Poems To Read Based on Your Favorite Musical

We’re winding down Poetry Month with recommendations specially tailored for you based on your favorite musical. You’re welcome.



  • Every song in Matilda is a wordsmith’s dream, full of puns and linguistic play. ee cummings is one of the most playful poets out there, working with format, syntax, and suggestion to create provocative and delightful pieces. Here’s Tom Hiddleston reading “May I Feel Said He.”
  • Harryette Mullen is another master wordsmith who explores the resonances and connotations of words in pop culture and politics. See “Elliptical” from her appropriately named book, “Sleeping with the Dictionary.”


Passing Strange

  • James Baldwin would definitely identify with the young protagonist’s quest to live in a country that reflects his principles, and his struggle to stay true to himself. Baldwin explores the intersections of race, religion, and sexuality in his poems, essays, and novels. Check out “The giver”
  • Claude McKay is a prominent Harlem Renaissance writer whose work exposed the contradictions of the American Dream. Check out “America,” and basically everything else he’s written.
  • Rumi’s poetry is all about self-healing and finding authenticity in the noise of consciousness. See these selections.
  • Also, make sure to check out Muriel Rukeyser’s “Orgy” “…that’s right all three of them”




  • Part of Hamilton’s genius is its blend of history and popular music, making the oft-treated history of American independence feel fresh, accessible, and even subversive. But Lin-Manuel’s not the first wordsmith to put politics and cultural sounds together. See poet/activist Amiri Baraka and Yusek Komunyakaa, both fascinating intellectuals concerned with race, American politics, and its effects on daily life.
  • Puerto Rican writer Martin Espada was a tenant lawyer working with largely immigrant communities. His poetry draws on themes of law and activism, historical Latin American rebellion, and what it means to exists on the fringes of society.
  • Make the Schyuler sisters proud with feminist poetry from Dominican author Julia Alvarez and Puerto Rican Julia de Burgos.


  • On the precipice of marriage and adulthood? Gregory Corso’s “Marriage” probably won’t leave you feeling any wiser, but you’ll definitely get a laugh.

Avenue Q

  • Funny, accessible, sprinkled with deep musings on life? Billy Collins makes it happen.

Next to Normal

  • The Goodman family should really sit down together and read some Sylvia Plath, not only because of Plath’s own struggle with mental illness, but because so much of her writing deals with family problems and finding fortitude in ourselves.
  • Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” is one of my personal favorites, a superbly structured meditation on loss that holds no emotional punches.
  • I hear a lot of Muriel Rukeyser’s “Book of the Dead”  in many of Kitt’s and Yorkey’s lyrics, particularly in “I Miss the Mountains”


Sunday in the Park With George

  • Seurat abandoned realism for his signature style of pointillism, preceding even more artistic experimentation in the early 20th century. Check out T.S. Eliot’s “The LoveSong of J Alfred Prufrock,” which is also rife with themes of masculinity, failed relationships, and artistry.
  • Painting complex images with simple dots is similar to what Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, and Williams Carlos Williams do with perception in their condensed, haiku-like forms.

Sweeney Todd and/or A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

  • A penchant for the dark side, have you? Satisfy your taste for morbidity with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Conqueror Worm
  • Edgar Lee Masters wrote a collection of prose/poems called The Spoon River Anthology. Each poem represents one person in the local cemetery. Cheery stuff.
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson had a similar approach to his poems “Richard Cory” and “Miniver Cheevy,” which whimsically recounts two men’s fateful demise.
  • For a more hopeful look at death, read William Cullen Bryant (what’s with the three-namers in this century?). His “Thanatopsis” got me through many a funeral.

Into the Woods

  • Sondheim’s not the first to love a good, dark, modern take on a classic fantasy. Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallott” is his most well-known, though I tend to go for “Ulysses” more often.
  • More takes on the Ulysses myth: Dorothy Parker’s “Penelope” and Margaret Atwood’s “Siren Song.” Both entrancingly subversive from a woman’s POV.
  • Christabel” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a fantastic fairy tale poem about a young princess who competes for her father’s affection with a young, wild forest woman. It’s full of sexual (queer?) innuendo and lots of speculation.


  • “La Vie Boheme” is definitely inspired by Walt Whitman’s ode to Americana “Leaves of Grass,” which in turn inspired “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg.
  • Sonia Sanchez’s “Wounded in the House of a Friend” plays out a spat between two lovers. It’s passionate, often hilarious, like watching your favorite soap.
  • Claudia Rankine is writing extraordinary poetry defining the 21st century. First with a multimedia reflection on post-9/11 America “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” and recently with the much-lauded “Citizen,” a provocative book on race.

This list could go on indefinitely. Feel free to comment with more suggestions!





LMezz Reads: Halloween 2014

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year–candy corn and costumes, what’s not to love? While Christmas reads fill me with comfort and joy and summer reads allow for immersion and relaxation, Halloween offers its own reading thrills. Here are the books that are keeping me up at night this Halloween week:

1. FROM HELL by Alan Moore


While I’ve loved classics V For Vendetta and Watchmen, I’ve never delved into Alan Moore’s treatment of Jack the Ripper. That’s all changing now, as From Hell is becoming my favorite graphic novel written by Moore. The art by Eddie Campbell, equal parts exquisite and sinister, has sent my imagination to 19th century Whitechapel–where I hope not to bump into a certain knife-wielding killer.

2. GONE GIRL by Gillan Flynn


I know, I know. I should have read this eons ago, but I’ve just recently got my hands on it–and am not letting go. Gillan Flynn’s novel about a missing woman has the perfect amount of suspense to get my heart racing before Halloween.

3. BATMAN VOL. 1: THE COURT OF OWLS by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo


Almost any Batman volume would be perfect for Halloween, as Gotham has scares all year round. The Court of Owls, though, offers a new threat to Bruce Wayne. A series of murders have overtaken Gotham, and a secret society behind the deaths has selected Bruce as their next target. The owl and bat motifs woven throughout the book also add to an already dark and captivating read.


LMezz Goes to Book Expo America/BookCon 2014

I was so excited when the good people of Book Expo America provided LMezz a press pass to New York’s annual book event of awesome. I attended BEA (the professional trade show) on a Friday, and BookCon (the day open to the public) on Saturday.

Friday’s author signing events were so fun and plentiful that I was happily running all over the Javits Center floor between publisher booths and autographing tables. Highlights included trading quips with Seth Grahame-Smith, who was signing copies of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter; checking out a YA thriller about a teenage girl who wants to kill by S.E. Green; and meeting not one, but two of my Regency romance heroes, Sarah MacLean and Loretta Chase.

And books. Books happened.

My biggest regret was missing out on Lois Lowry signing copies of a new edition of The Giver, and Amanda Palmer signing/illustrating galley excerpts of her upcoming book. But I didn’t worry, because there was one more day of book geekery to be had.

BookCon (formerly known as Power Reader Day) is meant to welcome the public to BEA. While the public certainly attended, BookCon’s intentions–and overall organization–remained severely underdeveloped. Last year’s Power Reader Day was such a delight that the disappointment of BookCon 2014 was even more deeply felt. Shoving thousands of BookCon people into a third of the Javits Center’s BEA space was an especially poor choice. Mislabeling the location of events on the show program was another. Crowd control measures also weren’t handled well (with the exception of the John Green Q&A event, which had more teen wrangling than a One Direction concert). The only positive I could find in BookCon was the Image Comics booth, which featured free single first issues of many different series, and had a marketing rep who was super passionate about Image’s titles (I solemnly swear to finish my trade edition of Rat Queens).

The John Green “line,” pre-wrangling.

I would say though that despite the frustration–and lack of super cool tote bags and ARCs–that the huge crowds at BookCon show opportunity. Even if the attendees only appeared at BookCon to see Grumpy Cat or Amy Poehler, they still paid the not-so-cheap ticket price to attend BookCon. Who’s to say these people wouldn’t spend the same amount of money for a book or two?

The coolest tote bag I scored from BookCon 2014, autographed by Nicky Hilton. Awwwww yeah.


The Dinner by Herman Koch

Hi y’all,

I wrote a book review for, this time about The Dinner for its paperback release. Here’s the link. It’s a pretty fun book.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch came out today, and I’ve been grappling with why everyone seems to love her so much. Here are some thoughts on The Goldfinch and a bit on her breakthrough debut novel A Secret History written for

Big time Meh
Big time Meh


I have a terrible love-hate relationship with James Franco, as exhibited in posts here and here. Because she’s such a good friend, Norma bought me an Oz cup that features James’s ridiculous face prominently in not one, but TWO places. That way, I can watch his face double rotate in the microwave when I heat up my hot chocolate.

I may or may not wake up to this every morning

Norma also signed me up for an advanced reader copy of James Franco’s new novel Actors Anonymous, out today. And guess what, guys! I won! If your definition of winning means that you have to read a book by James Franco, all 304 pages of it, and then write a good 500 words to summarize me contrasting feelings of pain and admiration.

So here it is: my review of Actors Anonymous, posted by the lovely people of

“What a Story, Mark!” Reviews “The Disaster Artist”


The Room, my favorite little-bad-movie-that-could, now has its own book by actor/line-producer/survivor Greg Sestero. I was so excited about this book that I contacted all the publicists and received a copy before publication date. Now you can read my review for it on While you do that, I’ll be online shopping for Lisa-blonde wigs in preparation for Sunshine Cinema’s monthly midnight screening of The Room, where Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero will be making an appearance.

PS. If you missed it: Greg Sestero did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. You can read it here.

Brooklyn Book Festival Bingo


Two Marxist Independent Press Booths Right Next to Each Other

You walk past someone named Kendall

A woman who looks like Zadie Smith walks by with her toddler

A Lending Library full of books you don’t really care for

That white, male author whose name you recognize but don’t know anything about

Bored child being lugged around by book-obsessed parents

The lone romance novel booth sticking out in a sea of Literary Brooklynite stands

Someone wearing a homemade knit cabled sweater

Booth selling classic novels with covers taken from fanart

The coolest and/or weirdest pair of eyeglasses you’ve ever seen

That black, female author whose name you recognize but don’t know anything about

Booth selling Kurt Vonnegut merchandise

Middle-aged, long-haired, hipster dad carrying child on his shoulders

A book that supposed to be a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice”

Marty Markowitz talking about how awesome Brooklyn is

An author signing table where the author avoids eye contact with everyone

NYMF Round-Up Part 3!

NYMF is winding down, but the festival still has some great new musicals performing until it ends Sunday, July 28th. Here are two that brought me back to my school years in all the best ways:


Crossing Swords is a musical retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac set in the fall of 1969, as the boys of St. Mark’s join the girls of St. Anne’s to put on a production of—you guessed it—Cyrano de Bergerac. Sir (Steven Hauck), the stuffy math teacher at St. Mark’s, grudgingly chaperons his students Jeremy (Lyle Colby Mackston) and David (Marrick Smith) over to rehearsals led by Miss Daignault (Linda Balgord). Jeremy wants to play the lead, while David wants to be closer to his “Roxanne,” a girl named Nicky (Ali Gordon). Jeremy offers to be David’s “Cyrano” and help set the pair up, all while hiding his own crush on David. In the process, the teens (and teachers) learn about life, identity, and the different forms that love can take.

At first, I turned a skeptic eye to the Cyrano story being retold through a high school production of the play. But Crossing Swords charmed me much in the same way as the 2008 film Were the World Mine did. (Were the World Mine has a similar premise: just replace Cyrano with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) The musical beautifully captures the awkwardness and innocence of adolescence, especially when David and Nicky practice their stage kiss for the first time. And Jeremy, David, and Nicky, despite their passions, are not the sardonic, alcohol-drinking, heavily sexualized teens that are featured in most teen-centric stories today. Their heartfelt coming-of-age story, while nostalgic, was a refreshing one to see. The teachers, too, have something special to offer, as Sir and Madame Daignault are dedicated to their students’ development, even though they clash on the exact methodology.

Marrick Smith (David), Lyle Colby Mackston (Jeremy), and Ali Gordon (Nicky) in Crossing Swords - Photo by Seth Walters.jpg
Marrick Smith (David), Lyle Colby Mackston (Jeremy), and Ali Gordon (Nicky) in “Crossing Swords.” Photo by Seth Walters.

Crossing Swords director Igor Goldin gives the production a seamless staging. He also brings wonderful performances out of the cast, who all approach their roles with naturalism and sincerity. The songs, written by Joe Slabe, have a gentle, almost pensive quality to them. The book, also written by Slabe, ties it all together with poignancy and a fair bit of humor. (One choice line, uttered by Sir: “Childhood theatrics are tantamount to child abuse.”)  The piece is so well-crafted that it doesn’t need historical references to the Stonewall riots and the moon landing. Crossing Swords already takes you to a time of its own, where love can be lost—and remade—again.

Favorite songs: “Let Me Be Your Cyrano,” “Heart on My Sleeve” (that has a melody I’m still humming), and “Very Good with Words.”

Steven Hauck (Sir), Lyle Colby Mackston (Jeremy), Ali Gordon (Nicky), Marrick Smith (David), and Linda Balgord (Miss Daignault) in Crossing Swords - Photo by Seth Walters
Steven Hauck (Sir), Lyle Colby Mackston (Jeremy), Ali Gordon (Nicky), Marrick Smith (David), and Linda Balgord (Miss Daignault) in “Crossing Swords.” Photo by Seth Walters.


There’s another little orphan with red hair and a similar name singing and dancing in a show a few blocks northeast of the PTC Performance Space. But Bend in the Road‘s source material isn’t a comic strip. Instead, writers Benita Scheckel (book & lyrics) and Michael Upward (music & lyrics) take on the classic children’s book series Anne of Green Gables.

Bend in the Road follows Anne Shirley, an orphan who is adopted by middle-aged siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. The Cuthberts had expected a boy to help them on the farm, but Anne captivates the pair. While living with the Cuthberts, Anne gets in (and out) of scrapes, makes friends in the town, and finds her place in the world.

L to R: CJ PAWLIKOWSKI as Gilbert Blythe and ALISON WOODS as Anne Shirley in BEND IN THE ROAD at NYMF (Photo by Carol Rosegg)
L to R: CJ Pawlikowski as Gilbert Blythe and Alison Woods as Anne Shirley. (Photo by Carol Rosegg.)

I loved reading about Anne Shirley and her adventures in Prince Edward Island as a child, and equally I loved seeing Lucy Maud Montgomery’s characters being brought to life. Anne Kanengeiser and Martin Vidnovic bring a wonderful sensibility to Marilla and Matthew, and the fourteen-person cast all handle their parts with great aplomb. But a musical about Anne of Green Gables needs a strong Anne, and Bend in the Road has found it in Alison Woods, who carries the show on her small (but very capable shoulders). Woods, who resembles a younger Amy Adams in her speech (and overall adorableness), plays Anne as a real child and not as a caricature, while still imbuing her with a great deal of energy and precociousness.

Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Michael Upward’s music captures the timeless essence of Anne of Green Gables in the tradition of “literary” musicals like The Secret Garden and Little Women. The lilting harmonies transport you to the countryside of Prince Edward Island and are a delight to listen to. I hope that Bend in the Road will continue to have audiences of all ages in future productions.

Favorite songs: “The Lord’s Prayer,” a song between Anne and Marilla that instantly put a smile to my face, and “Walk Like Sisters,” a duet between Anne and her friend Diana.

For our other posts about NYMF this year, check out our NYMF 2013 tag.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: