Archive for April, 2009

This week’s Featured Poet is Michael Lee Johnson

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Michael Lee Johnson is a poet and freelance writer from Itasca, Illinois. He is the author of The Lost American: from Exile to Freedom. He has also published two chapbooks of poetry and is presently looking for a publisher for two more. He has been published in USA, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Turkey, Fuji, Nigeria, Algeria, Africa, India, United Kingdom, Republic of Sierra Leone, Nepal, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Finland, Malaysia and Poland internet radio. Michael Lee Johnson has been published in more than 240 different publications worldwide. Audio MP3 of poems are
available on request. He is also publisher and editor of four poetry flash fiction sites–all presently open for submission: Birds by the Window, Poetic Legacy, A Tender Touch, Wizards of the Wind. Author website: Poetry Man

Cicada Bugs and Carol

I walk this pain and joy
like a deity with you
for life it seems inhabits us
like a run on sentence
for no assumed reason.
17 years together
since the last calling
of the cicadas-
nothingness but for their noise,
loud buzzing wings,
no reason to stay
no reason to part.
We smell
lilacs bushes
together briefly-
take down
an apple or two-
ride rusty
old bicycles together
to a destination
neither of us
have been
to before.
Nymphs drop
to the ground
and burrow the wood,
again.
Will I see
you in 2024?

More from Michael tomorrow! Want to see your work featured here? Drop me a line to claire@onenightstanzas.com.

(Photo by Hartlandmartin)

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How to get a regret-free literary tattoo — Part 2: Choosing your design

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

So, if you’re definitely ready for your literary tattoo — and you’re sure you’re getting one for the right reasons! (see part one) — here’s the fun part: choosing your design! But even this can be problematic… hopefully these tips will help!

1: Size matters.
Many tattoos with a literary flavour incorporate text in some way, and when your tattoo involves lettering, there are various things to take into account. First off, size matters. Your design may look just fine on paper, but when it comes to putting it on your skin, it may need to be larger than you think. Obviously there’s the logistical side of things — tattoo needles are pretty fine, but they’re more cumbersome to weild than a pen, and your tattoo artist can only do so much. Also, it needs to be large enough to be readable — even if you don’t want others to see your tattoo, chances are you don’t particularly want it to end up an illegible scribble! When it comes to size, you also need to pay attention to the font you choose: the more curly or intricate the letters, the larger they’ll need to be; again, simply to be readable. This applies to all tattoos to an extent, not just lettering: the more complex and detailed your tattoo, the bigger it’ll need to be to achieve the full effect you’re after.

2: Find the right place.
The human body is a pretty weird shape, so drawing on it can be complicated! Finding the right place for your tattoo is important… it shouldn’t be your primary concern, but it is something to think about when putting your design together. I’m not a great believer in worrying too much about covering your tattoos up (I have a chest piece, and got a job as a teacher despite the fact that my ink was visible at the interview), but tattoos on the head, face, neck, wrists, hands and fingers can be tricky. These are pretty ‘badass’ places to get a tattoo, and can cause others to jump to conclusions about you. If you have allergies or a low pain threshold, placement can matter there, too: bony places like the ribs and feet are particularly painful, whereas fleshier parts hurt less, generally. In terms of allergies and skin sensitivity, bear in mind that your tattoo may take up to two weeks or maybe even longer to heal — in that time it will have to be kept clean and largely uncovered, but out of the sun and away from potentially irrititating chemicals. That’s more tricky with the feet, or around the waist or hips where the waistline of clothes might go. It might seem like a minor detail, but if these things are relevant to you, you’ll need to choose your design and its placement carefully.

3: Longevity is key!
All too often, people buy into tattoo “trends” (anyone else shudder when they see a tribal armband on anyone who isn’t Maori nowadays?), which can lead to huge regret… also, having a tattoo of something you’re obsessed with now doesn’t always end well, particularly with things like music and literature, because naturally your tastes change over time. You may think Harry Potter is the be-all and end-all right now (the less I say about that, the better!), but will you still be able to rock a quidditch-themed tattoo when you’re forty? Perhaps… but perhaps not. Example: the Boy has a male pentagram (yes, the upside-down kind — actually very little to do with Satan!) on one arm, which he got aged 16… ah, sweet teen rebellion! While he’s not mortified by it (it was his first, so it does hold a special place), I think he wishes that it drew a little less negative attention, so he’s designing a cover-up. So the moral of the story is: choose your design very carefully, because it’s for life! You also need to bear in mind that literature shifts and changes with time, too — would you get an Enid Blyton tattoo these days, for example? It’s not surprising that most people choose literary tattoos based on the old, well respected, canonical stuff! I’ll be talking more about this later in this little series: there are ways to make your tattoo meaningful for life.

4: Do your research!
I’ve heard a LOT of post-tattoo-realisation horror stories, and it seems literary tattoos are particularly bad for this! There was the guy who got a lyric by his favourite deathmetal band, but the lines he chose turned out to be exactly the same as the hook for a Bryan Adams song. There was also the atheist (just heard about this one recently!), who found some text from Corinthians somewhere, thought it was a great, meaningful poem and had it tattooed on himself… only later did he discover it was from the Bible. You also hear many, many a tale of people who’ve had things written in foreign languages — particularly those that use different alphabets — only to discover later that their tattoo is hideously misspelled, or worse, that their lovely symbol actually means, I don’t know, “fish paste” rather than “poetry.” This is why you need to do your research. If you’re getting lines from a poem, make sure you know their origin, and make sure you’re alright with it! If you’re getting a tattoo in a foreign language, check it over with a native speaker. And even if you’re getting an image, you might want to make sure it doesn’t have negative connotations, if you can!

5: Consider the issue of originality.
There are a lot of literary tattoos which are surprisingly common… just wander over to Flickr and put “Kurt Vonnegut tattoo” into the search box! OK, maybe you love Vonnegut… but do you really want a tattoo that everyone else already has?
Perhaps you do… I have a classic Sailor Jerry swallow, which is a tattoo worn by literally millions of people. I like what this tattoo symbolises (sailors were often tattooed with a swallow to grant them a safe journey home, or to signify the crossing of an ocean or the equator), and how it looks — swallows also mean a lot to me personally. I have no problem whatsoever with having the same tattoo as other people, or dealing with some of the connotations people attach to swallow tattoos (my favourites include: they show you’ve done prison time, a swallow tattoo in particular will prevent you from getting a job, women wear them to show they’re promiscuous, they are worn by “common” people… whatever that means. Welcome to the world of being tattooed!). However, some people do have a problem with this. Basically, if you want your tattoo to be totally unique and unlike any other ink worn by anyone else (good luck!) …again, do your research!

Part III… coming soon!

(Photo by honey.huckabee)

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Guest Post from William Soule: Writers To Read Part 1 — Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Recently, I was really excited to discover that brilliant young poet and former ONS Featured Poet William Soule is writing a series of short articles entitled ‘Writers to Read,’ aimed at helping new and emerging writers to discover new influences. I asked if I could feature the articles here as guest-posts, and Will agreed! So here’s the first installment. Enjoy!

“Genius might be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.”

German-born Charles Bukowski is popular among younger poets for his straightforward, unequivocal style of writing. Ironically, he didn’t start writing poetry prolifically until he was 35, after ten years of near-silence following the publication of his short story, Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip, in Story, and his time in the hospital treating an ulcer.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Bukowski often alienated himself from his peers due to the terrible acne that pockmarked his face. Add in the physical abuse from his father and working menial jobs as an adult, such as at the post office, his writing often features the challenges facing those inhabiting skid row, drunkenness, women, and times at the horse track. the suicide kid details his time at bars, starting with “I went to the worst of bars / hoping to get / killed. / but all I could do was to / get drunk / again.”

Another poem entitled Dinosauria, we, found in the documentary “Born Into This”, talks about some of the problems in society (”we are / born like this / into this / into hospitals which are so expensive / that it’s cheaper to die”).

Throughout his writing career, Bukowski stuck with smaller presses; many see him as an underdog in the writing community, although he became well known during his career, even writing screenplays for movies, such as Barfly, a semi-autobiographical film featuring his alter ego, Henry Chinaski, the hard-drinking womanizer, who was also often found in his novels, some of his most popular being “Post Office” (which aptly begins with “It began as a mistake.”), and “Ham on Rye”, a novel that details his troubled youth.

Passing away in 1994 from leukemia, he leaves behind a vast array of novels, short stories, and poetry among numerous articles he has written for publications. To conclude, here is a touching poem entitled Bluebird, a favorite of mine, and a challenge for you writers that Bukowski details well with so you want to be a writer? Do give a listen and a read–and meet up to the challenge of writing. For more information about Charles Bukowski, check out Bukowski.net.

Recommended Reading:
Love Is A Dog From Hell (poetry)
Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame (poetry)
Post Office (novel)
Ham on Rye (novel)

William Soule is a young poet currently living in Utah. His works have appeared in Read This Magazine, elimae, Tattoo Highway, and the delinquent, among others — he is also a former ONS Featured Poet. He runs the webzine Clearfield Review, and works as a Literature Gallery Director for artist-networking site deviantART. Besides writing poetry, William also plays the drums and is a health food nut. He raises a two year old pit bull named Bronē, offers everyone online cookies, and comments on people’s faces.

I’d also like to recommend checking out Bukowski’s Nirvana, as read by Tom Waits… and the movie Factotum, which is based on his life.
‘Writers to Read’ will be back soon… Part 3 will be written by yours truly, so watch this space!

Want to write an ONS guest-post? Drop me a line to claire@onenightstanzas.com!

(Image by MATT MIMS)

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Found online this week: Cheryl Maddalena

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that every week in my Procrastination Station, I use a little bit of space to pimp out the good works that my flock of Featured Poets/regular readers (if you’re a regular reader but never comment, this is why you should make yourself known!) are doing in the big scary online literary community. However, a while ago I realised that there’s a lot of stuff happening online that doesn’t necessarily involve ONS-ers, but which you lot might still want to know about. Therefore, I thought I’d create a ‘found online this week’ series outwith Procrastination Station to tell you all about it!

So, first to get the treatment is Cheryl Maddalena… but first, some context! Bill Cohen, poet and editor of Tattoosday, one of my favourite tattoo blogs, has been running a series for Poetry Month (that’s this month for those of you who are not totally on the ball!), featuring tattooed poets, one for every day of April. Each poet gets to post one of their poems and some images/info about their tattoos… me included! So far Bill has featured some great poets including the fabulous Kim Addonizio (who also graced the pages of Skin Deep), but one of my favourites was Cheryl Maddalena, a performance poet from Boise, Idaho.

Cheryl’s tattoo is the word “beautiful”, written down her forearm in 200 point type. Pretty striking, and brave. Also striking is Cheryl’s accompanying poem, aptly titled ‘Why I got the word “beautiful” tattooed on my arm in 200 point lowercase Times New Roman.’ I absolutely love this piece, and the piece above, which Bill also posted. Cheryl has a really distinctive performance style, which takes a couple of watches to get used to, but now I am hooked. The above poem is based on a really funny, quirky idea and has some great lines (”I’m sorry! You are the kinky mansion of my dreams and desires!”). I thought this was a good, off-the-wall candidate for my first “found online” post. Enjoy!

Found something online that deserves a mention? Plug it to me: claire@onenightstanzas.com!

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Favourite poems from YouTube: Part 5, your choices!

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I asked for your favourite poems from YouTube, and you answered!

Here’s Frank O Hara’s ‘Having a coke with you,’ text here, suggested by Col:

And Morganne suggested three poems…
Distinctly Beautiful by Carlos Andrés Goméz:

Miles Hodges, Teen Poetry Slam 2008 Finalist:

& the freaking awesome Rachel McKibbens with Marty McConnell, rockin’ out (LOVE the last line!):

Got more favourites? I want to hear them!

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Featured Poet Phoebe Salzman-Cohen Interviewed

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

You’ve already seen Phoebe’s poems ‘An Extra Swing’ and ‘Driveway’ — here’s her interview. Enjoy!

Tell us about your poems.
It’s hard for me to talk about my writing, mainly because don’t know what to say. I guess they’re just ways for me to explore people I know — or imagine — and things/places I’ve seen. They often include things that are partially true, which has gotten me into trouble.
In a way, I feel like writing gives me power, because it’s a way to turn the way I think into something that can affect what other people think and feel (if it works).
I think sometimes when people try to describe their own poetry, the description turns into a poem itself… I’ve never felt comfortable trying to do that. I think poetry should speak for itself. (Although I do admire people who can.)
Ultimately, there’s nothing very poetic about how I feel about my poetry. I just know that it’s what I use to explain myself, to understand people around me, and to try to create something worthwhile.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing stories since I was very little, but I got much more into poetry when I was around 12 or 13. I started going online and meeting people who helped me, and since then it’s become pretty important to me.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
Well, I’ve been in Read This! I’m also involved in a wonderful underground newspaper at my school, for which I get to write some slightly subversive stuff. I haven’t really been published in many places, as of now. I’m more concerned with improving my writing than publishing it — although the two might be fairly closely connected.

What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
I think it’s probably being asked to read poetry at a show my friend was having in his backyard. (This happened a few months ago) I admire him very much and it was cool for it to be reciprocated in that way.
It was my first poetry reading (ever), which was pretty exciting.
(It might have also been because it was a little poetic in itself.)

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The worst thing about writing poetry is probably when I’m not able to write it… when I’m stuck, I tend to get fairly frustrated and upset, which clouds my already iffy judgement.
The best thing is the feeling I get when I manage to connect one thing to another in a way that I think makes sense and also sounds good. When I’m satisfied with something, it’s absolutely wonderful.

Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Since that’s what I’d consider myself, I guess, this is also advice to myself.
– Although it’s important to be able to take constructive criticism and improve your work, don’t let yourself be hurt by what other people say. There are some people who, although they mean well, aren’t always worth listening to.
– Read a lot. Not just poetry, and not just novels. Learn as much as you can about everything you can, and don’t be afraid to learn from someone else.
– Notice things– notice things around you, things about people you’re with, things about yourself, etc.
– Don’t get caught up in what’s “accepted” or in what seems cool. Don’t feel obligated to conform to what you see. (But as I said before, learning from other people is important.)
– Enjoy yourself! Writing isn’t worth it if you torture yourself over it.

Who/what influences your poetry?
I read all the time, and not just poetry (although I do read a lot of it). I love stories that make me both think and feel, and that’s something I work towards when I write. I think the people I’m around and the places I go are almost as important as what I read, because that gives me something I want to say.
I also read a lot of graphic novels (um, comics), and the ones I like the most often read like combinations of a good movie and a good poem. I’ve been trying to work towards that feeling for a while — squeezing one thing into the other, almost.

Eyelashes

I used to examine the hair
on my arms when you talked to me
and push it so it would all fall
in the same direction because it made
my skin look tougher.
By the time I looked up,
my blush would be gone.

You’re trying to grow a beard but
the fuzz is still the same color
as your chin
and I can see it when you laugh. Once
we were both waiting for something in
the history room, and you sat on the windowsill.
When you spoke, your jaw
outlined your words like you suddenly
were older.

Before I would never
look at you because
I thought you’d see me, but
sometimes you’d try first. if
you noticed me you’d smile, pounding
my fist like I was cool enough.

You asked me to read poetry
at a show you were having,
and a month later
I stood on your lawn with my eyelashes
catching stray pieces of hair.
When I finished I put my paper down and
you were sprawled on the grass with
your hands in your pockets,
looking at me as if
I should be there.

(Photo by Greeblemonkey)

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Procrastination Station #35

Friday, April 24th, 2009


Short one this week, to make up for the epic-ness of last week!

Think you’ve got library fines?! // The writer’s struggle… // Pocast: laureates on poetry for children // Bookcross, people! // & RIP, JG Ballard (more tributes here and here).

Recycle your books… into vases? For real! (thanks Amanda!)

Jim pointed me in the direction of Poetry Through The Ages: An Expressive Journey. Tricky to navigate, but I love the clicky-bubbles! (Yep, technical term! — works best in Firefox, btw.)

If I wasn’t renting, I would tile my whole house with these!

Rachel is talking with Ted… lovely recording from Crow, too!

Found online this week: Howard Good (RT14 and RT17 contributor!) is over at Bolts of Silk // …so is ONS reader and blogger Colin Will (get well soon, Colin!) // a handful of stones is featuring former FP Tom Rendell // RT ed Dave Coates has a new poem up at his blog // …and ONS regular Col has posted some cool visual poetry on his! // + Stephen Nelson finds visual poetry within his surroundings… I really like this latest offering.

Scarlett Johannson is so cool.

The worst homemade Star Wars costumes ever (supposedly… I was actually quite impressed by some of them! Tiny bucket-headed stormtrooper? Very cute.)

Great movie trivia: The Goonies, The Wizard of Oz

The world’s smallest Pacman game… warning: horrible time-eater! (via)

Your weekly ‘great tattoos!’ link

& this stop-mo is absolutely amazing!:

Have a great weekend! x

(Photo by Thomas Hawk)

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More from Featured Poet Phoebe Salzman-Cohen

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Another of Phoebe’s poems… interview tomorrow!

Driveway

We write our names on brick walls
and on the sides of bus stations so
they might go somewhere
and we wait for someone to remember us.

We turn on the radio to listen to this guy
who was famous by the time he was fourteen
My friend thinks he’s sexy
and closes her eyes in the back
of my mother’s car when she hears his voice
But he makes me step out of myself
like he’s a lesson in how to be better and
all I can do is listen. I try to leave fingerprints
on my hands

He is singing about being left behind
but you can’t be abandoned if
you haven’t been found. It’s dark
but I can see us on the windshield like
we’ve hit it. My friend is shivering and
she doesn’t notice because she’s
pretending to move somewhere else.

I tell her that I can’t wait to learn
how to drive, but I don’t
know where to go. I want to drag our names
through everywhere and leave people
remembering what our handwriting looks like

When the song ends, we
lift ourselves into the driveway,
opening the gate like it’s monumental
and mumble new names for each other.

(Photo by Nathan. P.)

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Things I Love Thursday #35

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Brand new Read This!
By the time you read this (ha!), I will probably be in the Forest, slaving over a hot photocopier, creating the brand new issue of Read This… RT17. (What happened to 16?) We’re back with a bang, let me tell you: brilliant artwork and prose from exceptionally great artist Amy Bernays, and poetry from former ONS Featured Poet Eric Hamilton, the lovely and talented Mr Howie Good, and an impressive list of talented RT newcomers. We’ll also have some great stuff up on our website in the next day or two (I’ll let you know), and as always, RT17 will be available to purchase at the Read This Store! Watch this space!

My students.
This is maybe a strange one, as this week I (and they) received the bad news that only one student in my entire lecturing class had passed their prelim (mock) exam. Many of them are relying on the grades they get this year to carry them into University; the majority of them have learning support needs of some kind, almost all are high school dropouts or second-time-around-ers… which basically means that a failed mock means a lot more to them than you’d think. I have only been working with this class for about three months but they are a really great bunch of kids, and to see their self-esteem knocked like this is upsetting. I suspect that the prelims, which were marked within the department, have been harshly marked across the board to get them all to pull their socks up before the exam… this is pretty common practice. However, it seems to be having the opposite effect in some cases. Basically, my students are in my TiLT this week because I have huge faith in them all — I know that not all of them will pass, but there are many who work hard and really, really want this qualification. They’ve also been an incredibly levelling influence (nothing more levelling — or brutally honest! — than a group of seventeen year olds!) when I’ve been feeling down or upset lately. I am doing my best to help them achieve their goal, but this is just an additional prayer to the universe: give them all a kick up the ass, give them the motivation to revise! They are all good, sweet people and they deserve success.

Getting back into the poetry swing of things, for real!
I know this was in last week’s, but I’ve been breaking myself back into everything gently after my brief hiatus. I am now getting on top of everything again: plotting the next Read This Press titles after the huge success of Skin Deep (yeah!), getting ahead with RT as you’ve already heard, and best of all, writing again! I have loads of new plans and schemes AND, if my desperate saving and squirrelling continues to plan, I am also hoping for a free summer (ie, no distracting waitressing job or the like!) to write, plot, scheme and achieve. Sounds good! Let’s hope it happens!

Stockbridge.
I really need to go out and take some photos of my own to show you my new neighbourhood… I feel like a real phoney living round here, it is so nice and respectable! It’s very quiet and safe (lowest crime rate in the city! Take that, Morningside!), with loads of cool winding backstreets, closes, parks and gardens to wander around. And here’s my street! I am loving it — I loved the mad, noisy rush of life on the Grassmarket, but I feel like that phase is over now. I am officially a New Towner, depressing, but true!

Poetry at the, er… Jekyll and Hyde!
That is, the event formerly known as Poetry at the Great Grog! The Edinburgh New Town’s best monthly poetry reading has changed location, from this to this (check out the inside)!!! I love the new venue, I have to say: creepy and kooky, amazing cocktails, and much quieter and calmer… no more annoying sports fans interrupting the poetry! And the first J&H gathering was a freaking amazing one… among the performers were my dear friend Ryan Van Winkle, who wowed the audience with smart, sweet, sad and funny poems, including ‘Darkness on the Edge of Toast,’ his famous Bruce Springsteen poem, which I never get tired of hearing. Ryan was followed by the wonderful Kevin Cadwallender, who is without question the best performance poet I’ve ever heard read. His set was hilarious and brilliant as always. If you’re in Edinburgh at the beginning of the month anytime, let me know and I will take you along!

The X Files
Yes, this was also here last week… but I am officially obsessed. In fact, I have started playing ‘oh my gosh did you see that episode?!’ with my dear friend Miriam (she deserves to be on this TiLT list, too!). I have a massive girl-crush on Scully, she really is my heroine.

And you?

(Photo by Ukpressphotographer)

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This week’s Featured Poet is Phoebe Salzman-Cohen

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

I first discovered Phoebe when she sent some work to Read This. The eds and I all loved it. Here’s her bio and one of her works for you to enjoy… more in the next couple of days!:

Phoebe Salzman-Cohen is a sophomore in high school who lives in suburban New Jersey. She likes to think she’s clever, but she’s not sure if many people agree with her. She’s into reading about theoretical physics, walking around aimlessly (and with aim on occasion), and debating about various philosophical issues. She also plays the cello and has a really wicked cello case. Everything else about her is generally up for debate.

An Extra Swing

Some of us went to the swings
after sundown to break the law. My
friend asked me if I was going
to write a poem about it, and
I didn’t answer

there were five of us, and
an extra swing. If you had been there
we could’ve tried to steer each other
away from the poles, lining ourselves up. We
never got to hold hands
so at the playground I held on with my elbows,
palms rubbing my sweatshirt pocket
to keep them pristine

It was a week ago when you
said yes and hugged me like
you wanted to see if I would fit. I’ve always
admired you, but
I’ve never been able to forget that
long enough to remember it again and say it

I was quiet when you told me
how you wanted to travel the world and
become everything, smiling because
you weren’t sure if you should,
and when you put your knee next to mine
in your room like you wanted me to be there, and
the next day when
I found out that you didn’t.

At the playground I traced you
into the woodchips like I was
drawing photographs of you, shivering
because you’re too complete
without me.

(Photo by Sharper24)

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