Poetry Writing 101 Hands-on

Reader, if you are a wouldbe poetry writer, then get your hands on this book “Writing Poetry” by W N Herbert.  It’s like having a writing tutor patiently helping you – because that’s exactly what is happening – its writer is Bill Herbert, Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University.

dictionary meaning of spondulicks

Please do take that book token Christmas present, or lean over your local library counter and demand that they order it, or borrow the spondulicks from a pal, to buy this instantly useful and enjoyable book.  

Whether you are a beginner, near beginner or have written a couple of hundred poems but still feel like you’re at the start of a writing apprenticeship – this book takes you through the process of developing the skills/craft and – more difficult to explain – the feel for, writing poetry.




Dobby Gibson: A poet, a press, an editor

Having met Dobby Gibson in yesterday’s blog post, we get more of a sense of a practicing poet’s world with today’s video, including an interview with his editor (Jeff Shotts), his publisher (Graywolf Press) and Dobby reading at the book launch.  (This is his third book of poetry).

*CommandCo Exclusive Tomorrow* We’ve been in touch with Dobby, and found out his favourite poetry book of 2017 – the one which makes him want to write more poetry.  Also, the latest progress on his next book….  All this coming on tomorrow’s blog post!


More about the poet

If you’d like to find out more about the poet, his website will give a good indication of what books he has read, poems of his on the internet, and audio and video recordings and interviews.  In fact, it’s a good example of a poet’s website, for those of us in at the beginning of life as a published poet, or working towards that.

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Booklaunch Reading: Dobby Gibson reads “it becomes you”, his third book

Writing a Poetry Book

In today’s video, Dobby is honest about the time taken to write this third book – even though it was a book with his usual publisher, he began by sending the editor about 8 poems, and then taking 3 years to accumulate enough other poems to make this book.

Useful to hear that kind of realism, to budget for the time it will take.

Fly through a book: “Moonshine: Dreamwork Artists after dark!”

The private artworks of 49 Dreamwork animators have been drawn together into a book – at a reasonable price, considering it’s glossy and with colour pictures throughout.  There’s a Flip through view by Parka (an Amazon reviewer) below.  His review is at the bottom of this screen over at Amazon.

You can find a longer blog post on this book, together with a video of interviews with some of its artists, at a blog post earlier today.

There are 49 artists featured in the book – as you can see, the styles vary hugely – this would be a wonderful inspiration book for art education departments and students.

The artists featured are awardwinners at the Annie Awards – annual animation awards – the 2017 list of nominees has just been announced (awards ceremony in February).

Creative Takeaways

If you’re interested in breaking into the animation world (or know someone who is), well worth bookmarking the Annie awards and trying to catch the winners on DVD. Excellence inspires excellence.

Or, just to keep up to date on good films, from general interest – keep an eye on Annie Awardwinners and try to see the films which attract your attention.

Creative prompt: pause the video showthrough of the book at a random page, and use a picture on it as a jumping off point for your own creative making.

Moonshine, Dreamworks, animator, painter

What art do animation artists love to make?

Just today, came across this lovely little video about the art which Dreamworks animation artists make in their private life – and an exhibition of it – great variations in styles and materials.  The cherry on the cake, for me, is an endearing comment at the very end from Jeffrey Katzenberg that he’d love to live among the art on the 3rd floor of  the Musee D’Orsay m, Paris (the Impressionists).  My feeling exactly, when I first encountered it, I practically had to be prised away with crowbars.  And I had to revisit the next day.  Hands up anyone else who had the same reaction?

After watching this, it is clear that animation artists are indeed fine artists – and they love to paint and draw.  All the time.  Even while waiting in a queue for something too mundane to mention.  Keenness and enthusiasm is right there.  One painter even dislikes selling her art to someone unless she knows the purchaser, she feels such a personal bond with her pictures.

Huge talent quietly shown here by: Sam Michalp, Nicholas Weis, Griselda Sastrawinata, Christian Schellewald, Paul Duncan, Marcos Mateu, Nathan Fowkes.

The book itself will be featured in my next blog post.


Julia Child: Photo portrait of a cook

This is a review of a book review (?!) jampacked with 1950s Paris culture and glamour, culinary groundbreaking history, Julia Child, romance and gorgeous photography.


The book is “France is a Feast”, and tells the story of Julia Child, with photos by her deeply enamoured husband, Paul Child, who was also an excellent photographer.  The book text is written by Julia’s biographer and nephew, Alex Prud’homme, the photos collected by photography curator Katie Pratt, whose parents were close friends of Paul and Julia Child, so there’s a clear and close link between the writers and their subjects.

A well-written book review makes you want to rush to your local bookshop or library (depending on your budget)


People who cry in front of paintings

I’m making soup and reading this book: “Pictures & Tears” by James Elkins.  His theory is that “Most of us, I think, have never cried in front of paintings, or even felt anything very strong.” (page ix) so he then examines the ‘unusual’ cases of those who do find artwork moving.

Right off the bat, this book interested me: because I strongly disagree.  I have definitely found paintings moving and that has included tears.  Anecdotally, I find my friends tend to be moved, also, by art – although admittedly many of my friends share my interest in art.  I was intrigued to see what his findings were (he invited fellow art historians and put general inquiries in newspapers and journals – he had 400 replies).

Who is the author?  James Elkins is an art historian and critic – he wrote this book in 2001, but has published many art history books and continues to tour and give lectures, worldwide.  He’s refreshingly readable and understandable.

When the book arrived, it was a gift – part of a range of books all given to me at the same time.  So, of course, it was difficult to settle on one.  In the end, I have read the book in parts, but not totally and not from page one to page 272.  So – here I go.  I’ll let you know the book review, once completed.

Creative Takeaways

In the meantime, Dr Elkins has given some tips to encourage deeper experiences with paintings:

  1. Visit galleries alone
  2. Don’t be overwhelmed by trying to see everything, pick one or two rooms and then pick ONE painting/artwork to concentrate on
  3. Minimise distractions.  Pick an artwork in a space where fewer people are passing e.g. in a corner
  4. Take your time.  Look at it.  Stand back. Look again.  Sit down and relax.  Walk away, come back and see it afresh.
  5. Pay full attention, until you are almost absorbed into the picture.
  6. Do your own thinking.  You can read up a bit, take an audio tour – but still think for yourself about the artwork.
  7. Look for people who are really looking.  If they spend time with the same artwork, and will talk to you later, they often have an interesting story to connect with it
  8. Be faithful.  Keep coming back, to look at the same artwork.


Having written all that, it strikes me that this could be interesting dating advice, in moderation.  The other person/artwork could certainly not complain of lack of attention….