Archive for January, 2009

Procrastination Station #21

Friday, January 16th, 2009

How green is Carol Ann Duffy? // The results of the wonderful Mark Doty’s writing workshop // Poster poems: ballads // Win yourself the whole Costa Award shortlist!

Every beautiful book cover ever made + the worst book covers of 2008 (and some of them really are bad!)

In memory of the late, great Jason Shinder, to whom I am most indebted.

The phrases you (apparently) need to know to get through 2009.

Transform your life in three minutes and thirty two seconds… or, why self-help books don’t work.

This is not just paper…

A sweet poem by former Featured Poet William Soule, from a handful of stones.

I just found Annie Mole’s London Underground blog and, er… online empire, and it’s awesome! I particularly like her Tube Fashion Victims Flickr Set.

Suicide notes of the rich and famous, and musicians who predicted their own deaths (yes, I am morbid).

Fantastic church billboards.

Draw a house, and find out how sane you really are…

Being childish rules! So resign from adulthood already!

And finally… 9 Reasons Not To Date A T Rex.

(Plus, a little thank you to Bill at Tattoosday for his mention of Read This Press’ Skin Deep Project — submit already!)

(Photo by * Ahmad Kavousian *)

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Things I Love Thursday #21

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Love list. Hope those of you who made this your New Year’s Resolution are keeping up! If so… link back!

Kate Winslet’s Golden Globes victory. Yes, this seems like a tiny, petty thing but it really made me happy this week. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Kate Winslet won the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards at this year’s ceremony. I haven’t seen either of the movies in question yet — I am itching to see both — but I know she’s a deserving winner… Kate is pretty much my hero! I have very, very little time for mannequin-esque Hollywood actresses — all the Hollywood glamour seems painfully fake and rather disturbing to me — particularly given my current reading material (see below)! So it’s so refreshing to find an actress who’s doing well in Hollywood but who is very selective about what parts of the media circus she gets involved with, is incredibly down to earth and who can really, truly act brilliantly. Kate has done a lot of campaigning for normal female body images in the media, and donated heaps of money to eating disorder charities. She’s also taken on some amazing, brave and feminist roles — I loved her in Hideous Kinky, and particularly in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And she’s one of the few British actresses who really gets the attention they deserve on the other side of the pond. I love her! I was so happy about her win, it was weird — it was as if I knew her!
Check out her acceptance speeches here and here. I absolutely LOVED the fact that she initially forgot Angelina Jolie when thanking the other nominees for Best Actress — Angelina, to me, is one of the most overhyped celebrities out there, and seemingly a very unpleasant woman. She also can’t act to save her life, so it’s no wonder Kate couldn’t remember why she was nominated!

Jen Hadfield’s TS Eliot victory. For all that I was pleased for Kate Winslet, I was even more pleased yesterday when I woke up and heard the news that the amazing Jen Hadfield had won the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry. Jen is a former student from the English Lit MA I just completed and the Creative Writing MSc I am now doing, so everyone in my little circle is incredibly happy and proud for her. What’s more, she is the youngest TS Eliot winner ever and incredibly, incredibly deserving. Plus, she writes in Scots! You can see coverage of her win here, and there’s a little interview with her here — she also reads one of her poems and it’s well worth a listen. If you get a chance, please go and buy a copy of the winning collection, Nigh-No-Place. Congratulations, Jen!

this collection. It’s going from strength to strength thanks to all the fantastic submissions from you guys! We’ve had some really brilliant poems come in, reflecting every side, area, and mood of my amazing home city. We’re beginning to put together the Top 100 poems, but there is still time to submit! We have extended the deadline to Friday 13th February, so keep those poems coming (… and click the link above to see the poems we already have!

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey. This is what’s putting me off Hollywood all the more! It’s an examination of life in present day LA. Recommended!

Being back at Uni. I had my first creative writing workshop since the Christmas holidays yesterday, and it was great to catch up with all my classmates again and see what they’d been scribbling over the festive season. We also had the first Read This editorial meeting of the new year yesterday and found some brilliant stuff waiting for us in the team inbox. Read This 14 will be printed and available as of next week!

Honourable mentions: Waking up and dancing around the living room to T Rex! // Hosting late New Year parties, just to make sure the year is well and truly started with a bang! // Having dreamy dreams (I normally wake up not remembering my dreams, so this is awesome) // Damson jam (new addiction) // Projects taking off // “Business” meetings! // My sister’s forthcoming birthday: party, family get-together & week staying at my house // Putting together my Suzi Quattro costume for said party // writing poems that don’t totally suck.

What’s on your list this week?

(Photo by Boopsie.daisy)

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This week’s Featured Poet: Tom Rendell

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

This week’s Featured Poet Tom Rendell became a poet through a love of reading poetry, as he told me in his initial submission email: “the more poetry I read, the more I enjoy it, and every now and again a small voice chips up from somewhere in my head that suggests that perhaps I should give it a go myself.” He hasn’t been writing long, but he’s learned well! I love his poetry and I hope you will too. There’ll be more of it on the blog in the next few days — as well as an interview, of course. Here’s the first, be sure to leave a comment if you enjoy it!

On The Tube

How can I possibly get my poem
Put up on the Tube?
To be read by hungry eyes
Blown by the dry warm wind that is chased
By the screeching fat slug of the train.

To enter the head of the business man
Whose thoughts reside in his black briefcase
Or show the young man there’s more to words
Than black spray paint spent on tunnel walls.

Want to be an ONS Featured Poet? Just drop me a line and no less than three of your poems to — I’m always happy to hear from you!

(Photo by Kailos P(hotography).)

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Featured Poet Shirla White Interviewed!

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

You’ve already seen Shirla’s poems here and here, and if you want to see more, you can visit her deviantART site. You can also learn some more about her and her writing right here!

Tell us about your poems.
My poems are little mirrors where you can see your reflection as well as my own. They’re entries in a diary left open for everyone to read and learn from. My imagery and subjects vary, but I try to keep a simplistic, minimalist approach to each piece so the reader can enjoy a mostly pristine experience as they delve into my life and take a piece of myself with them when they’ve finished.

How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first poem when I was six years old. My sister was the editor of a local newspaper’s poetry section and wanted to publish something I wrote, so we sat down together by a computer and came up with ideas. After a while, I had my first poem typed into a WordPad document which eventually made its way into The Rome News Tribune. I was always an avid reader, but after that, I read even more. I’d write poems whenever I had an idea to work with, and when I didn’t, I’d open up a notebook and scribble lines down just so I could feel the pencil glide across the paper. I’m almost eighteen now, so I’ve been writing for about twelve years.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
Yes! I’ve been published five times in Asahi Haikuist Network, twice in Soundzine, WindScript, and a handful of stones, and once in bottle rockets, Mainichi Daily News, The Moose Jaw Times Herald, Clearfield Review, and Poetry Friends. I also upload my poems to deviantART. I’ve been invited by WindScript to a poetry reading in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in February for the CBC Poetry Face-Offs, so I may branch out into the performing aspects of the art.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Hm…I’d have to say earning the Currie-Hyland Prize for Excellence in Poetry. It’s a prize awarded by WindScript as a tribute to Robert Currie and Gary Hyland (lifetime poet laureates of Saskatchewan) “in recognition of literary excellence, commitment, and generosity to students and fellow writers.” It’s awarded to a high school writer living outside Regina or Saskatoon. WindScript is a prestigious magazine staffed by great people, so this is an amazing honour. Aside from that, I like to inspire and entertain people through my writing, so whenever someone tells me something like “I really needed to read this”, it really makes my day.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
I’d say the best thing about writing poetry is the ability to inspire and motivate. It amazes me how much I can encourage people through diction, and it inspires me to continue doing so. It gives my gift a purpose, and that’s really reassuring. It’s difficult to think of a negative aspect of writing poetry, but when my muse goes on an idea spree, it’s usually between midnight and four in the morning. When this happens, I wake up, write a prompt or two down, and go back to sleep. It isn’t really a bad thing, but it’s the most accurate way I can answer this question.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
You were given the gift of language for a reason; make sure that you share it as much as you can. Attend poetry slams or readings (or both). Give poems to others as gifts. Get published when and where you can. Publicity ensures that your words will live on in the lives of others and benefit countless people. This is poetry in its most selfless form: ministry.

Who/what influences your poetry?
I think that poetry is the world and the world is poetry, so I find inspiration in many places. It may come from a quote I come across casually or a major event in my family. Other influences include my favourite poets and poems, as well as good music, nature, and human interaction.


She was a bottle of champagne,
tall, slender-necked, and frothing over
with enthusiasm.

The crevice came a sullen lifetime later.
Fulminant, it blocked the passage
of her sparkling zeal, cutting off the nectar
of longevity that restored Eden
and hushed the lurking serpent.

Doctors shook her up, but
she never fizzed. Granite became lodged
in her throat; she heaved and gave to invasion.

Birthing contortions,
her hand-shaped, air-blown body
burst. The blockage rolled in tandem off the floor
and into a cleaner glass, mouth gaping.

Want to see YOUR poetry featured here? Just drop me a line to — send 3 - 4 poems for me to peruse and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can!

(Photo by Edwardolive ..)

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More from Featured Poet Shirla White.

Friday, January 9th, 2009

You’ve already met Shirla, and hopefully you’ve checked out her deviantART page, too! Her interview will be up here in the next day or two, but in the meantime, here is another of her lovely poems.


You watched me choke
on chunks of brimstone, lava hissing
from behind my cratered lips.

Always the patient One,
You waited
until I gasped a prayer
fervent enough to set the clouds on fire.

You sent me gospels
who wrote their verses down
as my clean slate played the muse
with which they loved to collaborate.

With the hellfire seized and my senses purged,
I signed a covenant with Saint Peter
and hoped the ink wouldn’t fade.

Want to see YOUR poetry featured here? Just drop me a line to — send 3 - 4 poems for me to peruse and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can!

(Image by LOV-E)

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Procrastination Station #20

Friday, January 9th, 2009

A lovely linklovelist from a lovely week!

My favourite (good to hear some of you have become addicted too! Muaha): What happens to poetry during the credit crunch? // Are these books left on the to-read pile forever? // Another writer’s room // Poster poems: wordgames

All just-starting-out poets should read this. All of it!

Which ten books most screwed up the world? (and how many of them have you read?!)

I am really inspired by urban decay (erm, really) … so I was very pleased to find all this:
Historic Decay Blog // Ghost Towns of Antarctica // Ruins of Industry // Abandoned Russia // Forbidden Zones // Aircraft Boneyard
(Write me a poem based on one of these images and I will love you forever. All via the freaking awesome Look At This Blog.)

The wonderful Spark Bright is open for submissions again!

Verve Bath Press has a new outlet! It’s pastel-coloured and lovely!

Clearfield Review (my write-up of it is here) has its first issue out as of now! It looks absolutely brilliant… check it out.

Poetry and smoking seem to go together, so… poetry cigarettes, anyone?

“every time you fall
into my hole in the world;

a television factory
goes out of business…”

A brand new poem from the amazing Eric Hamilton.

You should also check out Heather Bell’s forthcoming flash fiction pamphlet. Looks seriously amazing… review here soon I hope!

Here’s a brand new deviantART club dedicated to young writers. It comes with my official seal of approval!

Bad bad cake / Good good cake

Finally! Poladroid for Windows! (there are not words for how happy I am about this)

I really want to live here but I also find it a bit creepy…

… so perhaps I will just live in a paper house instead.

Thank you corner! Thanks to Jim for his lovely write-up about the SPL’s Best Poems of 2008, featuring me // Thanks to Dave for plugging Read This and One Night Stanzas! // Thanks to Tamarisk of postcard from… for the little mention here.

Let me know the links you love!

(Photo by Simon Crubellier)

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Things I Love Thursday #20

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Lovelovelove list! (If you resolved to make TiLT lists with the New Year, this might well be your first… link back!)

Edinburgh. I’ve been away at my parents’ house for over a month, and it’s been awesome… but it’s always nice to come back to the big smoke after spending time in the remote wilds of the Scottish Borders! I’ve been catching up with all my favourite haunts, tidying up my flat in accordance with the brand new year, and getting back into the swing of reading, writing and studying. Edinburgh is great at this time of year — cold, clear and relatively quiet, full of warm, welcoming cafes with steamed-up windows. It’s good to be back!

2009 plans. I’m actually so excited about the coming year that I am lying awake at night, scheming and stewing over it all. For the first time I am also making longer-term plans which I intend to start putting in motion during 2009… that feels quite scary but also pretty awesome. My to do list for the year is pretty darned long already and I reckon I’ll be adding to it as things progress. I’ll probably end up exhausted at the end of it all, but I reckon it’s going to be good!

Books. I’m getting a good way into my literary prize reading and I’m still really enjoying it — I reckon I got a really good selection (the books were allocated to the reading team at random). I can’t tell you what any of the books are until the judging is over but some of these hefty hardback tomes have had me awake til 2am, frantically page-turning!

Birthday excitement… not mine, my little sister’s! Unbelievably, she is turning 21 whole years old in about ten days or so, which makes me feel practically ancient. She’s having a huge dress-up party to celebrate and the theme is GLITTER GLAM ROCK… hells yeah! I just have a dilemma as to who to dress as… I’m thinking about June Child (Marc Bolan’s wife and Syd Barrett’s one-time PA) or maybe Marianne Faithfull… or maybe Suzi Quattro. Tricky.

Honourable mentions: Absinthe — always a great Christmas gift! // Seeing all my Edinburgh besties again // Very early Valentines gifts! // Con Air, which I saw for the first time the other day… freaking ridiculous and awesome, and I love John Cusack all the more for it. // Harem pants. Most comfortable trousers ever… but you can’t wear them in public unless you’re incredibly brave! // Fairy lights // The beautiful Mir moving to Ed soon! // My seriously cool parents.

(Photo by Yoshiko314)

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This week’s Featured Poet: Shirla White

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Shirla White is a talented young lady… although she’s still only a high school senior, she’s already won the Live Global Communications Literacy Award for Poetry and the Currie-Hyland Prize. She currently resides in the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada, aspires to be an English teacher and dreams of publishing a book of her poetry. Her favourite poets are Sylvia Plath, e.e. cummings, and Margaret Atwood. In addition to her love affair with language, Shirla also enjoys listening to various genres of music and talking to her friends on her deviantART site. I’ll be posting some more of her poetry over the next few days, and interviewing her too… so watch this space!

homeseeker’s mantra

hum me an interlude
and i’ll sing you a symphony
so sincere
the violinists will glide their bows
along your heartstrings.

each chord sparks
a spring sensation,
a north star destination
that directs me
two provinces east.

i don’t know the scenery,
but your humming drumbeat
is my homecoming parade.

Want to see YOUR poetry featured here? Just drop me a line to — send 3 - 4 poems for me to peruse and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can!

(Photo by Gestione del caos)

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How to make the most out of your writer’s group.

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

So I reckon that being part of a writer’s group is a good thing. But once you’ve found your group… what next? How do you turn the odd pub meet-up into something more productive and useful?

1: Meet regularly.
There’s no point in pretending you’re a “group” if you have time to forget who the other members are in between meetings. You don’t have to stick to it like glue, but make a plan and agree to meet regularly — weekly, fortnightly, monthly, whatever. It doesn’t always have to be the same day or time and you could even hold a “meeting” via IM if you can’t all make it to the same place. Just make sure you talk to one another regularly, and see what the other group members are up to. It might be that someone’s struggling alone with a big project… if you didn’t talk, you’d never know and wouldn’t be able to offer help. Also, without regular catch-ups in the beginning, groups can disintegrate — my own group realised this was happening early on and for a while, we put aside time every single week to make sure we kept up to speed with each other. We can afford to be more casual now because we invested the time back then.

2: Keep things informal…
You seriously don’t need an agenda, a minutes-taker or any of that kind of malarkey to have a writer’s group meeting. I have been to writing things that have felt more like church hall AGMs and they’re always brain-numbing. All you need to do is get together in the same space and talk about your writing — how you’re doing with a particular project, what you’re plotting for the near future… or just a workshop. It’s supposed to be creative, so feel free to meet in the pub or the park or wherever you like, get into debates, interrupt each other and include alcohol in the proceedings if you want to!

3: …but not too informal!
However, there is a fine line between a writer’s group meeting and just a natter. My own group has found that meeting in the pub — despite being comfy and convenient — is really not productive to getting anything done. It’s often noisy and distracting, and the longer we stay, the more expensive and the less coherent everything becomes! You do have to decide whether you’re really a writer’s group or just a bunch of mates hanging out together. If some of you are expecting the former while others are just after the latter, you could end up with problems. You do need to make sure that everyone’s getting what they need out of the partnership as much as possible… and if that means meeting in someone’s living room instead of down the local, then so be it!

4: Be open to new members.
Once you’ve found a good-sized group and you’ve settled down and started to work well together, it can be hard to invite someone new into the fold. However, keeping things fresh is always a good idea and bringing new faces into the circle can bring new perspectives and possibilities to the group. Coming into an established group can be absolutely terrifying for the newb as well, so if you do decide to initiate a new member, do it gently — be friendly and make sure they know they’re welcome. It might be weird for the first little while but two heads are better than one and six heads are better than two. A “the more the merrier” attitude is way more productive than a “no outsiders” one.

5: Be honest with each other.
If you’re showing each other your poems and everyone’s saying to everyone “this is wonderful, don’t change a thing,” then you need to ask yourself how effectively your group is really working. If no one dares speak up on a particular issue or offer a true critique of anyone else’s work, then none of you are ever going to benefit and you’ll just go in circles. If people are really worried about saying negative things about other people’s work, have a policy where, if you make a positive comment about someone’s poem, you have to also suggest a change or point out a potential weakness at the same time. Workshop leaders often get their groups to do this in their first few sessions so people get used to pointing out potential flaws, but they don’t feel to bad about it because they’re also praising the poem in some way. If you put this into practice and make a conscious effort to do it for a while, it’ll eventually become natural and you’ll always get a balanced critique.

6: Attend events.
One of the best things about being part of a little group is that you never have to worry about going it alone, poetry-wise, if you don’t want to. If you’ve been working up to your first ever poetry reading and you’re terrified, it’s nice to know that out there in the audience will be a little cluster of familiar faces cheering you on (silently, I hope)! Even if none of you is performing, it can be good to go to poetry events en masse… you all get to meet the same people, find all the same opportunities, and potentially elect new members for your group, too! You can also check out new venues, workshop groups or writing resources together — sometimes if you’re iffy about something, a second opinion is a valuable thing to have… particularly from someone who knows how you tick.

7: Work on a project.
Having regular mini-workshops or meetings to chat about writing is great, and it can be totally sustainable… but it can also lead to people losing interest after a while, and the group falling apart. Having projects to work on together can make things more focussed — my writer’s group started up Read This, which is still going strong, and although we don’t often get together to critique each other’s work any more, the editorial meetings mean that we do get together regularly and we do have a chance to talk about our writing triumphs, worries and woes… as well as the opportunity to ask for a quick impromptu workshop if we need one. You don’t necessarily have to set up a project as long-running as ours, though — try organising your own poetry reading, self-publishing a pamphlet together, or paving the way for a creative writing feature in the local paper. Being part of a group means you can get involved with projects that you might not have managed on your own… and depending on the group’s ambitions, the sky’s the limit!

Got a writing-related question, or a suggestion for an article? Drop me a line to — I’m always happy to hear from you!

(Photo by Bradhardy)

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Featured Poet Josh Seigal Interviewed.

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

You’ve seen Josh’s poems here and here — now find out a bit more about them, and about him…

Tell us about your poems.
My poetry divides largely into two categories – ‘adult poetry’ and ‘children’s poetry’. My poetry for children is influenced largely by a fascination for the different ways in which words fit together to produce nice sounds and rhythms. I also have an irrational love for certain animals, such as llamas, and I write poetry about that (!)

On the more serious side, my poems are largely about my own experiences – things I’ve seen, people I’ve met, and, most of all, memories from my childhood. But this is a retrospective observation – I never set out to write poems about these things. Often I’ll just start with a quirky word or amusing phrase and build a poem around that.

There are also further subdivisions within my poetry – some of it works better when it is performed (this applies to most of the children’s poetry) and some works better on the page. The stuff I have had published is, with a couple of exceptions, not the sort of stuff that I like to perform. This has its downsides, though: I don’t get to show the audience how successful I am by reading from a gleaming copy of some prestigious journal…

How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first poem when I was about six or seven, but I have only been writing regularly for about three years. When I was about sixteen I was in a punk band and wrote loads of conscientious punk lyrics (yeah, f*ck the government, man!). And when I was on my gap-year I wrote a lot of frankly pathetic ‘she left me and I hate my life’ poetry. When I look back over these poems I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. They are laughably bad. But hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I have quite a few, including ‘Iota’, ‘The Delinquent’, ‘The Ugly Tree’, ‘Cannon’s Mouth’ etc, and I also have poems forthcoming in ‘The Frogmore Papers’ and ‘Under the Radar’. I have also been rejected from some of the more prestigious (pretentious?) journals such as ‘Poetry Review’, but I think they were just scared. The next stage, hopefully, is more performance. That is the stuff I really enjoy. And I hope to publish a book of children’s poetry within the next couple of years.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Whenever magazines or blogs feel that they would like to be associated with me or my poems, that is an achievement!

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best thing is that very rare feeling you get when you look over what you’ve written, or you recite one of your own poems to yourself, and you think ‘hell yes!’ The worst? Where do I start? Watching terrible poets performing and thinking ‘I should be up there’; watching amazing poets performing and thinking ‘I’ll never be as good as that’; having an idea but no words; having words but no idea; realising that, no matter what happens, I’ll probably end up just being overwhelmingly average. And not really caring.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
This is a tough question. Firstly, I would say this: don’t assume that what works on the page will work on the stage. The nuances get lost. Also, with performance I think it is essential to retain some humour – this doesn’t mean that your poems need to be funny (although I personally much prefer watching a poet who makes me laugh) but, for me, a poet who takes him/herself too seriously on stage is a big turn off. It either comes across as arrogance or shyness, both of which I really don’t like. Finding the balance between confidence and arrogance is very hard, however, and I think I’ve been guilty of blurring the boundary.

Other advice? Well, I would also say this: be prepared for about 90% of what you write to be utter crap. As far as my poetry goes (and I may well be atypical, I don’t know), for every one decent poem there are nine or ten TERRIBLE ones. The more you write, the more chance you have of ending up with something that is at least ok.

Also, show your poems to as many people as possible, not only to people with a vested interest in not offending you. I personally avoid showing stuff to my family until it gets published.

Lastly, you should probably ignore everything that I’ve said. What the hell do I know about poetry anyway?

Who/what influences your poetry?
Philip Larkin, Tom Waits, John Hegley, llamas, ex-girlfriends, memories, childhood, inferiority, disdain, reluctant admiration, wordplay, inappropriate jokes, misanthropy, growing up, not wanting to grow up, feeling like a small child, feeling like an old man, wanting to make my family proud, not caring what anyone thinks, contradictions, The War on Terror (just joking, I never write about stuff that really matters), never getting laid, the fear of failure, the fear of the wrong kind of success, The Fear….

I Could Murder Martin

His sweaty hand where mine should be
I could murder Martin
On my side of the bed, reclining idly
I could murder Martin
His parcels penetrating my letter box
I could murder Martin
My drawers containing his odd socks
I could murder Martin
Her tender lips on his hairy neck
I could murder Martin
Making rough love to my music
I could murder Martin
My envelope stuffed with his oversized letter
I could murder Martin
Her getting hurt and him kissing it better
I could murder Martin
The circumference of his bulging biceps
I could murder Martin
The parallel lines on his bespoke jacket
I could murder Martin
I ring and ring but they won’t let me in
I hate that guy Martin and I’ve never met him

Want to be an ONS Featured Poet? Just drop me a line to, send me three or four poems, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

(Photo by ANTHONY__CIE)

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