Happy Halloween!

Trick or treat?


Although we are in the middle of our Cafe Poetry project, it hasn’t escaped our notice that today is Halloween. So, we’re giving you a little Halloween treat, by linking you to Tim Burton’s 1982 short film, Vincent.

Enjoy the film, the poetry, and the references to Edgar Allan Poe!

Love and the Power of Poetry

A while ago we posted an advert for the BBC’s 2009 Poetry Season.

Tonight we bring you something beautiful, poetic, and just the right level of emotional for a Friday night in.

Here’s comedian Robert Webb recounting a particular poem, and a particular poet, that touched his life:

Where are the Waters of Childhood?

To advertise their Poetry Season in 2010, the BBC made a number of short films, featuring TV personalities reciting poetry in everday situations. This one, starring Frank Skinner, features the start of Mark Strand’s poem, ‘Where are the Waters of Childhood’.


This poem comes from Strand’s collection, The Late Hour. Read the full poem below:

Where are the waters of childhood?
Mark Strand
See where the windows are boarded up,
where the gray siding shines in the sun and salt air
and the asphalt shingles on the roof have peeled or fallen off,
where tiers of oxeye daisies float on a sea of grass?
That’s the place to begin.

Enter the kingdom of rot,
smell the damp plaster, step over the shattered glass,
the pockets of dust, the rags, the soiled remains of a mattress,
look at the rusted stove and sink, at the rectangular stain
on the wall where Winslow Homer’s Gulf Stream hung.

Go to the room where your father and mother
would let themselves go in the drift and pitch of love,
and hear, if you can, the creak of their bed,
then go to the place where you hid.

Go to your room, to all the rooms whose cold, damp air you breathed,
to all the unwanted places where summer, fall, winter, spring,
seem the same unwanted season, where the trees you knew have died
and other trees have risen. Visit that other place
you barely recall, that other house half hidden.

See the two dogs burst into sight. When you leave,
they will cease, snuffed out in the glare of an earlier light.
Visit the neighbors down the block; he waters his lawn,
she sits on her porch, but not for long.
When you look again they are gone.

Keep going back, back to the field, flat and sealed in mist.
On the other side, a man and a woman are waiting;
they have come back, your mother before she was gray,
your father before he was white.

Now look at the North West Arm, how it glows a deep cerulean blue.
See the light on the grass, the one leaf burning, the cloud
that flares. You’re almost there, in a moment your parents
will disappear, leaving you under the light of a vanished star,
under the dark of a star newly born. Now is the time.

Now you invent the boat of your flesh and set it upon the waters
and drift in the gradual swell, in the laboring salt.
Now you look down. The waters of childhood are there.

To read The Poetry Foundation’s biography of Mark Strand, click here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/mark-strand
Discover more about the 2010 BBC Poetry Season here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/poetryseason/

Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins

This is a beautiful poem by Billy Collins (former US Poet Laureate). As the title suggests, it is about forgetfulness.

Thanks to the Wordsworth Bookshop in Penrith, Cumbria, for flagging this one up as their ‘poem of the day’ on Wednesday. (NOTE: the Wordsworth Bookshop are now displaying copies of our zines on their tables. Pop along for a coffee and a read!)

Watch this great animated version of Collins’ poem:


Check out our previous post on Billy Collins’ poem ‘The Dead’ here.


The heading pretty much says it all. A week from today, is the deadline for submissions for our zine!

You can read the submissions details here.

Or you can check out our facebook event here.

The main thing is that we have lots of amazing poetry to make our first zine something really special.

Looking forward to seeing your work!

In the mean time, here’s John Keating (aka Robin Williams) telling the class in Dead Poets’ Society why we write poetry:


Don Paterson: ‘Why Do You Stay Up So Late?’

A good night gift to all our subscribers (and everyone browsing the site), here is a beautiful poem by Don Paterson, and an inspirational one too.

Sweet dreams.

Films About Books

Two little treats for you tonight, and they’re both videos.

The first is a short piece of stop motion called ‘The Joy of Books’:


The second video is another short film, called ‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore’:


Hope you enjoyed them!

Things We Think You’ll Like:

There are many many things that we think you’ll like. Warm summer days, for instance, or chocolate-covered strawberries. We couldn’t possibly list them all here. But here are just a few choice pieces, that we really think you ought to see.

  1. At the top of our list, a free (yes, that’s right, FREE) online course from the University of Pennsylvania, in Modern & Contemporary American Poetry.
    Information on the course here:

  2. We also want to promote a challenge on the Young Poets Network. If you’re under 25 and a lyricist (or if you’re under 25 and fancy turning your hand to it), there’s a challenge to set some words to music. And the lovely Young Poets Network people have provided a video, too, so here’s some more information.

    To take part in the challenge, or to find out more about it (or both), go to the Young Poets Network’s page about the challenge.
  3. Not far behind is a short story by Roald Dahl, entitled ‘The Great Automatic Grammatizator’. We don’t know what the rest of the blog is saying, or even which language it’s in, but this part is definitely worth a read.
    I know that this site is all about poetry, rather than short stories, but thematically it fits. It’s all about the art (or ‘art’ of writing).
    Read it here.
  4. This one is another short story. We won’t say too much about it, because we don’t want to give it all away before you’ve read it, but there’s a bit of a theme running with our reading suggestions tonight. It’s called ‘Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore’, by Robin Sloan. Quite aside from our loving the idea of a 24-hour bookshop, this is an eerie and modern story, and well worth a read.
    You can do so right here.
  5. And finally, a picture of a graffitied rabbit (taken in a graffiti lane in Melbourne, Australia). Because let’s face it, who wouldn’t enjoy that?

Sleep tight.

Carpe Diem

Today we’re going for something a little different: a philosophy rather than a poem. Though of course, it is poetry related. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be on our site.

Carpe diem.

‘Seize the day’.

It’s a Latin phrase, largely popularised by the filmDead Poets’ Society.

If you haven’t already seen Dead Poets’ Society, I would recommend watching it sooner rather than later. It’s a must for any aspiring writer / poet / artist – or just for anyone who wants to take a hold of life and run with it. Not to mention, it’s a tear jerker (though no more on that – we wouldn’t want to ruin the ending).

Here’s the famous ‘Carpe Diem’ clip from the film:

Tastebuds tantalised? Go and watch the rest! You won’t be disappointed.

And in case you’re interested, here are the poems mentioned in the clip in their entirety:


To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time:
by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.



O Captain! My Captain!
by Walt Whitman

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

And just in case we hadn’t spoiled you enough, here’s a video with Vincent Price reading Whitman’s poem:


Poems taken from:



St George’s Day

As with everything else today, this post has a Shakespearean theme to it.

So we’re wishing you a happy St George’s Day with Laurence Olivier’s Henry V. Some fantastic acting and a curious haircut. Enjoy.