Friday, April 8, 2011

Lynda Barry and National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month! Designated by the The Academy of American Poets, it is a time "when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture."

In the spirit of celebrating the vitality of poetic language, I offer you cartoonist Lynda Barry, creator of Ernie Pook's Comeek featuring the wonderfully candid child characters, Maybonne and Marlys--among others. (Check out The Greatest of Marlys, listed in Time Magazine's Top Ten Graphic Novels.) Barry also happens to be a painter, playwright, editor, commentator and teacher! Watch an 8-minute Poetry Foundation video of her comedic discussion HERE, including an examination of the cadence in Emily Dickinson's poetry, which Barry sings to both Gerschwinn and "The Girl from Ipanema"!

Lynda Barry
I didn't intend to blog about poetry at all; I didn't even know there was a month devoted to it. But the good 'ole worldwideweb led me delightfully astray after I saw this really cool brochure from The Writers Institute at Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College. They've got a bunch of great 3 and 4-day ($250) workshop offerings May 4-7 from 9 a.m.-noon, including "Writing the Unthinkable" with Lynda Barry. A little research on her website, Marlys Magazine, and I learned she can sing too!

Here's the online class description, written by Barry herself, I suspect. I love how she levels the playing field:

"You can be completely anonymous in this class! You don't have to be cool! Your clothes can be square! You don't have to read aloud or talk to anyone if you don't want to! You don't even have to make eye contact! THIS CLASS WORKS ESPECIALLY WELL FOR 'NON-WRITERS' like bartenders, janitors, office workers, hairdressers, musicians, and ANYONE who has given up on "being a writer" but still wonders what it might be like to write."

Lynda Barry
Also, here's a little bio borrowed from the Lewis & Clark College site:
Lynda Barry has been drawing books of cartoons for over twenty years, most of them quirky volumes of her right-on reminiscences and glimpses of growing up in '60s-'70s America. It's all there in her work -- love, hate, sex, race, abuse, alcoholism, mental illness -- always delivered with humor and hope. Barry began drawing comics in 1977 while attending Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. One of her friends and classmates there was Matt Groening of Life in Hell and The Simpsons.
I first came across Barry's books in college at UC Santa Cruz when I took a class--my last one and only elective--called Comic Books and American Culture. I remain riveted by her adept storytelling that brings these truths to life in such a compelling way. I'm convinced she's either got a photographic memory or her younger selves wrote lots of diaries (or made lots of comics).

To read a great 2010 interview of this illustrious woman, click HERE.

Whether it's cartoons, narrative prose or poetry that makes you sing, keep on writing...


soulyluna said...

a friend of mine and i have been working through the image-making practices from Lynda Barry's What It Is. I love the "other people's mothers" exercise ;)
The first who came to mind was Helen (the roommate/ other person's mother who introduced us to each other in the first place) ha!

Courtney Jackson said...

You intoruduced me to her back in the day and I loved her! I still have one of her books-come over come over, I think. It made it's way to the guest room nightstand. I am sure my mother-in-law found it enlightening.

Arletta Dawdy said...

Thanks for introducing me to this wondrous woman, with Emily and the boys shouting out their cadence bounce! Great fun....

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