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literature & poetry

National Poetry Month: Francis Picabia

National Poetry Month: Francis Picabia

We are back for National Poetry Month! This week we're looking at French poet and painter Francis Picabia.  

National Bird Day: Aaaaw to Zzzzzd

National Bird Day: Aaaaw to Zzzzzd

In honor of National Bird Day, enjoy an excerpt from John Bevis's Aaaaw to Zzzzzd: The Words of Birds. In this passage he answers the question, "What's so special about birds?"

Let’s start at home. I’m in my Shropshire garden, an untidy patch whose lower slopes were last seen pitching into woods somewhere toward the River Severn. The rain stopped a little while ago, and the air’s full of that sweet smell of wet foliage, the hazy patter of water droplets shaking through the hedges, warm moist air lifting off uncut grass. There’s a blue tit on bug patrol, picking over the green pigment of lichen on the dark side of a holly tree. An agitation in the clematis overwhelming the back wall emerges as that little familiar bundle of nerves, a wren. Then a clap in the valley, a wood pigeon slapping the tips of its wings together as it hauls too steeply into the air and, like a toy airplane running out of rubber, stalls and drops into a fast glide toward the far trees. And here’s the possible cause of its abrupt departure, wheeling in over the hilltop, the fretwork silhouette of a buzzard.

Pride Month: Boyd McDonald

Pride Month: Boyd McDonald

Recently rereleased by Semiotext(e), Cruising the Movies, is an acerbic, queer-eye take on the greats and the not-so-greats of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Written by Boyd McDonald from a single room occupancy in gritty 1980s New York, the book takes no prisoners in its reviews of famous films from a bygone era. Some of McDonald’s targets include the Reagans, Steve McQueen, and Gary Cooper, throwing shady before it was even a thing. Cruising the Movies with its quick wit and DIY aesthetic reads as a sort of punk-poetry for the then underground gay scene. In our concluding Pride Month installment, William E. Jones, who wrote the introduction to his book, reflects on Boyd McDonald’s importance to a culture that is vastly underrepresented in history.

Boyd McDonald (1925–1993) was the main creative force behind one of the most distinctive underground publications, Straight to Hell, the first queer zine, founded in 1973. Self-published and crude, Straight to Hell’s sense of urgency was as strong as its contempt for authority. It was devoted to publishing its readers’ explicit sex stories ranging from the innocent to the raunchy, with emphasis on the latter, and McDonald interspersed these with a running commentary on the hypocrisy and corruption of the American political establishment. Nothing was sacred; the man who assembled this material didn’t give a damn about any recognized standard of taste.

National Poetry Month: Aesthetic Animism

National Poetry Month: Aesthetic Animism

April is for poets! All month, we’ll be bringing you excerpts each week from one of our books to celebrate National Poetry Month.  

And we know what you’re thinking… MIT Press publishes poetry?? Indeed we do, just with our very own twist!

This week we're featuring an excerpt from Aesthetic Animism by David Jhave Johnston. This book explores the concept of digital poetry. Digital poems don't have authors or stanzas. They are found in ads, conceptual art, interactive displays, performative projects, games, or apps. Poetic tools include algorithms, browsers, social media, and data. Code blossoms into poetic objects and poetic proto-organisms. In his book, Johnston asks the reader to think about the difference between traditional poetry and digital poetry.