Archive for November, 2009

Procrastination Station #58

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Responses to the death of Borders Books // “Literate people should boycott books” — snobbery, or just good sense? // Fathers and Fatherhood: a workshop

Catherine of New England Noir on censorship.

Opening the cage by Edwin Morgan, and a cool homage on Flickr

Clothing with poems on..?!

The goddess of the short poem, Sarah Quigley, at a handful of stones

Fabulous new work from former Featured Poet Kerri Ni Dochartaigh

The literary gift company — perfect for your poetic Christmas shopping!

I particularly love this typewriter pin!

& owls galore…

I think I’ve posted this before, but here’s the fabulous Sarah Kay:

& NSFW: the kick-ass Thea Monyee

& the lovely Dawn Steele does Rabbie Burns

Have a great weekend!

(Photo by ke_cupcake)

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This week’s Featured Poet Eleanor Ellis interviewed.

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

“Why do you write poetry?”
People who were tortured by bad poetry in high school feel that just because they abhorred (insert your favorite esoteric poet here), they will not be able to stand the likes of Billy Collins or Stephen Dunn or Frank O’Hara. It’s irrational. Any number of people loathe their literature courses and but grow up to enjoy novels just fine: just because you didn’t like Hemingway when you were fifteen doesn’t mean you turn up your nose at all the prose you run into for the rest of your life. So why do people do this with poetry?
Poetry is not obscure recitation, scholarly art, intellectual musing. You do not read poetry to improve the mind. You do not read poetry because you seek philosophical isolation. You read poetry for a reassuring glimpse into someone else’s life, because no other form of writing provides such brevity, intimacy, and clarity – such relief. I write poetry to achieve this relief of expression for both myself and the reader.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been telling myself stories for longer than I’ve been writing them down. I started writing instead of enacting my stories at about twelve, and at about 13 I discovered I also wanted to write down emotion, and that was when I started writing poetry.

Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I’ve been published in Teen Ink, Pomegranate, and Cascadia, which is the publication of the Oregon Student Poetry Contest. I also have a short story forthcoming in a publication of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards called “The Best Teen Writing of 2009.” The next stage for me is getting involved in the writing community at Whitman College, and see where that takes me from there.

What do you consider your biggest poetic achievement?
I won second place in a state poetry contest and was invited to read at the dedication of the Oregon State Poetry Library alongside the state’s poet laureate. It was such a fabulous experience, to have my work commended among a gathering of other writers and poets.

What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best thing is when someone tells me a particular line resonates with them, to feel that a phrase of sticks with someone, the way a good poem does for me when I read it.
The worst thing is the opposite – to feel I took a metaphor too far, or became so wrapped up in the wordplay that the poem lost its accessibility.

Do you have any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
I think it is extremely worthwhile to submit to publications and contests in your region. This is not to say that one should not submit to larger, more distant competitions (or, indeed, international blogs) – but rather that small, local contests shouldn’t be undervalued. It made an immense difference for me to become aware of the community of writers around me and to meet other people who were passionate about words. It has changed the way I view my writing.

Who/what influences your poetry?
Billy Collins has had a huge impact on my view of poetry, and especially when I first began writing, the basic framework I worked from was his idea of a clear, accessible poem with a memorable twist. A lot of the other poetry I really admire comes from three eclectic anthologies: Good Poems, Good Poems for Hard Times, and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday. The former two are compiled by Garrison Keillor; the latter one was put into being by Billy Collins. They have bland titles but great poems.
Both also make marvelous arguments for accessibility in poetry. Billy Collins says in his anthology’s introduction that the word accessible gets used too broadly: it gets applied to “Mother Goose . . . as well as Mary Oliver” and thus people mistake it to mean simplicity. He suggests instead to define “accessible” as “easy to enter, like a building”. Theme, emotion, tone – these all vary in my poems, but I try to keep with Collins’ tenet of readability: “If a poem has no starting place, how can it go anywhere? If a poem does not begin in lucidity, how can it advance into the mysterious?”

Upon embarking

Confronted with a decision,
our eyes watch her eyes, older
and her eyes scan our mutual indecision.
this is a process she knows well, a yearly task,
a boat she’s often sailed. the whole idea of
these cumbersome Atlantic crossings is almost a chore. she knows

we will arrive. still, my hands are clammy at the wheel.
I can feel your eyes on me, feel their eyes on us.

we would give our lives for a dock, an ending, a safe harbor
and yet we question that we will come to the same shore
what if, this year, the islands are not the same?
what if I am Leif and you, Christopher?
is this not America?

I can see these thunderous new shores reflected in your eyes
but she is there, firm and practical
she wants a decision about the direction of the wind
but you want to name the land
that already belongs to so many others, that
has long been conquered and subjugated,
a world that will not be ours.

Your pupils are still bright, but I
look away. I don’t know what to say.
I look to you, hovering between apology and declarations
of independence, and cannot let go.
I steer the ship straight, away from your disappointment,
your relief, that all we have hit
is the same yellow sand.

Want to see your poems featured here? Drop me a line to!

(Photo by Scilit)

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More from Featured Poet Eleanor Ellis

Friday, November 20th, 2009

I forget spring

until I come out of the shower,
steaming hot and draped in a towel –
and I feel I could grab that periwinkle sheet from above the trees
shaking out the crisp color, and pull vivid cotton over gray lakes,
those great bodies of water that protest like children, afraid to be dressed.
their tentative watery fingers reaching for hardened banks,
carefree current caressing the craggy silence.

this seasonal business of laundry is about
rubbing soapy suds of sunshine on aged firs,
that grouse and grumble until the weary white weight
falls, leaving startled green needles
to pierce the fabric of the sky,
and start the earth weaving again.

I dress myself, dancing, dropping quarters on this spinning earth
my shoulder still cool, my socks still wet,
expecting the world to churn.

Want to see your poems featured here? Drop me a line to!

(Photo by Corica)

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Procrastination Station #57

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Procrastination Station has survived the ONS breakdown too! It’s back! Unfortunately it’s rather short and sweet as I lost all my lovely bookmarks in the computer crash… I need you guys to suggest some more for me!

Magma are running a contest: free to enter, and you can win a year’s subscription. What do you have to do, I hear you cry? Just tell them which poem you’d ban from the school curriculum, and why!

Poem of the week!

I just discovered The Creamy Middles, a blog dedicated to living a life of creativity.

Margaret Atwood turned 70 on Wednesday! Wish her many happy returns on Twitter!

Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book wins yet more awards!

Envelope art.

Suggest a Great Poetic Moustache… and check out this Famous Moustaches Mug — awesome!

Yes, it’s a little late for Dia De Los Muertos, but I loved these lovely catrinas at Chainsaws and Jelly!

Got $1,500 kicking around? You can afford an amazing literary purse, then!


I really want to learn to do this!

I love this cute animation.

& this one kind of scares me, but it’s an amazing visualisation of the poem.

There’ll be many more links next week, promise! Have a great weekend, all!

(Photo by Iris James)

Don’t forget The One Night Stanzas Store, my Etsy store, and their little sister, Edinburgh Vintage!

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This week’s Featured Poet is Eleanor Ellis

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Yep, the Featured Poets are finally back! Apologies to those of you who’ve been waiting to be featured! Normal service has now resumed. Sit back and enjoy some poems!

Eleanor Ellis, 18, grows poetry amidst the singular verdure of the Pacific Northwest in the States. She received a National Silver Portfolio Award in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards of 2009; has been published twice in Pomegranate (issue 5 and issue 6), and thrice in Cascadia, the publication of the Oregon Student Poetry Contest. She is now bound northward for four years to Whitman College, a place reputed to have more poetry but less rain than her Oregon home. She is an ardent fan of the Spanish language but tends to ramble on too much in English as well.

your career as a janitor

let me write to you of miracles
because when I speak they tumble far too earnestly
onto the brown linoleum of the floor.

when I come into the halls the ferocity of nearby hopes
surprises me. I think it would be hard to be the floor,
nervously feeling so many attempts at lightness
weigh upon its even back.

the hall is quiet with this heaviness after school
and when I stand there in the long hollow corridor
I can see you there
picking up so much spluttered frankness
you with your solemn vibrancy, completely unabashed
to be striding down the hall with your honest broom,

laughing easily as you explain the various muddled tales of the day.
I am caught up in all the plot twists and character arcs
but to you there is no literary miracle: it was

always about words and patterns.
the clarity of your emotion
leaves me lost. perhaps
I was not meant to be a poet, after all.

Want to see your poems featured here? Drop me a line to!

(Photo by life begins with 4t)

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Help save the Beat Museum!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The literature of the Beat Generation is an acquired taste. Personally, I love it — you may do too. You may loathe it, you may not really know much about it, or it may just be one of those things that’s “not your cup of tea.” Whichever box you just ticked, I’d like to ask you to put your personal opinion aside for a second and read this short post. You may well be able to help a very good cause.

A few days ago I received this email from the staff at the San Francisco Beat Museum:

Folks – three years ago The Beat Museum opened its doors at the beginning of probably the worst economic time in most of our lives. We’ve been able to hang on by our fingernails – barely. And I’ll admit to you it has not been easy. In fact, truth be told, there have been a few occasions when money was so tight I came very close to simply shutting the doors and walking away.

And frankly, the reason I haven’t done it is because every other day it seems I have someone say to me – “Thank you for doing this. Thank you for keeping this spirit alive.” And I’ll admit that kind of feedback buoys me. But it doesn’t pay any of the many overdue bills and it doesn’t keep our creditors from calling demanding payment.

So, I’m turning to you – the core group of people who have helped make The Beat Museum possible from the very beginning. I’m asking for your immediate financial assistance to help us get through the next few months until the tourists start to return to San Francisco in the Spring.

So, you may be thinking “well, that’s a shame but I don’t really care about Beat stuff.” Fair enough… but you probably know someone who does, right? If you don’t know anyone else, hey, you know me! And I’m telling you as a Beat scholar and enthusiast: the Beat Museum is a fabulous resource. It’s not like lots of other literary museums — this isn’t some personality-free space full of manuscripts in glass cases. The Beat Museum has a fantastic store where you can buy everything from small press chapbooks to t shirts and bumper stickers. They’ve rebuilt Allen Ginsberg’s San Francisco apartment in one area and you’re free to walk in and make yourself at home there. They also have all kinds of Beat-related memorabilia, some of it very rare… and the museum even own a Beat Bus which travels around the States taking the spirit of the Beats with it.

(Boy at the Beat Museum when we visited in 2007.)

Basically, the Beat Museum is a very special place. It’s run by passionate people who really care about the literature they’re helping to preserve. Whether you’re into the Beat scene or not, it’s an important literary site like Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage or the Bronte Parsonage. It needs to be saved! And here’s how you can help save it…

Even if you’re scaling back for Christmas, you’re still probably going to be buying some gifts for friends and family – do it at I know you may be tempted to buy from Amazon or some other discounter to save some money, but I’d ask you to remember that Amazon does not have a Beat Museum for you to come visit the next time you’re in San Francisco.
And if you’re a student, ask your parents to check out our new Stocking Stuffers on the front page of Parents LOVE to buy books and educational stuff for their kids – it makes them feel they’re raising you right!

You may or may not be aware that we have our own non-profit organization that supports The Beat Museum called The Foundation for Creative Expression ( The sole mission of this non-profit is to support various projects and programs of The Beat Museum. Every time we have an event, the non-profit sponsors it financially and every time we build a new exhibit the FFCE accepts donations and transfers it to The Beat Museum.


A). WRITE A CHECK to the FFCE and mail to:
The Foundation for Creative Expression
540 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

B). CALL WITH A CREDIT CARD to The Beat Museum at 415-399-9626 or 1-800-KER-OUAC to make a credit card donation. Please call between the hours of 10 AM and 7 PM Pacific Time and have you’re credit card handy.

C). DONATE VIA PAYPAL You can make a donation to FFCE or learn more at

Even if YOU can’t do any of the above, please spread the word by asking your family and friends to either make a donation to the FFCE or make a purchase from It’s crunch time, folks, and the bottom line is The Beat Museum can only continue to spread the Spirit of The Beats if we’re in a financial position to do so. We’re all making some tough choices these days, but we ARE still making choices. Please do what you can.

So there you go — no excuses! I know you’re all passionate about poetry and literature, otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading this. So please do at least one of the above to help keep this great resource open. As someone who’s just embarking on a PhD in Beat Literature… you’ll have my eternal gratitude, and the gratitude of Beat enthusiasts the world over. So get on with it already!

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