My Top 10 Reads of 2016

I have had the privilege to plough through many books this past year. Here are my 10 favourite reads of 2016. They range from Poetry anthologies, novels, non-fiction and collected essays . They are in no particular order, and many of them are not new publications … it’s just my 10 favourite books that I have read this past year, some left a profound impression, some I will continue reading in 2017 and beyond, whilst others where just a good rollicking read and the last in the list was just for fun 🙂 . The links are to goodreads.

The most thought provoking books in the list were War and Some Desperate Glory, the most enlightening was A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Painful reads were Resident Alien and Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds. I am still busy reading Map (and will continue with it for some time) so to with TS Elliot’s, Waste Land. There are some companion books that never leave my desk, I keep rereading those, but it would be unfair to add them to the list as they would be on the list every year 🙂

I would love to know what great books you have read this year, please share them, so we can expand our horizons with your reading pleasures. I look forward to sharing many more poems and creative writing articles in 2017 and hoping to have my anthology published in early 2017 … happy reading and writing for 2017. Much love and peace to all of the readers and followers of my journey.

On the Celebration of Creativity

I am sure many of you out there seek for ways to tap into your creativity and seek inspiration from various sources. Music and reading are two of my main sources, I have previously written extensively on the music and poetry, that I use to tap into my well of creativity. Thus far, I have not delved into the books that I read on writing styles, creative input and how to manage the day to day challenge of sitting at ones desk, and hopefully write. Here are a few of the books that I keep going back to, again and again; they are well thumbed and travelled (with my journal and colour coded notebooks) and remain close to my desk, most are littered with tabs and post it notes.

A most intriguing read is Paul Zollo’s book of interviews with songwriters (62 to be exact) on how they create their magic, how they have succeed in creating timeless memoires for the listener: Songwriters On Songwriting  – Many of my favourite musicians that I listen to (or whose lyrics I read – have most of Dylan and Springsteen’s lyrics in book form), are thumb indexed so I easily can dive back to reread their creative processes. I wrote a more in-depth article, on the section in the book, about Bob Dylan Learning from Creative People – Bob Dylan  –  who Van Morrison has called the worlds greatest Poet – cue Nobel literature signature tune here 🙂

A small gem of a book is written by Steven Pressfield –  The War of Art – it runs us through the psychology of the creative process. See my post The War of Art for a more detailed review of the book.

Two of the earliest books I read on writing and creativity are written by, in my opinion, the legends/gods of writing; Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. King’s Danse Macabre  is a well thumbed gem, written in the early 1980’s, I received my copy from my brother in 1988 as a Christmas present. It is a ranging wild trip through the history of horror, how it works and how he brings this process to bear in his own inimitable way through hi many novels. Bradury’s Zen in the Art of Writing – is a fascinating trip, 11 essays on the pleasures of writing, by one of the most entertaining writers (sci-fi, horror, screen plays, essays, poems and much more). His central premise throughout the book (and his life) is that writing must be a celebration, not a chore. I highly recommend this book for a unique perspective by a most amazing man, on his greatest passion – writing.

Lastly two books, I keep close at hand, which some would find unusual or different 🙂 one to aid me in pushing my creative boundaries, and the other for a unique perspective on words and their meaning (true or intended) when I am grasping for a different view of the creative road.

The one to push my creative boundaries, is an amazing thick, huge hard cover book by Guillermo Del ToroCabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions – in which he reveals the inspirations behind his signature artistic motifs, horror creations, writings and much more. It contains amazing photos of his creations, items from his collection and pages from his notebooks. It is a unique opportunity to see into his creative mind and process. I find that aspect of an artists creative process interesting; how do they get from A to B or Z?

The other well thumbed book is – The Devils Dictionary – by Ambrose Bierce, a satirical dictionary written by American journalist and author Ambrose Bierce. Originally published in 1906 as The Cynic’s Word Book. If you are looking for a unique spin on words, with a rich sense of irony then its a keeper. Here are a few timeless examples:

  • Egotist: (n.) A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
  • Faith: (n.) Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
  • Lawyer: (n.) One skilled in circumvention of the law.
  • Marriage: (n.) A household consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.
  • Religion: (n.) A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

I trust dear gentle reader (and writer), that you have enjoyed this creative jaunt with me, finding it both entertaining and helpful. I would love your comments; with respect to what inspires you, what you read, listen to, or delve into? When you need to troll the depths of your creative well, to discover the hidden gems that lie below.

May we always lust and thirst to celebrate our creativity.

Michael D Emmerich

Why I write Poetry

Writing is an art form and all art is a means of self expression. I weave words not yarn; mix metaphors not paint; rhythm words not chords. Words are my brushes and paper is my canvas. Poetry is the screen shot, screen grab of the writing world, fitting as much as possible in a succinct concise form. It is the literary equivalent of a selfie, a tweet – the Instagram of writing. Poems are this poets answers to the “Why”, attempting to satisfy my urge for closure, even if it is not forthcoming (which often it is not). Everyone is has to figure out there own “Why”, even this poet.

But Why ??

Writing poetry is able to put us in touch with people who are different from ourselves in a non-violent fashion, it becomes a means of pacifist activism. Writing has become who I am, it is both cathartic, healing, confrontational and a means of seeking (partial) closure or venting my darker emotions. My poems are a mix of thoughts, questions and ideas; from journey’s travelled, literal and imaginative; creating a picture of the world from my perspective. Even if, in the writing, there is no closure, that is the closure I require, at that moment.

“Poets have an audience because we need to know how to go about reaching the next day of our lives.”

It has been said, to use a bad metaphor: Poets are kind of like canaries in a coal mine. The conscience/voice of the voiceless. Often my poems, emerge from the pain of personal experience, leading to angry outbursts against the coal mine, in which I from time to time, find myself.

The Arrogance of Entitlement

The Banality of Corporate Deceit

Speaking for myself, but I’m reasonably sure other poets would at times agree. We can’t explain ‘why we write’, but they would certainly understand and agree, that we write for the love of writing poetry. Poems are literary mountains that need to be climbed, in a page or a few lines;  the poem has to be condensed, without straying from the main theme, and it also usually has a beginning, middle and (sometimes) an end. It is this journey which is the challenge, in most cases a deeply personal journey; so walk with me as we step back from your reality and gaze into the abyss of my mind, and let’s see what stares back.

In closing, ponder the words of John Keating from the film: Dead Poets Society.

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute.
We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.
And the human race is filled with passion.
And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman:
"O me! O life!...of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless
of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?"
Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play (goes on) and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?

John Keating, Dead Poets Society.

A poet writes poetry because they love poetry

© 2016 Michael D Emmerich

Paper or Kindle

I just love books…. Have so many on my shelf still needing to be red

But I keep buying

Have files of Kindle books, and I also keep buying

It must be an addiction 🙂

I so love the smell of new and old books, love turning the page

Its kinda exciting and old school

The Kindle is more practical when I travel

But I still travel with books, nothing beats having a book on your bedside table

I think it makes me think of home, or maybe brings home to my destination

What are your thoughts and preferences?

Kindle books? (iPad or Kindle?)

Books? (hard cover versus soft cover?)

And do you buy large hard cover coffee table books?

I do … love turning the pages of those large hard covers