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8 Poets We Adore: Part One

IMG_3199In lieu of asking you to check out our previous issues to see what kind of work we’re looking for, here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of Tango Cat’s favorite poets and writers. 

1. Kim Addonizio

Kim Addonizio is an American poet known for her grit and humor. Critics have described her as “Bukowski in a sundress,” which she later titled her book of memoirs. We love Addonizio for the risks she takes. Her poetry is raw, real, and powerful.

It was tough for us to choose a single favorite poem out of all her fantastic work, but “Lives of the Poets,” is definitely one we can relate to:

“It turns out words are no help. / But here I am with my shovel / digging like a fool / beside the spilth and splosh / of the ungirdled sea. I can’t stop.”

2. Ocean Vuong

Born in Vietnam and raised in Connecticut, Ocean Vuong has won numerous awards and honors, including the T.S. Elliot Prize and the Whiting Award. We love Vuong’s work for the way he plays with form, using it to enhance his poetry and add new layers of meaning. In an interview with Edward J. Rathke, he described form as “an extension of the poem’s content, a place where tensions can be investigated further.”

Our favorite poem is Vuong’s “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong,” which begins:

“Ocean, don’t be afraid. / The end of the road is so far ahead / it is already behind us.”

3. Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire was a French poet known best for his book of poetry, Les Fleur des Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Six of the poems in the book, centered around sex and death, were banned for obscenity. But Baudelaire defended the book’s “cold and sinister beauty,” claiming it was the duty of artists to find beauty in even the most depraved and ugly situations.

Our favorite poem of Baudelaire’s is titled “Be Drunk.” In it, he urges the reader to stave off “the horrible burden of time” by being continually drunk:

“On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

4. Solmaz Sharif

Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Solmaz Sharif’s poetry is illuminating, interrogating, and intensely powerful. She uses language as a force, each line cutting like a razor. She seems to be aware of this power, writing in “Desired Application”: “I feel like I must muzzle myself.”

One of Sharif’s must-read poems is “LOOK.” She writes:

“Let it matter what we call a thing. / Let it be the exquisite face for at least 16 seconds. / Let me LOOK at you. / Let me look at you in a light that takes years to get here.”

5. Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon is an Irish poet who often uses traditional verse forms in new and innovative ways. He’s notable for his wordplay and wit. We love Muldoon for the way he takes seemingly ordinary objects or situations, and gives them meaning, influence, new layers of complexity. This is seen best in one of our favorite poems by Muldoon, titled “Hedgehog,” in which he says of the animal:

“We forget the god / Under this crown of thorns. / We forget that never again / Will a god trust in the world.”

6. Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker is an American poet and the author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce and Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night. She, along with fellow poet Angel Nafis, runs The Other Black Girl Collective, a touring Black Feminist poetry duo. We love Parker because her voice is entirely her own, marked by scathing honesty, pop culture references, and themes surrounding the life of black women in America.

We think Parker’s poem, “ALL THEY WANT IS MY MONEY MY PUSSY MY BLOOD,” is a great example of her unique voice:

“Okay so I’m Black in America right and I walk into a bar. / I drink a lot of wine and kiss a Black man on his beard. / I do whatever I want because I could die any minute. / I don’t mean YOLO I mean they are hunting me.”

7. Rives

Called the “first 2.0 poet,” Rives is part poet, part performance artist, part storyteller, and we love that he doesn’t quit fit into any boxes. He’s made several appearances on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and at the TED Conferences. His work is full of wit, wordplay, nostalgia, joy, music.

Our favorite poem by Rives is best enjoyed live. Watch it here.

8. Tao Lin

Tao Lin is an American poet whose writing has garnered both positive and negative reviews. Known for his flat style, Lin has been called both annoying and deeply intelligent and daring. This daring, innovation, and creativity, which has attracted so much controversy surrounding his work, is the same quality that Tango Cat celebrates.

Our favorite Lin poem is “thirteen of twenty-four,” which ends with:

“the phrase ‘giant poem’ reverberates / through my head with the austerity of ancient ruins, the off-centered beauty / of repressed veganism, and the lord of the rings trilogy / I forgot what this poem was about”

We hope you take inspiration from these poets, explore their other work, and let us know who you’re favorite poets are too. Keep reading, keep writing, keep submitting your work, and most of all, keep dancing!

Optimizing Your Daily Creativity: A How-To Guide

IMG_3161At Tango Cat, we believe that daily creativity is essential to a satisfied, empowered life—for everyone, not just published authors or professional artists. Whatever your medium is, be it poetry, photography, fashion, or sculpture, delve into it a little bit every day, and make creativity a part of your daily life.

It’s not always easy, though. Here’s a few tips to help you find motivation and stay inspired:

Set Your Inner Critic Aside

There’s nothing worse than shutting yourself down before you’ve even started. Set aside whatever preconceived notions you have about what makes art “good” or “bad,” and let yourself create without judgement. You can always revise later, but you’ll never have anything to revise if you can’t let go and create something in the first place.

Be kind to yourself; creativity requires experimentation, innovation, and curiosity. Occasionally, this means that you’ll humiliate yourself. But in the Tango Cat community, we’re not afraid of failure. It’s all a part of the process.

Be Open To New Experiences

One of the best sources of inspiration is the experience of trying something new. Explore, write in different places, make yourself uncomfortable—as these experiences change you as a person, as they develop your confidence and perspective, so too will they develop your creativity.

Don’t be afraid to take that leap. The first step to becoming an interesting artist is becoming an interesting person.

Find a Community

Surrounding yourself with other artists and writers can enhance your own creativity and inspire you to experiment with new styles, mediums, and subject matter. Become best friends with another artist. You can bounce ideas off of each other and critique each other’s work.

Find creative groups in your community or join a writing forum online. If you can’t find a local artistic community, create one! Start a club at school, a local event, or a blog to showcase your work. And if all else fails, remember, you’re always welcome at Tango Cat. Send us your work to critique, ask our advice, and try out our weekly writing prompts.

Avoid Rigid Schedules

Setting a strict schedule often sets yourself up for failure. If you commit to writing every morning from 4-6am, inevitably you’re going to sleep in at some point and miss that time block. This creates a negativity and pressure involving your art and writing, which can hinder your creativity. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and work whenever you can.

Keep a notebook or sketchbook with you and write or draw whenever you get the chance—on the bus, waiting in line, on your lunch break. Make creating your default activity, not playing Candy Crush or scrolling through Facebook.

Create for the Joy of It

Stephen King once said, “I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.” The joy that comes from being creative is the foundation of Tango Cat Magazine. Do it because it makes you feel happy, confident, and empowered. If there are days when you just don’t feel like it, don’t force yourself. Live, create, and aspire toward joy.

Share your Work

Last but not least, be sure to share the work you’re proud of. Submit to us. Read at poetry slams. Hang your artwork up around town. Art is one of the best and most lasting gifts you can give to the world, so don’t be shy. Home is where your art is!

Weekly Writing Prompt #1: Freedom

My PostEach week, Tango Cat will offer a writing prompt to help you stay creative, focused, and prolific. As writers, we know that there’s nothing worse than sitting down to write and finding your mind as blank as the page. We believe that writing is just as much work as it is play, and everyone needs a little nudge to help inspire them from time to time. Sometimes the best inspiration comes from flexing your creative  muscles with the right prompt.

This week’s writing prompt is freedom! Here’s some specific exercises to get you going:

  • Write a poem about what freedom means to you. What is the ultimate symbol of freedom? What does it feel like?
  • Write a flash fiction piece in which a character breaks free. Contrast their previous captivity with their newfound freedom.
  • Draw or paint an abstract representation of freedom. What color is freedom? Is it soft like watercolors? Is it sharply focused like pen and ink?

Feel free to submit the resulting masterpiece to Tango Cat’s next issue and let us know how it went. We’d love to hear about your brainstorming, writing, and revising process. 

Happy writing!