EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Olivia Gatwood is a poet, performer, and educator. A Brave New Voices, Women of the World, and National Poetry Slam finalist, her poetry has been featured on HBO, Huffington Post, MTV, VH1, and BBC. Her latest book, New American Best Friend, reflects her experiences growing up in both New Mexico and Trinidad, navigating girlhood, relationships, class, and sexuality. Olivia is also a Title IX Compliant educator in sexual assault prevention and recovery and has performed internationally at over 200 schools and universities.
Ever since discovering Olivia’s poetry on Youtube at 16, her words have become a constant in my life. They’ve made their way into sleepovers, my irrational horror at the doctor’s office, and early-morning bus rides. They’ve helped me in times of uncertainty, encouraging me to take pride in the things I was once ashamed of. Olivia was kind enough to speak with me about her work and experience as a poet, Title IX educator, and her upcoming book, set to release with The Dial Press/Random House in 2019.

More… “Ode to Olivia”

Camille DiBenedetto is a staff writer for The Smart Set and an English major at Drexel University. In her free time, you can find her watching romantic comedies, listening to slam poetry, or rereading The Summer I Turned Pretty for the 27th time.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

We have all either read or heard about a book titled The Joy of Sex, unless the book is now too old to interest today’s young people, who seem to have preferred to discover the joy of sex firsthand rather than in print. The trouble with relying on sex as a source of joy is that it does not last long. Sex may be fun, but afterwards it can turn cold. Getting out of a bad situation can be a bleak way to start the day — or the middle of the night. Even spectacular sex diminishes in retrospect. The French have a well-known phrase: la petite mort, or the little death. After the climax, the comedown. After the high, the down-low. After love, boredom. Are you ready to do it again? Maybe yes, if you’re 19 or 20. Older than that and you’ll be getting up to wash the dishes.

But.

But there is another kind of joy that will stay with you through all your days and nights, through marriage, separation, and divorce. It never turns cold. It is the joy of syntax, and you definitely want to enjoy it.

More… “The Joy of Syntax”

Kelly Cherry‘s new poetry book is Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her book of flash fiction titled Temporium is now available.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

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.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

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.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

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.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

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.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

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.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

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.

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 most recent book is Birdmania: A Particular Passion for Birds. His… More…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. That’s what John says in his Gospel. But the story of the Word is more complicated for human beings. Creatures roughly like us in all the essential ways have existed for a couple of hundred thousand years. But it was only around 30,000 years ago, more or less, that people started talking to one another in any way that we would recognize as language. A threshold was crossed, an innovation took root. No one knows exactly how or why it happened. It just happened, and at around that time something we can call language began truly to take root and spread amongst the species we call Homo sapiens. The “sapiens” (Latin for “wisdom”) refers to the way that our species has consciousness, awareness, the ability to reason, and so forth.

More…