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Rants, Raves & Writings by Dylan Kinnett

A poem that isn’t about wine, performed by Dylan Kinnett at the 20th anniversary of the Timer Frame Folly in Shepherdstown, WV in August 2014.

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There are probably some of you who would say that “clichés are clichés for a reason”, and to you I would say “cry me a river!” and I would add that the clichés may be useful, or comfortable, but cliché has no place in poetry, because it isn’t artful.

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When I was in college, I discovered a place where magazines were sent to be recycled. Anyone who wanted to take and reuse them before they were recycled was welcome to do so, and thus my love of magazines was born, after literally climbing around inside an enormous bin full of old magazines. (It was more like swimming than climbing I suppose, because of all the glossy paper.) I spent weeks flipping through hundreds of gently-used examples, many of them probably from waiting rooms. I clipped out all the examples I liked best, to make a giant “franken-magazine.” The paper I wrote as a result, for a communications class, was nowhere near as much fun. I don’t even remember the title of that paper, nor do I remember the grade it got, but I do still have franken-magazine.

I felt a little bit of the joy from that bin full of magazines, while reading through Longreads’ recent reading list, “Making the Magazine.”

Magazine nerds, here we go: A starter collection of behind-the-scenes stories from some of your most beloved magazines, including The New Yorker, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair…


You could say that the broadside is the literary equivalent of street art, but unlike its painterly cousin, the broadside doesn’t seem to have enjoyed so much recent popularity. I wonder why?

For anyone curious about literary broadsides, there’s a fascinating, in-depth overview by Kyle Schlesinger entitled, A Look At Some Contemporary Poetry Broadsides:

Like the leaflet, handbill, and pamphlet, the broadside is a form of street literature, a public work of art designed to be read outdoors, rather than in the library. Unlike the book, which can be perceived as a private, usually closed, one-on-one reading experience, the broadside is public, open, form of art that encourages a communal reading experience.


Another example of what I call “book companion websites” is about a site that creates book companion websites, in addition to the books themselves. The book Lean Publishing is about how to apply a work-style from Internet startups to the process of iterating and releasing a book.

This book explains the philosophy behind Leanpub, from its origin in “a book is a startup” to the present form. Lean Publishing is the act of publishing an in-progress book using lightweight tools and many iterations to get reader feedback, pivot until you have the right book and build traction once you do. This book explains what that all means, where it came from and why it’s important…

I’m very interested in this idea, independently from the idea of book companion websites.

After switching to Markdown as my file format of choice for writing, I’ve found, as others have, that my writing has become faster and more frequent after switching to a simpler format. Could the process of creating books benefit similarly from an upgrade?

The “upgrade” goes by many names, such as SubCompact Publishing for example, and a lot of the “philosophy” on the subject is actually marketing copy promoting various web applications, but I do enjoy learning new ways to make things. There are a growing number of interesting parallels being drawn between software development methodologies such as rapid development and more traditional creative process. For an example that doesn’t involve as much focus on software, file formats and applications, the Book Sprint is interesting. It’s much more about how you make the book (quickly, in sprints) than about the tools of the trade.


Jeffrey Levine’s “advice on making a book out of your individual poems, given as one who reads three-to-four thousand manuscripts a year” is an excellent introduction to the task. I only wish I had read this much sooner! These were my favorite points of advice:

15) Proof for the Big Abstractions (i.e., “infinity,” “eternity,”) – the 19th century is over.

16) Proof for small abstractions (i.e., “dark”) – the 19th century is still over.

17) Proof for adverbs (carefully). They’re not your friends, unless you’re blessed with the lyrical gifts of Seamus Heaney, the word-drunk genius of Albert Goldbarth, or the million megawatt intelligence and intuition of Anne Carson, in which case, go for it.

18) While we’re at it, adjectives are abstractions: earn them well (see above, re. Goldbarth and Heaney and Carson).

19) Proof for mannerisms, i.e., have you use the word “pale” 20 times?


Markdown is a user-friendly, plain-text formatting syntax. It offers an alternative to expensive and proprietary word processors. Several months ago, I stopped using Microsoft Word to write with. I switched to using the markdown syntax with plain text files. How did it go? So far, so good. I thought to post about it but Hilton Lipschitz answers the question, “was switching to Markdown a good call?” Like him, I find that the best outcome of the switch is that I can write more often, and faster.

Everything that I may have written or jotted down is now in a Markdown file. And everything that I was to lazy to record, I now do, in a Markdown file. I write more. In fact, I write a lot more. … The quantitative payoff is clear, I have the information I need in a portable and searchable format and I can get to and create these very quickly, efficiently and productively.

I would add, for any other writers considering a switch like this, that the learning curve was not too steep at all. At first, I wasn’t inclined to learn yet another markup, syntax, or what-have-you. I spend my work time on that sort of thing. (I did dabble in some code; nobody else would need to, though.) I would add that I don’t think the Markdown experience resembled my technology job too much. It’s all just typing. I would also add: that it’s easy to put the text back into a word processor, when the time comes to send it on to an editor, for example. For me, markdown is a tool that makes it easier to compose. Editing comes later. Without the word processor’s distractions, editing comes later, and I feel a bit more free to write.


I enjoyed reading this description of Gertrude Stein as bookmaker:

While her writing is now recognized as among the most innovative in the twentieth century, Gertrude Stein’s paraliterary work in book design and publishing has gone largely unexamined.

In particular I found it interesting to learn that one of her books, “lucy church amiably” was designed to resemble the kind of notebooks used in school to write compositions or essays. When I was in school we called them “blue books.” It is interesting to think of a finished, printed book designed to resemble a ore ephemeral notebook, blue cover and all.

I stumbled on this article while looking for more information about Gertrude Stein’s book of portraits in English and French, “Dix Portraits” of which I cannot find an affordable copy, it seems, because there was only one edition of 400 copies. I would like, at least, to know which of her literary portraits were in it, and which have been reprinted later. At most, I would like somebody to reprint the book.



When I was in college, I proposed the idea that I could write a cell phone novel for my undergraduate senior thesis. I was discouraged from that and settled on a web-based hypertext novel. Several years later, Huffington Post reports that “Five of the top ten bestsellers of 2007 in Japan were “cell phone novels.” The trend is growing.

The "less is more" philosophies of the East, such as the minimalist discipline of haiku, made the first cell phone novels a natural fit for Japanese readers. But even to a Western outsider like this columnist, this upstart medium seems well suited for English-language verse, inspirational affirmations like those found in many self-help works, or perhaps stream-of-consciousness prose in the spirit of Kerouac… to cite just a few possibilities.