Grackle Open for Submissions!

Our literary magazine, Grub Street Grackle, needs your poetry, fiction, and satire! There is no fee to submit, and every piece published will be royally (by small lit mag standards) compensated. Each issue features residents of Dallas County, as well as international contributions.

Submit for free at https://gracklerag.submittable.com.

Everyone who submits will have an opportunity to pre-order the issue for $4.95, our lowest price!

National Poetry Month Memorization Challenge

We need poetry more in the world. That is, we don't need more poetry, but we need the poetry we have to be worked ever deeper into the fabric of everyday life. The best way each of us can make that happen is to memorize poetry, as much of it as we can. When you have poetry memorized, it's not only in your mind, it's in the rhythm of your life. It's a spring-loaded vision, ready to leap into life when you need it.

This April, we're challenging you to celebrate National Poetry Month by committing to memorize 4 poems, one each week throughout the month. If you want to participate, sign on to the challenge by clicking the "FUNDRAISE FOR THIS CAMPAIGN" button on our crowdrise page. Once you sign up, you'll have your own fundraiser page and can invite friends and family to sponsor you by making a donation to Imagine Dallas.

Don't just read poetry this National Poetry Month. Walk it, breathe it, live it. Memorize it!

Listeners Bring Poetry to Life

It's common knowledge among literary organizations that no art moves fewer bodies (and dollars) than literature. Thea Temple of The Writer's Garret will remind you that "Literature is the Third World of the Arts." Wordspace's Charles Dee Mitchell recently told me that when he first directed his attention from other arts to literature, he was amazed to find that only a handful of people might show up at a typical reading, even for accomplished literary authors.

If you've been to a few poetry readings, you know that a dozen people is an amazing turnout. Yesterday afternoon, the Bonehouse poets read to an audience about three times that size, in the back yard of The Wild Detectives.

What's different about Bonehouse, our pilot poetry workshop and performance group? Why do these listeners keep coming back to hear one morally and intellectually challenging poem after another? What's the gimmick?

I believe that our strength lies in our commitment to building a community of readers and writers. When we write, we don't allow our sentiments to dribble onto the page but always imagine our words as a gift thoughtfully presented to an audience. We know our poems are audience-ready because in our private meetings, we are our own toughest crowd.

In our public readings, we work to place the focus on the words themselves, not the personalities and accomplishments of the authors. Each poet chooses and introduces poems by the other authors, with a view to opening the treasure of the poem to the audience. We trust our audience to pay us the high compliment of demanding something worth listening to, no matter who's saying it. So in introducing each other's work, we waste no time in highlighting what is worthiest, not in the poet, but in each poem.

By listening to a poem with an interpretive introduction in mind, weighing its truth as the poem unfolds, the audience becomes an essential part of the life of the poem. Poetry dwells not in the mind of the poet or even in the words on the page or in the air, but in a community of interpretation, comprising adventuresome speakers and discerning listeners. 

In other words, our greatest strength is not in ourselves at all, but in our incredible, thoughtful audience. Thanks to all who came yesterday and all whose minds are alive to the searching word!

Giving Tuesday Challenge

This is it: the biggest day of the year, #GivingTuesday.

We’re looking for every single one of our supporters to give on this day and watch their donations to literary publication and education grow in real time in the Giving Tower.

To help, please make a donation that will spread great writing, bring poetry education to children, and build an audience-oriented network of writers. Any donation, large or small, makes a huge difference and is so appreciated. Every single donation gets us a little closer to a grand prize of $25,000, awarded to the organization that raises the most through Crowdrise today. That bonus could transform us from a fledgling nonprofit scraping for dollars into a full-scale, world-class operation!

Then for some fun, download the free Giving Tower app. By using the app, you'll be able to experience the Tower in an immersive 360 degree environment where you can interact with the Giving Tower in real-time and watch it get taller and taller.

Let’s build this Tower to the moon and make sure half of the bricks on the tower are representing Imagine Dallas Literary Arts!

Thanks so, so much.

Classic Gracklings

What does the word "literary" mean to you?—inaccessible? self-indulgent? or worst of all: boring? The tradition of literature argues against this prejudice. Open any canonical classic and read it with fresh eyes; if it deserves the honor it's received, you're bound to find, perhaps to your surprise, that this "great book" is also a good book. So where the idea comes from that literature is a plodding, dull, and navel-gazing art, I couldn't say yet for sure. But I suspect the fault lies partly among teachers who break every text down into sterile symbology and psychology, partly among modern authors themselves who tiresomely report their experiences and musings without thinking of what will give pleasure to readers who do not share the author's assumption that their every passing thought is golden. (So much of the impulse to poetry today would be much better fulfilled by keeping a tumblr account.)

Here at least is one area where we could use more vigorous gatekeepers, if I am allowed to say that on the internet. The average educated reader thinks literary writing is for masochistic intellectuals because when they dip into a "literary" publication, they reasonably infer that the authors are sadists looking to connect with precisely that audience.

Our magazine, Grub Street Grackle, aims to change the scene. Over the last ten years, we have sought to publish nothing but cunning, readable prose and rich, memorable verse, and perhaps most critically, something that will make you laugh. In these last few months, we have painstakingly produced a catalog of those occasions on which we have succeeded. (May our few failures fade into the gloom of the sub-sub-librarian's lamp.)

Each of these our greatest hits has been re-released on the Grackle's website for you to take and savor. Please don't leave them hanging!

Why Poetry?

Last week, we brought a new poetry appreciation lesson plan to four classrooms in two schools in Irving and Duncanville. This is a big step for our organization, but one might reasonably ask: why does it matter? If the children are sitting around reading a poem, they're not doing any number of other educational work. So why is it worth their time?

Of course, I could just appeal to the TEKS specifications and say: look, educators have already thought about this and decided that children need to learn to appreciate poetry beginning from a very young age.

Texas Essential Knowledge Standards for Kindergarten

Texas Essential Knowledge Standards for Kindergarten

But thinking together about poetry does much more for students than just checking a box on their educational standards. Reading written verse concentrates people's attention in a way that nothing else does. It calls for patient reflection. It calls for a kind of discipline, an exercise of imagination and of memory. It calls for a deep dive into the structure of language. When people gather to read and understand a poem together, they must listen thoughtfully to each other, weighing difficulties and finding productive ways to disagree. It's a challenging but joyful exercise in critical interpretation, sensitivity, and communication.

In other words, reading poetry together trains children in the very habits they need for any kind of disciplined study. If that matters, poetry matters.