Billy Collins and Aimee Mann Were an Intellectual Hipster Dream Saturday Night

Categories: Poetry


America's favorite poet Billy Collins and indie singer songwriter Aimee Mann shared the Winspear Opera stage Saturday night as part of the DMA's Arts and Letters Live. An enthusiastic audience cheered as these two artists performed their most beloved works filling the Winspear with music, poetry, laughter and tears.

Touring together since 2014, the charismatic duo have created a partnership that feels comfortable and fresh with Collins reading his humorous, bittersweet poetry and Mann singing her literary, angsty songs mixing in a little casual conversation about the creative process.

When explaining how they came to work together Collins reluctantly admits they met at the White House but to him this seems like name-dropping. Collins self-deprecatingly referred to himself as "an amorphous blob of blackness," and called Aimee"the moth." "The moth don't care if the flame is red," Collins said. It seemed fitting. Mann's wraithlike appearance is reminiscent of a moth with black hipster glasses.

More »

Garrison Keillor Delivered a Magical, Vulgarity-Free Night of Storytelling at the Bass Hall

Categories: Poetry

Bass Hall
I have a confession. I didn't grow up listening to the radio. I imagined I was like most young people in that way, but over the last couple of weeks, I've learned that's not the case. When I've mentioned plans to attend an evening with Garrison Keillor, the reaction has been nearly unanimous: "Oh man, I listened to him with my Dad when I was a kid!"
Each of my partners in conversation recoiled in shock and horror when I said that I only had a vague idea of who Keillor is -- wasn't there a Robert Altman movie called "A Prairie Home Companion"? That's how I showed up to Bass Hall on Thursday night with a shameful awareness that I had missed out on an essential part of the American upbringing, and that I was about to spend two hours with an American icon I knew next to nothing about, save that he's an icon.

More »

Five Events to Celebrate National Poetry Month in Dallas

Categories: Poetry

Dallas Poetry Slam

"April is the cruelest month," TS Eliot penned to open his poetic triumph, The Wasteland. Poets have written at length about this month filled with spring showers and a sense of renewal. Odgen Nash exhorted readers to marry an April girl; Robert Frost described the days of April as blue butterflies. It's a month that marks the end of hibernation, when skin sees rays of the sun and wind whips through screen doors. Perhaps for all of these reasons, in 1996 the Academy of American Poets deemed April National Poetry Month. While the initiatives are education based, everyone is encouraged to celebrate by writing, reading and memorizing a few stanzas.

This would also be a great chance to venture out into the small, but mighty poetry community here in Dallas. We've compiled a few of them here, to add to your calendar.

More »

Poet Laureate Billy Collins Is Coming to Dallas. Here Are Five Reasons You Should Care.

Thumbnail image for billycollins.jpg
Poetry Foundation
For its fall benefit this Thursday, the Friends of the Dallas Public Library hosts An Evening with Billy Collins. The night's headliner is a literary giant, whom The New York Times dubbed "the most popular poet in America." From 2001-2003, Collins served as the United States' Poet Laureate, who functions as the nation's official poet -- a position appointed by the Library of Congress. The Thursday night event is sold out, but we've compiled a list of a few reasons you should care about his visit to Dallas.

His "Poetry 180" project
If you attended a public high school from 2001-2003, your life was better because of Billy Collins. During his term as laureate, he distributed one poem per day to all American high schools. If you were too cool for these poems back then, or you were homeschooled, all of these poems are published in two anthologies titled Poetry 180. Thanks to the government, you can read them online for free, or your mom can buy them for you at Barnes & Noble.

More »

A Noob's Guide to Experiencing Live Poetry and Spoken Word in Dallas

Categories: Poetry

Mad Swirl, via Facebook
Sometimes things are only "underground" out of ignorance. The poetry scene in Dallas is an established one, home to both talent and venues, each with its own style.

To develop this guide, I spoke with some of the city's most prolific and involved poets, to find which venues had the most competitive slams, and which provided the best front row seat to Dallas' best poets. "Every venue is a different experience," says local poet Duane Madden . "It's like a different counseling session on different days of the week. Spoken Word is therapy."

"There are a lot of hidden gems," adds Alexandra Marie, Co-Slam Master, Dallas Poetry Slam. "If one takes the time to look."

More »

Sex Advice from Poets, and Other Things We Got at Southside's "Blue Monday" Event

Liza Ellen_Liz Mikel.jpg
Photos by Matthew Lawson
Liza Ellen performs as Liz Mikel (right) and Lady Dwarf (left) watch on.

The night was a warm glow. The mood was soft, the venue low-lit like a candle-filled bedroom. Local blues man Lucky Peterson provided the soundtrack on the piano; he played soft jazz with a creative infusion of something nearing the blues. Free chocolate-covered strawberries and wine heightened the intimate mood, and everyone was relaxed and loose by the time the poets took the stage.

They were all there, in the Blue Room at the Southside on Lamar lofts, for "Blue Mondays," an evolving art show that happens on the first Monday of every month. Every Monday is a different theme, and every Monday draws a unique crowd. Yesterday's theme: "Sex in D City."

More »

How Dallas Painter Aralyn McGregor Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Art

Aralyn McGregor
"It's okay, I don't get art either," Aralyn McGregor claims when asked about her line of work.

After receiving her BFA in studio painting from UNT in 2009, McGregor worked for a while as a middle school and high school art teacher before "retir[ing] at the ripe old age of 25 to pursue painting full-time." One thing she found most humbling about her experiences teaching was a consistent refrain -- even her youngest students frequently doubted their understanding of art and their creative abilities.

"I find that most adults never outgrow this insecurity," she says, "'I don't get art,' or, 'I'm not good at art,' is the most common response I get when someone finds out I paint for a living."

More »

Youth Poetry, En Masse

Categories: Poetry

They grow up so fast! This one is already driving!
A special connection with a soccer ball. How it felt when he left you alone, in front of your locker, with only your Mead 5 Star to catch your tears. Justin Bieber's eyes.

Nothing is off limits when it comes to youth poetry.

Now in its 16th year, "Express Yourself" -- the Dallas Library's annual celebration of poetry, as told by area students -- is calling for submissions.

Last year boasted more than 1200 entries by Dallas youth, which is an amazing feat all on its own. Part of that success is due to the program's ability to rally kids and young adults, on their turf. "We send published poets into the schools to do workshops and get them writing," said Joe Giudice, the event's key organizer.

(Get involved, after the jump.)

More »

Drawing Inspiration from Newspapers, Poet Austin Kleon Creatively Recycles

austin kleon signing books.jpg
Elaine Liner
Austin Kleon signs a copy of Newspaper Blackout at the DMA.
When he graduated from Miami University of Ohio, Austin Kleon, like many young writers, didn't know where to start his career. But instead of staring at a blank screen waiting for the Muse to deliver a Great American Novel, Kleon put his own pen and ink on other writers' words.

On his bus ride to and from his job at a campus library at UT-Austin, Kleon would take pages from The New York Times and black out lines in news stories with a permanent marker until only a few words remained. The words became poems. And this exercise, a way to break writer's block, he says, became a blog, a book and now a movement to create colorful new language from a printed page. Kleon was just taking literally what Walt Whitman once said: "The true poem is the daily newspaper."

At Friday night's "Fresh Ink" presentation at the Dallas Museum of Art, Kleon talked to an SRO crowd about his success with "found art" and how everyone can find inspiration in the mundane. Kleon's book, Newspaper Blackout, published in 2010 and now out in paperback, contains more than 100 of his "found" poems. His blog invites readers to submit their own blacked-out newspaper poetry and he says he's received them from all over the globe. He's also sold blackout poems as pieces of art. (See one of Kleon's works after the jump.)

Kleon had advice for other writers and artists trying to find an audience, and he said other good stuff at the DMA event:
• "I started a blog not because I had something to say but to find something to say. Having a container can inspire you to fill it."
• "Sit down every day and work at it bit by bit. I wrote a whole book on the bus to and from work."
• The secret to success as an artist is "do good work and then put it where people can see it."
• "Share your secrets. Artists are not magicians; there's no penalty for sharing."
• "The more I stay away from the computer, the more ideas I get."
• "Creativity is subtraction. It's the things we choose to leave out."
• "The obituaries are the best part of the newspaper."

Hear the NPR Morning Edition piece that landed Kleon his book deal here.

More »