Book Review: “Beautiful & Pointless”

In Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry David Orr presents an accessible and funny account of of the current state of modern poetry. He begins the the book with his analysis of the complex predicament that poetry seems to hold in today’s society: an increasingly academic and prestigious realm that intimidates and alienates the majority of the population. It’s an obvious and rising viewpoint, but Orr adds his own apt and unique assessment that both makes poetry approachable and exciting for all: the author compares reading poetry to visiting a foreign country. It’s a very welcome explanation highlighting the fact that poetry does have its eccentricities, difficulties, and culture, but is still quite accessible and conquerable with enough time and concentration, which can yield pleasure and experiences comparable to immersing oneself in a foreign land.

by David Orr

With this easily readable stance and approach, Orr also decides to do away with any in-depth technical analysis of the various ways in which poems can be read in order to derive text-based meanings from them. His purposeful oversight isn’t too lamentable considering the countless volumes dedicated to such a task (but with denser and scholarly tones). Instead of an academic and dry analysis, the author provides explanations of the different types and forms of poems, along with snippets from some famous poems. The examples he uses are short and further reinforce his appreciation for poetry as whole. So, those looking for insider tips on how to better craft essays analyzing poetry will be slightly disappointed. Continue reading

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Reflection: Nonfiction Writing

My ability to write in the nonfiction genre–whether it’s a creative flash piece, a commentary, or a fieldwork project–has improved greatly in the past few months. Studying how both famous authors (such as George Orwell and Tom Wolfe) and lesser known authors (such as Lillian Ross and Michael Winerip), use literary techniques to heighten their observations and research has allowed me to experiment and develop my own creative voice.

Using these literary techniques and writing nonfiction outside of an academic tone and purpose–especially during my senior year–has been both refreshing and useful. I’ve enjoyed writing for purposes that weren’t tied to proving a clever–but ultimately useless and distorted–thesis or being tethered to the tangential ideas or biases of a GSI in order to obtain a good grade. Instead, focusing on writing in a meaningful and effective manner–along with the readings, exercises, and assignments demonstrating this–has allowed me to further practice writing that has greater longevity and usefulness (for both creative and non-creative purposes): communicating in an accessible manner, eschewing jargon and obscurity, and using literary techniques to emphasize the truth of experiences or details.

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Flash Nonfiction Submission for Brevity

Regarding my first post–reflecting on writing in the flash genre and my first submission to a writing contest–Brevity just announced the winners of its flash nonfiction essay contest inspired by Philip Graham. Although, I didn’t win anything, I can now post my short submission in full:

Headphones, Sound Effects

“No,” I said, secretly shocked by my own answer. I should be ecstatically answering the opposite, which is exactly what any of my buddies would do, and moments before I thought I would too.

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