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brain pickings

10 Websites Every Poet Should Know

by Konstantin Kulakov

Ever since I began my life as poet, I have traveled across the web to explore the publishers, databases, resources that enrich my work. This list is in no way definitive or objective. Instead, I must disclose that these findings reflect my development as poet: English Romantic poetry, modernist literature, Russian literature, Beat poetry, Black Arts Movement poetry, Arab and Islamic poetry, and spiritual poetry. Nevertheless, this list is a good reference among many other references, provides indispensible resources, and offers something new.

1. Poetry Foundation

First to Publish T.S. Elliot’s, “"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and   "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks, Poetry magazine, for me and many others, functioned and continues to function as the foremost literary publication devoted to poetry. It is committed to  “the best English verse which is being written today, regardless of where, by whom, or under what theory of art it is written.” Thanks to this broad principle, the magazine continues to honor the multicultural as the issue devoted to the Black Lives Matter richly introduced by Sarah Browning. Through the magazine, I encountered poets like Danez Smith, Kazim Ali (with whom I made correspondence), Yehuda Amichai, and Mahmoud Darwish. Ruth Lily’s endowment Poetry Magazine holds a vigorous presence and many multimedia resources with a multicultural slant.

2. Bartleby

In a Western culture that often privileges knowledge and youth over wisdom and elderliness, Bartleby persists as the home of our past, the gems of classical tradition. Whenever someone refers to or recommends a classical literary text from Shelley, T.S. Elliott, Poe or Whitman, I find a good textual rendering of the works, from obscure to common. In my experience, Bartleby specializes in works before the latter half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, a truly inclusive approach demands that we not lose hold of past, present, and future.

3. Split This Rock

I had the honor of inviting and moderating a panel with co-founder and executive director, poet Sarah Browning. She is a poet and activist who brazenly represents Split This Rock. Their mission is clear and urgent: "Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. It calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets."

Split This Rock also includes a daunting task, a database that consolidates the work of socially engaged poets since 2009. It is searchable by " social justice theme, author’s identity, state, and geographic region: 

4. Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings is a leading publication interested in the arts, literature, and philosophy in the digital age run by fellow Eastern European, Maria Papova. For the fast-paced, social-media savvy millennial artist, it publishes exciting and digestible information that enriches my work as artist with meaning. She has written on painters like Kandinsky and poets like Rilke. She has been able to illuminate the works of philosophers and their relevance to writers and artists today.

“The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways.”

5. Etymology

Poets, at their most influential, are also wordsmiths. The most world renown poet, Shakespeare, is said to have coined 1700 new words.  As poet, I am committed to study the roots and depths of words. They are my only tools. Aside from the obvious thesaurus, studying etymology on a basic level is enriching. Etymology gives us hints at the first uses of any word and reveals the baggage and imagery these words carry.  We gain a fuller sense of how to best understand and use our tools, words, when we know how they began and what is at their core. When I am seeking clarity on a word and its associations, this resource always provides consistent information.

6. Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons is an award-winning science fiction writer who grippingly shares the inner workings of world literature in a series of installments called Writing Well. Although my investment into prose and novel writing pales in comparison to my investment into poetry as poet, especially science fiction, science fiction writer Dan Simmons changed my discipline as a writer by raising the bar in literary discipline, skill, and insight. Dan has an incredible appreciation for the music of poetry, Zen Buddhism, and imagism which I connect to.

7. Apogee

The mission of Apogee is to promote "literature and art that engages with identity politics, including but not limited to: race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, and intersectional identities. We are a biannual print publication featuring fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art."

I am ranking Apogee as 7th most important resource because of its multicultural, racial justice-oriented mission and content. It was the poetry editor of Apogee who took on Rattle magazine for publishing an issue on "New York City Poets" who were all white. This opened up groundbreaking questions in diversity and submissions. 

8. Song Meanings

In the larger tradition of poetry, there is a strong relationship to music, instrumentation, and oral culture. Textuality, bookishness, I would argue, is the reason for why contemporary poets have not been able to ignite a larger following and perception of poetry. Delve into the lyrics, text, and meanings of your favorite songs and learn how poets can SING better.

9. Rhyme Zone

Rhyme zone is a good resource to systematically search for and find rhymes, near rhymes, and similar-sounding words. You may organize results by: Syllables, Letters  and are asked if you want to include phrases. 

10. Poetry Chaikhana

Poetry chaikhana is probably the most inclusive and extensive resource for spiritual and religious poetry. It includes works of all major world religions along with blog posts and comments around the spirituality behind eachwork.