started RSPC not long after I started Illustrated Poetry and they have always graciously allowed me to hang around and occasionally contribute to their blog. Always good stuff over at RSPC! Thank you again for the nomination!

Give a brief story as to how my blog got started:
I actually have a confession to make: this was supposed to be an author blog. Towards the end of grad school, I wrote a novel – my first, to be precise (it was also my first serious attempt at writing anything non-science since college). Like most first-novel-attempts, it wasn’t very good, but also like many first time novelists, I didn’t realize that at first (it was definitely my baby). So I was trying to figure out what to do with this novel, how to get it published, and the first piece of advice everyone seemed to dispense in those days to aspiring authors was to start a blog. So I made a WP account…and then did nothing with it. I didn’t really want to write about writing and somewhere along the line, I realized a half-hearted author blog wasn’t going to cut it. But I didn’t give up on blogging and decided to blog about and connect with people through something I had always been really passionate about: art and poetry.  And I am so glad I did!

Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers:
I am probably the last person who should be dispensing blogging advice! But, if pressed, I would say: 1) blog about what you are most passionate about – doesn’t matter if that seems quirky or offbeat. Some of my favorite blogs on WP are quirky or about highly specialized topics and that’s what makes them great. 2) It’s your blog, it should be fun – it doesn’t matter if the prevailing advice is to post once a day or to write posts tagged with the top 10 trending tags, if that’s not fun for you, don’t do it. Need a blogging break? Take one.

Nominate 15 other bloggers – Well, it’s not going to be 15, and this is the part where the whole awards thing breaks down for me – my nominees are always “no strings attached” and I free them from any sort of obligation in regards to acceptance or post writing. It’s hard enough to find the time to post when we do! I hope folks visit and enjoy their blogs and discover new writers to follow.

I may have realized that I don’t like writing about writing, but I sure do enjoy it when talented authors do! In that vein, I have nominated 5 writers who I really enjoy following and often write about writing in an interesting way:

  1. Jane Dougherty Writes – I think Ms. Dougherty was the second or third blogger I followed and she very kindly endured novice-blogger me! Ms. Dougherty is the author of nearly a dozen books (by my count) and hosts fun microfiction challenges.
  2. Myths of the Mirror – this is D. Wallace Peach’s author blog and she posts interesting articles about writing fantasy (need to design a magic system, anyone?). Her series of posts about deciding to terminate her contract with her previous publisher and self-publish her novels was absolutely top notch and I highly recommend it.
  3. M.C. Tuggle, Writer – a writer of many different types of fiction, Mr. Tuggle posts on a similarly wide range of writing topics. I really appreciate that he scours the web and WP for good articles and posts about writing so you don’t have to!
  4. Kate M. Colby – I think I ran across Ms. Colby’s blog right after she started it, before her first book was published and she’s now on her third! I find her approach to discussing issues in publishing and writing to be refreshing and approachable. I also admire her systematic and businesslike attitude towards her own work and her decision to self-publish.
  5. American Writers Exposed – Sometimes you need some relief and a hilarious internet meme about writing and Ms. Jessica and Ms. Sandi post these alongside updates and articles about the nitty gritty of writing and publication. Their blog has the feel of a friendly support group for writers.

Okay! Thank you so much again, Steve, for the nomination! I hope everyone’s week is off to a good start.

Found Poetry Thursday – Detectiverse

Every weekend in January my neighbor put out a large printed sign that said “FREE” on the sidewalk in front of his house. Beneath it was a blue tarp piled high with mandarin oranges. Our block is a main thoroughfare for walkers and joggers, who often leaned over and took a few oranges as they went by. But it was almost comical, from my vantage point across the street, to see cars driving along, minding their own business, then suddenly jerk to the curb and screech to a halt. Doors would fling open and sometimes several people would pop out to scoop up armfuls of the fruit.

A glance at my neighbor’s house clearly yielded the source of his problem – a towering orange tree that was sagging with fruit. But my neighbor also used this bounty as an opportunity to give away other things as well; books, nicknacks, magazines, and spare parts were brought out from the bowels of his garage in boxes and plunked next to the bright orange lures.

Like many others, I went for the fruit but stayed for the boxes of free books and magazines.

In general, I was pretty good about saying “no” (you would understand how remarkable that was if you saw my bookshelves), but how could I say “no” to four issues of a mystery magazine, two from 1977 and two from 1978? Thus I acquired my first copies of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. The short stories were good, but the real surprise for me was when I found the mystery poetry!
IMG_4560.jpgI consider poetry “found” when it pops up in unexpected places. True, many literary magazines take both short fiction and poetry, but mystery isn’t a genre I often associated with poetry. That misconception has now been corrected!

Ellery Queen is still in publication (their website is here) and still accepts poetry submissions for “Detectiverse.” They are, in fact, the longest running mystery magazine in the world. I couldn’t find much information on the poet, Mark Grenier, other than his publications in Ellery Queen and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (SciFi poetry too!). He was featured in a 2006 article in the Irish Times for conducting poetry workshops for patients at several Irish hospitals. (Side note: “Grenier” is a very poetic last name, it turns out – there are several other published and famous poets that share it.) So, the author of this mystery poem is mostly a mystery himself, for now…


We interrupt this regularly scheduled post…

WKQG4943.jpgYesterday I witnessed a terrible accident.

We are driving to meet a friend for dinner, heading the opposite direction of our commute, the opposite direction of traffic. Traffic flows easily at full highway speeds, or faster perhaps.

I hear it before I see it. An explosion a quarter mile ahead. I don’t see the inciting incident, but others do. I see a smear on the diagonal vector, no longer parallel. Time is slowing down, and the cars around us pause at 65+ miles an hour.

The nose of the car shoots up into the air, points at the sky. A metal pirouette, a Nancy Rubins’ in real life. It lands on its side and in some complicated equation of forces, begins to tumble. I am pulling right hard: the road ahead is a cloud of debris, spinning off at impossible angles.

And I watch it go 1…no, no, no, no, no…2….no, no, no, no…3 lanes of traffic, wheels over roof. It slams mid-somersault into the earthen embankment on the shoulder with another explosion of dirt.

shit. shit. shit.

And tumbles back to rest on its roof in the slow lane.

Call 9-1-1! Call 9-1-1! I shout and we are out of the car, running. Others are running too, converging on the car. Colored fluids are pouring from its exposed silver belly. Every one of our faces is a grim mask.

Because we are sure the people in that car are dead. Maybe not yet, but soon.

Instead, there she is: a woman on her hands and knees, looking up at us out of an upside-down window frame.

“It’s only me in the car. I’m okay. I was wearing my seatbelt.”

She is bleeding from small cuts all over her legs, the glass pressed through her pantyhose; she is dusty;

and she is okay.

As we help her out of the car, there is only the present, no past and no future. It occurs to me: I witnessed an honest-to-god miracle.

That feeling has stayed with me since yesterday.  It happened in an instant is always the cliché on accidents, and we are taught to always avoid clichés, but, but, but

I think over and over again…

Be kind.
Drive like you care about life.
Wear your seatbelt.

They talk about events that shake you up, make you see the world fresh, stripped of the illusion of security and ground, as Buddhist teachers say – and this was one of them. That second to the last statement is for the driver who hit the woman; witnesses said he was weaving erratically between lanes and speeding when he clipped the woman’s back bumper and sent her car spinning. She told us that she never saw him coming and never knew what hit her. Photograph by me, a blurry version of this Silent Sunday. Nancy Rubins creates fantastic (and often massive) sculptures out of recycled metal parts – you can see examples of her work here

Found Poetry Thursday – with random poem bonus!


It’s been a little while since I posted some poetry that I found out in the wild! This one was spotted at an exhibit on the history of photography at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. It took a little digging to identify the author and origin of the verse – this particular display was on the camera lucida, an early projection device for artists, and did not provide information on the quatrain. Miss Eliza Savage was the long time pen pal and “beta reader” for the Victorian era author Samuel Butler (1835 – 1902). His literary legacy has all but waned but his work was cited as an influence by Aldous Huxley, E.M. Forster, and George Bernard Shaw. Miss Savage wrote this “poem” in a letter to Mr. Butler, although a biography of Mr. Butler reversed the order of the lines. Photograph by me.

A couple of poetry links to round out this evening:

  1. For a wonderful fully illustrated version of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot (which is one of my favorite poems) – head over to Julian Peters Comics at this link here. Then linger a bit on his site to see a number of the classics beautifully illustrated.
  2. I’m now using three different poetry generator websites to make random poems – basically algorithms that generate random poems from either user supplied text or a standard set of words. If you put the “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” into the Interactive Haiku Generator (link below) you can get haiku like this:

    Sudden spreads the overwhelming

    We and it’s us

    On a night so tedious.

I have found these random poems to be both a great source of inspiration, a way to “unstick” from writing dry spells, as well as good Surrealist poems in their own right.

Here are the three sites – but fair warning, they are very addictive! Enjoy!

Interactive Haiku Generator 

Dada Poetry Generator

Thinkzone Poem Generator 

Illustrated Thursday – Find What You Love – Bukowski

OROD4154I recently rescued a nearly full package of matte photo paper from the recycling bin at work – I guess folks don’t need to print photos anymore! I quickly discovered that I love drawing on the unique surface: it grabs graphite well and then is easy to blend. I don’t normally illustrate quotes, as there seems to be an entire industry devoted to that already, but I couldn’t resist with this Bukowski quote. Drawing (pencil on photo paper) and composition by me. Enjoy!

Old Poem Saturday – The Written Word

thewrittenwordThis short little poem has gotten quite a bit of milage as a piece of advice to writers everywhere. While the advice is sound, the attribution is not – the name of the author, and even the date of publication, having been lost for the last 100 years. I found text sources that list it as “anonymous” since 1955 and references to it earlier than that date. Two online sites attributed it to the authors Madeleine L’Engle or Elizabeth Yates, but it appears, upon further research, that it was a favorite inspirational poem for both women and was not written by either. So “anonymous” it shall stay – thank you, whoever you were, for a poignant poem about writing. Drawing (ink on paper) and composition by me. Have a great weekend!

History, Poetry, and Misattribution

Igo_haiku_v1A couple of weeks ago, I received a comment on this classic haiku that I had featured and illustrated a while back. Mr. Michael Dylan Welch, who runs the excellent poetry website Graceguts, let me know that there has been a long (and interesting) history of misattribution of the authorship of this haiku. He referred me to his essay detailing this history (which you can find here and is worth a read).

I was glad he let me know for several reasons.  I do my best to make sure the information I present is accurate and always gives complete credit to the authors and artists – so this gives me an opportunity to fix it. There have been a number of instances where I abandoned illustration of a poem or a post draft because I could not find credible authorship information about the poem to share with you. But also, I find these tales of attribution and misattribution to be important – they are a social commentary and experiment. When our art and words are let loose in the world, what happens to them? How do we credit artists and authors? What sources do we trust? What happens when legacy or tradition eclipses accuracy?

The internet has added an extra variable and the possibility of misattributions to go viral, but in cases like this one, it also allows for correcting them. For the “Two Autumns” haiku, I had used a source no less authoritative than an edition of X.J. Kennedy’s college poetry textbook (which Mr. Welch’s essay does specifically mention as one of the guilty parties). The New York Times had a recent op-ed about the misattribution of quotations. It was authored by a woman who had a quote from her blog misattributed to a much more famous designer.

So here is “Two Autumns” once again, with the correct authorship. I can say with great confidence that the ink drawing is by me! Enjoy!


Poetic wanderings, real and virtual

IMG_3264Wanderings of the Real…

Harvard is blessed with a plethora of libraries and reading rooms (including the Woodberry Poetry Room that I visited for stop 5 of my Poetry Scavenger Hunt) – a little while ago I stumbled across this display of graphic novels in Lamont Library that included this stirring advertisement for an illustrated version of Ginsberg’s Howl. A different spin on the iconic lines than I put on them when I accompanied them with coffee for my Ginsberg “Place Mat.” 

Wanderings of the Virtual…

– I’m not sure what will happen to this blog once winter has truly ended, but for now, you can see pictures from this record breaking Boston winter paired with Samuel Beckett quotes at M(Becket)TA. I’ve read Waiting for Godot, but I had no idea how intimately Samuel Beckett knew a bleak winter…

– Need a poetic pick-me-up? I find that using either the Random Poetry Generator at ThinkZone or the Interactive Haiku Generator at the Language is a Virus website usually does the trick. These are virtual versions of aleatory creativity techniques – and I think the Surrealists would have approved. But I warn you – these websites can be addictive…

For the Haiku Generator, you can enter any text of your choosing and it will fit it into the forms of famous haiku:

(using quotes from M(Becket)TA in the Haiku Generator = Samuel Beckett meets Basho)


No one else

Along this world but I,

This tears hell.

apologies to Basho

– If, like me, you are fascinated by where the artistic impulse comes from, why we make art, and who we make it for, I encourage you to become acquainted with the story of Henry Darger (1892 – 1973). He was a janitor living in Chicago and unbeknownst to anyone, at least until he was on his death bed, he wrote a fully illustrated 15,000 page fantasy novel. His art is now world-famous. I first became aware of his story when, on a lark, I rented a documentary entitled “In the Realms of the Unreal” at my local video store (which dates the encounter since those no longer exist!). The good news is that the full length documentary is on YouTube for free (and has been up for quite a while with thousands of views, so I am hoping that means it is a legitimate source) – you can find it here. I was reminded recently of how amazing Darger’s story is when original Super-8 footage of Darger’s apartment was posted here.


It’s Award Wednesday!

Illustrated Poetry was recently nominated for two different awards – and so I thought I would combine my thanks, appreciation, and reply into one mega-award post!

First and foremost, I want to sincerely thank the bloggers who nominated me:

Little Monster Girl for The Versatile Blogger Award (see the nominating post, which has an excellent list of other interesting blogs here)


The Many Writings of Adinah for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award (nominating post, with list of awesome nominees, is here)

Thank you thank you!

I have never formulated an official policy on blog awards and I’ve decided to approach them like I approach illustrating poetry – be very organic and go where my heart and artistic whim leads me. After doing a little research on the two awards (The Versatile Blogger Award even has its own blog) and observing how the awards change and grow, I feel pretty good about doing a mash-up of the two, with a little sprinkling of the No Strings Attached Award: an award sundae, if you will.

4 questions answered (for the Sisterhood Award) and 4 facts about myself (for the Versatile Blogger Award):

1. Favorite Lines of Poetry:

“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

– T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”


“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray

from the straight road and woke to find myself

alone in a dark wood. How shall I say

what wood that was!”

– Canto I, opening lines, The Divine Comedy, Dante Aligheri

2. My earliest memory:

When my parents brought my newborn sister home from the hospital. They sat me on my grandmother’s sofa and sitting on either side of me, set her in my lap to hold. I would have been almost 3 1/2  – the decades have gone by, but it is still one of my favorite memories as well.

3. Mustard or Ketchup?

This is so contextual – ketchup on fries, but mustard on sandwiches – I really can’t choose.

4. If you had to choose a past decade to live in, which would it be:

The 1920s – the fashion! the art! the style! pretty good hygiene! almost modern medicine! (the last two reasons was the microbiologist in me speaking)

5. Fun Fact 1: I continue the proud tradition of research scientists everywhere in that there is not enough coffee in the whole world for me. But I am definitely the only scientist on my hallway that drinks their coffee out of a “Read Banned Books” mug from the Mark Twain house in Hartford, Conn.

6. Fun Fact 2: I don’t own a television – and this is incredibly frustrating to the Comcast salesman who patrols our neighborhood and all cable company customer service phone reps (I call for internet issues and I get “Yes, ma’am, I see that you don’t currently have cable with us…” Nope, I don’t!).

7. Fun Fact 3: I did not see snow fall from the sky until I was in my early twenties. That’s one thing that growing up in Southern California will do for you!

8. Fun Fact 4: I love tiny houses! The tiny house movement is basically about reconsidering the spaces we inhabit in terms of size and utilization. My admiration for these small houses is both practical (the bigger the house, the more you have to clean!) and artistic (the innovation of some of these projects is amazing). There are so many blogs (especially of nothing but tiny house pics on Tumblr – like this one) – but for a written intro to the tiny house movement, you can look here. Sadly, I do not live in a tiny house – a tiny rented apartment, yes – but not the custom tiny house of my dreams.

No Strings Attached – Nominees

In addition to my amazing and talented collaborators over the past year, whose blogs maintain a standing order of “check these out” (can always find them in the side bar links list), I wanted to ping a few bloggers whose work I’ve consistently enjoyed and admire. They are welcome to take up either the No Strings Attached Award or Versatile Blogger Award baton, but my main goal is to spread the word about their work and express my appreciation for their blogs:

1) A-wing and A-way: This blog has consistently informative and well written articles on all topics bird related. Not birdwatching, per se, but the history of our cultural associations and mythology about birds. I learn something new every time I visit. Each article also features beautiful original bird artwork by the author’s wife.

2) Graceful Press Poetry: Ms. Knoblock’s poetry is always good, but what strikes me about her work is how many classical literature and mythological allusions she weaves into her poems. I aspire to one day do as well with the vast English Literature canon!

3) John Sapiro: John Sapiro and I have been following each other’s blogs pretty much since the beginning of both. Mr. Sapiro is fearless in his mash-ups of art, literature, history, music, and poetry. He animates quite a few of his posts, which I admire (the two gifs I have made for Illustrated Poetry took me untold hours to create, so I really do appreciate the work it takes).

4) A House to Live: I love the simple beauty of this blog. Ms. Mtz draws houses and sometimes imagines their interiors. She also features quotes about house and home. Just lovely. Her blog touches on my love of tiny houses (see fun fact 4).


Double Original Friday – You Flew Back Home


My original poem today continues on the theme of “haiku-like.” The photograph was taken by me on Santa Cruz island in the Channel Islands National Park. We had hiked all day across the island and had maybe seen one other group the whole time and virtually no sign of human habitation until we crested a hill and began our descent into Scorpion Bay. Abandoned machinery (drilling equipment?) littered the plains, but was so antiquated and decrepit that it had become part of the remote beauty of the place.