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When writing a poem, I often have the impression that I’m working with a finite amount of material, like a block of stone from which I need to carve out a sculpture. It’s exacting, perfectionist work, and if I chip away too much stone, there’s no getting it back.

Prose, in contrast, feels generative unto itself, like those ornamental aquarium plants that readily clone themselves and which, after some escaped from Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum into the Mediterranean, were discovered to be highly toxic to sea life (at least according to a scare-mongering NOVA special I saw many years ago; now their toxicity is under debate). In prose there is no shortage of material. If you get stuck, digress. Just fill up the page. More… “The Point of Tangency”

Elisa Gabbert is the author of L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean), The Self Unstable (Black Ocean) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.
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Presenting your news!
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Aspiring writers must navigate the legions of advice from the legends who came before — not a simple task in a world that idolizes both Faulkner and Hemmingway. Read about teachers who advise their students against the use of the word “said,” and graduate programs that reject the use of anything but. (The Wall Street Journal, The Smart Set)

Romanticism, though hard to define, aims to transcend medium, create pure feeling, and remain subject to the whims of chance, sometimes resulting in art that takes the form of blank canvases and bathroom fixtures. Read about unusual copyright claims to John Cage’s romanticist piece “4’33” and Duchamp’s lifelong struggle to find the paradoxical non-medium. (Pigeons and Planes, The Smart Set)

They bite at night and are the scourge of humanity. Read about the math of mutually-assured vampire-human destruction and the existential dilemma of bedbugs. (Atlas Obscura, The Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
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Presenting today's news
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What do you do when a bizarre combination of birthright and computer convention means that much of the digitized world doesn’t believe in your existence? (Wired)

You can’t choose your death like an item off the lunch menu. But what if you could? Do you know what you would order? (Wilson Quarterly)

Imagine the dialogue of your first memory. Even if you don’t know what exactly was said, chances are you have a strong connection to the language that was spoken. The impression made on you by the words, the accent, and the timbre of the language is one that will likely never go away. (Nautilus) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
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Presenting today's news
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Playboy announced yesterday that it will be covering up a bit after over 60 years of publication. In response the surge of nude and pornographic content available for free online, the magazine that took sex to the front page will not feature nude women beginning next March. Maybe now people really will just read it for the articles. (The New York Times)

Alaska and at least nine U.S. cities followed the lead South Dakota took in 1990 and celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day yesterday instead of Columbus Day. Activists argue that honoring Christopher Columbus honors a history of Native American and African American subjugation. Supporters say that the U.S. would not be the way it is today without Columbus. (USA Today and Heavy, Inc.)

About a month ago, Elisa Gabbert meditated on the word “pretty” for the Smart Set. Now, the Guardian is taking a long, hard look at “ugly.” (The Guardian) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
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Making the cute pretty
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I love the word pretty.

A theory: “Pretty” has gone out of favor because we are greedy, and want the merely pretty to be fully beautiful, and so we go around calling things beautiful that are pretty.

There’s something self-flattering about it — describing a thing as beautiful makes the speaker appear more sensitive to beauty. Conversely, “pretty” always sounds like an understatement, and as such can actually be more flattering to the thing described.
More… “Pretty Nice”

Elisa Gabbert is the author of L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean), The Self Unstable (Black Ocean) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.
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Elegant, nonchalant, cool.

Being cool is mostly about posture. It is a way of holding your body. It is a certain expression on your face. It’s the way you handle a cigarette, but not the way you smoke it. Maybe you never even take a puff; you just let the thing dangle in your right hand, smoldering, until it burns out.

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant. A book of Morgan’s selected essays can be found here. He can be reached at morganmeis@gmail.com.

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But how does it sound?

People often describe German, my native language, as hard and aggressive. They relish criticizing its guttural sounds, long compound words, and the sentence structure, which is said to be especially complex. Perhaps you’ve seen the much-shared video featuring characters like a Bavarian in traditional costume who says a series of German words – but instead of pronouncing them “normally,” he exaggerates the harsh sounds to an absurd degree. A few months ago I took part in a less-than-enjoyable Facebook discussion devoted to the question of what anybody could ever find appealing about German. I quickly found myself in the position of trying to defend my native tongue – and soon gave up, since no one seemed inclined to change their entrenched opinion.

Bernd Brunner writes books and essays. His latest book (in German) is When Winters Were… More…

 

What do you tell parents of would-be poets who worry about their children’s ability to make a living writing sonnets? — Your father, Sierra Vista, Arizona P.S. Do you want me to send you that law school application?

It is perfectly natural to feel the worry you express, and especially if your child is nearing the end of her MFA program that offers no job placement upon completion, but I don’t think she is relying solely on her ability to write sonnets to make her living. The great Nobel laureate, poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky makes a bold and validating claim that, in my personal experience, I have found to be true:  “The more one reads (and by extension, writes) poetry, the less tolerant one becomes of any sort of verbosity, be it in political or philosophical discourse,… More…