So back when we started this blog, we were filling out our bios, and under influences I listed Chris Carter — creator of one of my favorite TV shows, The X Files.  Sarah messaged me and said “oh, wait, I thought we were just filling in our influences as poets.” And I was like “Um, yeah.  Chris Carter is totally one of my poetic influences.”  Sarah and I have long had a relationship in which almost nothing we say to each other is all that weird — at least to us — so we continued with putting together the blog and haven’t spoken of it since.

Illustration by Chris Giles.

Until today.  I want to talk about my X Files poetry.

First, I want to get this out of the way: TV is a brain-rotting time-suck of the modern world and no good things can possibly come from a 90′s show about aliens and poltergeists and sewer monsters.   Look, y’all — a story is a story, writing is writing, and inspiration is inspiration.  I really don’t care what form it takes.  There’s good TV and bad TV, good books and bad books.  I have no shame in finding inspiration in the stories written for television and film.  Among other influences I count Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scrubs, John Hughes’ body of work and this teen movie from when I was in high school called Can’t Hardly Wait.

Art by Chris Giles.

I think what makes the shows I love so brilliant and so inspiring is how, whether comedic or tragic, realistic or speculative, they get the nature of humanity.  The dialogue in Buffy is snappy, Scrubs knows how to take a big, epic theme and smoosh it into a 30-minute episode while following multiple plot threads AND J.D.’s dream sequences, and for as much as I’ve rolled my eyes at some of those oh-so-Chris-Carter monologues delivered at the beginnings of of all of the Very Serious Episodes of The X-Files, damn they’re poetic.  And I think that’s when I got it — that there is beauty in science, science fiction, and back around again to science.  That the way we connect to the weird and wonderful and wondrous is something worth writing about.  And I wanted to write about it myself.  I needed to make poems about the Sasquatch and el chupacabra.  So I did.  I wrote those poems.  I wrote a novel about the Jersey Devil.  And I researched Christopher Columbus and the Bermuda Triangle and wrote that poem, too.

Art by Chris Giles.

Recently I’ve started collecting my paranormal pieces for a chapbook I’m working on.  Ghost hunters, UFOlogists, lake monsters, teenage necromancers and urban legends.  I think I learned how to write about these things with tact from Chris Carter.  It’s a place where fantasy and reality meet and while I consider myself a skeptic, well, like Mulder and Scully, I want to believe.  I want to tell the stories about maybe and could be.  And poems are story distilled down to the hardest bits — which is one thing I love about writing poetry.  X Files poetry, then, is these what ifs in their hardest bits, with me doing my best to make it lyrical and beautiful.  I wish I could say it was hard — but I love it too much.  A challenge, though.  I’ll say it’s that.

I have maybe 15 or so pieces for my would-be chapbook.  I have no idea if it will ever see the light of day.  But on my hard drive, it’s fun to look at, to read aloud, to speculate upon.  Below is an excerpt, my poem “The Leeds Baby.” Meanwhile, readers, do you have any unexpected influences for your work?  Please feel free to list them below! And, you know, ask Chris Giles to illustrate them on his tumblr.

“The Leeds Baby”

I couldn’t keep the child – the nurse said as much
as the doctor pulled its body from inside me.

Of course I’d whispered curses on these lips.  But this is quotidian
in the cold North East, standing mere moments from witchery.

The child, though – shouldn’t he be innocent?  Even when Hell
has molded bones into wings,  stretched the eyes red,
hunched the body’s back into a desperate “U.”

I loathed the thing, and yet, as Mother, I sent the nurse away,
clutched my baby, nursed him. Here is humanity, I thought.

Nights, I watch him sneak out his window at the side of the house.
Look, I think, God’s little gift is off to play in the woods.

He believes me ignorant. But mothers have a sixth sense
when it comes to wayward sons.

– E. Kristin Anderson, 2012.

By Chris Giles of My Beautiful Paintings

Geriatric Sex Garden

I sized up his pink apparatus
under the flood moon light.
He grinned like a diamond
and gave like a gift.
Though white hair cools wind
and I live like my mother,
I’m young in the lather of night.

Helen Harvey, 9th April 2006


Click here if you suck


April is to poets as November is to novelists. And while NaNoWriMo’s Office of Letters and Light urges writers everywhere to indulge in a so-called “Script Frenzy” this April, I’ve always preferred the mellower drug of poetry.

NaPoWriMo: 30 days, 30 poems. I first heard of NaPo on April 1st 2006, and naturally I assumed it was an April fool. The idea grabbed me though, and after several hours’ agonizing over the potential humiliation I eventually decided, fool or not, it was a cool idea. I threw caution to the wind, announced my intention to friends, threw a party, got drunk (it was a Saturday night) and at midnight I sat on the windowsill and wrote a poem about getting drunk and sitting on a windowsill.


Why should I?

Because it’s fun. Because everyone has a lot of clogged up unpoetic rubbish in them trying to wriggle free as poetry. At the very least you can think of NaPo as poetic colonic irrigation.

Because sometimes you write good stuff. You write things you didn’t think you had in you. You end up looking for inspiration in the unlikeliest of places: Didcot railway station frinstance, sick puddles, motorways, aunts, Woolworths, the smell of bacon when there is no bacon.

When you write so much poetry in such a short space of time you get a chance to let go of the fear of damaging that blank white page. Liberate yourself.

Chaucer prefers to travel the old fashioned way


An Accident

I’ve stalled on the wrong side of the motorway.
Chaucer is on my bonnet, bloody.
O bugger.

20th April 2007


Writing 30 good poems is not the point.

Of the 121 poems I have ever written for NaPoWriMo (I unwisely got carried away in 2008) this is what I have achieved:

  • 8 published or soon-to-be published
  • 2 prize-winning
  • 1 Daily Deviation on deviantArt.

7.4% is, it has to be admitted, not a high rate of efficiency. But it’s not nothing either. Most of the poems I produced have potential I’ve never bothered to chase; or have provided a phrase, a thought, an image I’ve reused elsewhere. A number are in the wings, biding their time, waiting to pounce.


Seamonster’s Lament

I met a seamonster looking sorry for himself
on the High Street, and I asked
what was up.

I wanted to buy a card,
he said, from Woolworths,
for my Valentine’s date. Looks like
the wires are down between here
and the deep sea. No one told me
it was over.

This is the way the world ends, said I.

23rd April, 2009


Don’t be ashamed.

Hone your poetic muscles till they bulge from your cheesecloth smock. When you walk down the street strangers will swoon at the size of your massive creativity.

I haven’t NaPo’ed for two years, but by May 1st 2012 I intend to be a poetic gladiatrix once more. Join me.

1. Which writer pulls you out of your personal coma?
Diana Wynne Jones is always my go-to writer. DWJ writes plots that are compelling but intricate, in a style that is flawless yet invisible. You get dragged through effortlessly and you don’t feel cheap at the end because putting all the plot’s pieces together is usually quite difficult. She writes a sci-fi fantasy crossover, marketed at children and suitable for any age, and I wish I had written every one of her books. When I’m feeling comatose I read Fire and Hemlock or Howl’s Moving Castle, and remind myself I’m not as good as Diana Wynne Jones yet.

2. Who were you reading when you first started writing?
Who are you reading now?
When I first started writing it was Richard Adams’ Watership Down, which still makes me cry. My first “novel” was a heavily influenced cat version, six strays journeying to the big city. By the time I was 12, my favourite book was Fleabag and the Ring Fire (another cat) though when I attended a creative course at 13 it took me some time to realise that the teacher was Fleabag’s author, Beth Webb. These days I still read kid’s books, but I’m also pretty savvy on British classics, and I enjoy Meg Rosoff, Angela Carter, Iain Banks, Terry Pratchett and anyone who knows how to balance the serious with the absurd.

3. If your poems could come from a piece of anatomy, which part and how would they get out?
I think in my finger and toenails. I’d have 20 on the go at the same time, some of them growing quickly, some slow and very brief. 10 would be out in the open collecting life experiences (opening things, plucking things, scratching things), the other 10 would be very private and eccentric. When they grew long enough, I would chop each nail off and that would be a poem. If they grew too long they would break themselves off in protest.

4. If I came to visit you in the UK, for a week, where would you take me?  What would we do?
I’d probably try to dazzle you with History. Stone Henge, the Uffington White Horse, which is a chalk horse in a hillside beside a 3000-year old castle mound, and Wayland’s Smithy, a 5000 year old long barrow dedicated to the ancient smith god. We could go into Oxford to view students in silly gowns, see shrunken heads in the Pitt Rivers museum, and eat incredible scrambled eggs at Combibos coffee shop. And we’d have to have a proper afternoon cream tea, possibly in a Berkeley teashop after a tour of the castle and butterfly gardens.

5. Take us through a few of your publication credits? What was your first publishing experience like?
 My first poem ‘I’m trying to get to sleep’ was published when I was 9, in an anthology of poetry by Gloucestershire kids to celebrate the millennium. They sent me a proof, and they’d got a comma wrong, and I sent it back corrected in bold black pen. I’m still proud of that poem; my sense of metre was impeccable.

More recently I’ve been published in Polluto, the Poetry Society Online, etcetera, and Gloom Cupboard.  My flashfic ‘Rob Meets Pterodactyl’ is included in the Divertir anthology Under The Stairs.

6. What lit magazine do you most want to see yourself in?  And what lit mags do you always admire from afar?
I would love to see myself in Poetry, the Poetry Foundation’s magazine. Perhaps that’s aiming rather high? Magma and Granta are also on the hit list.

Art by Chris Giles of My Beautiful Paintings

7.  Tell us more about your teaching and creative writing courses?|
This weekend Lucinda Murray and I taught a course about twisted fairy tale poetry to 8-11 year-olds. This involved taking nine little girls to a witch’s cottage, introducing them to a jet black wolf in the woods, and indoctrinating them in the basics of feminism. It’s amazing their parents let them come. I do this sort of thing every couple of months, often at Kilve Court. Teenaged victims have been forced to ritually sacrifice flower pots to Sappho, write poems using fragments of poisonous lead slag, and listen to me bang on about Anglo-Saxon etymology for hours.

8. Aliens are invading Earth and only poetry can save us. But how?
Few people know that Sylvia Plath was from outer space, or that her thematic imagery is in fact an intricate code. She came to earth to warn us, but was forced to self-destruct when her human husband discovered her cosmic origin and threatened to out her. When the aliens of Sylvia’s home-world finally reach earth, two children studying Plath for some boring exams realise that the alien’s spaceships and messages have bizarre parallels in Plath’s poetry. The answer is there in verse, if only they have time to decode it….

9. What do you have planned for next few months? Publications, projects?
One big publication! DOG AT THE END OF THE WORLD is a collection of middle-grade to teen poems published by March Hamilton later this year. I’m posting sneaky previews on my own blog. And one big project! The Writing Circus is a roving creative writing course for kids and teens travelling between libraries and community centres and lead by myself and Beth Webb and it’s going to be super.

10. What is your favourite monument and why?
The Vimy Monument in France. I’m pretty sure it makes me a terrible person, but I like all the tragic, long-haired, naked men.

1. Who is your go-to writer when you’re feeling sort of bleh about writing?
It varies, dependent mostly on what state or phase I’m going through (you never ‘grow out’ of phases like they tell you in kid-hood). At the moment, the writer that has had a longstanding position in this phase has been Sonya Hartnett. If you’ve ever read OF A BOY you may understand why her work echoes so much my personal self and my creative self and I guess, has that same ‘appeal’ in the way I want to tell.  Poetry has always been mostly Australian poets and strangely, all women: Robyn Rowland, MTC Cronin, Dorothy Porter and Sylvia Plath. On the masculine spectrum, I admire so much Phillip Levine, William Butler Yeats, Phillip Larkin, David Sedaris and the likes of the Beats. But as with writing, reading is such a fluid thing and I think this is also the reason behind why I could never get a tattoo.

2. Who were you reading when you started writing? Who are you reading now?
Well, this is highly embarrassing and I’ll preface it by saying that I wasn’t a feminist at the age of 8. I loved Enid Blyton, I wrote numerous stories involving squirrels that joined the carnival, fairies and girls that ran away from home with an essential backpack of peanut butter, a pen and a sleeping bag. There was something essential in her work that conjured up anything-possible story lines, bizarre characters with human instincts. I wrote ice cream stories that may have been left out of the freezer too long. I am now reading the likes of Chuck Palahniuk (what a departure), writing that still has a magic realism bent but is about the ordinary.

3. What TV show most inspires your writing?
I think no one TV show inspires me, but perhaps it’s more about the way that television ‘shows’ and translates moments of clarity, climax, tragedy via cinema, there’s always poetry in that for me. For example, The Walking Dead is one of my favourite shows because of the way it’s told and shown. It’s like watching small installments of a high budget film, but it has humanity to it.

Flinder St. Station.

4. If I came to visit you in Melbourne for a week, where would you take me?  What would we do?
We’d definitely be going to a session at The Wheeler Centre, build onto the back of the State Library of Victoria, this houses most literary publications, presses and organisations but also hosts a range of engaging, thought provoking events. Melbourne’s literary heritage is internationally recognised as the world’s 2nd UNESCO City of Literature. The first city is Edinburgh, Melbourne town, Iowa, Dublin, Iceland. Anyway, enough city wankery. It’s also home to Voiceworks Magazine. I would take you to Abbotsford Convent that is now open to the public; it even has a Steiner school in it. But I’d take you there for Lentils Anything (make a donation to eat) and to sit on the lawns eating. I’d take you on a tram around Melbourne, because I love tram-travel. I’d take you back to my hometown, Warrandyte to sit by the river and eat freshly baked goods from ‘The Bakery’. It’s easy to fall in love here. It’s not even my birth place but it’s easy to want to stay forever and do so.

5. Take us through a few of your publication credits. Take us through them all!
My first ever paid publication (AUD $15) was a flash fiction piece featured online at It was one of the worst pieces I’ve ever written, albeit I was 17 and I was still writing amateur based things. From there, published a couple of times in the community college journal, Avant New Writing. Then began the publication journey via  Verandah Literary & Art Journal, Voiceworks Magazine, dotdotdash magazine,  Hands Like Mirrors, Soundzine, ReadThis and Hunger Mountain.

6. What lit magazine do you most want to see yourself in?  And what lit mag do you always buy even when you’re pinching pennies?
Going Down Swinging, Cordite and Meanjin. I subscribe to dotdotdash and I always get a Voiceworks Magazine, when I can I buy GDS and Meanjin, so I’m not very frugal with my pennies. Also, I’m very Australian-based!

7. If you were an all-powerful inventor of things, what would you invent to help yourself and other writers with the creative process?
I would bottle Muses. I mean, you might have to make a huge sacrifice to get hold of the bottle of goodness, but you’d have it right? This would probably backfire on me, and we’d all have great passions for things OTHER than writing.

Art by Chris Giles of My Beautiful Paintings.

8. Aliens are invading Earth and only your poetry can save us. But how?
You know how Superman’s weakness is Kryptonite? Do you see where I’m going with this? The Aliens I envision aren’t geared towards having the sort of capability of language and expression. This is how we will destroy them. Honestly, isn’t that the best idea? More exposure for poetry and saving the world one stanza at a time.

9. What do you have planned for next few months? Publications, projects?
There are always those looming creative deadlines to figure out what poems or prose pieces need to go where and of course, here at Metre Maids! It also looks like I’ll be structurally editing a couple of novels and also editing some poetry, you know… superhero stuff.

10. What’s your favorite dinosaur?  Or, if you dislike dinosaurs, what’s your favorite cryptid?
Oh, I think I am obsessed with the notion and possibility that there could be ghosts. Even if they don’t exist, the way that they pervade cultures and the stories that evolve around them are awe-inspiring. I love scaring myself to death with stories, supposed sightings, researching, etc!

We thought we’d kick off Metre Maids in the most exciting and self-involved way possible: Interviewing each other!  Today we have Sarah Stanton interviewing E. Kristin Anderson. Stay tuned for interviews with the rest of the Metre Maids!

1. Name a writer, a poet and a book of poetry that excite you. In that way.
Oh my gosh.  Okay.  This is hard.  The writer who excites me (and I presume you mean writer of non-poetry) is Francesca Lia Block.  And I think she would approve of being the writer who excites me in that way since her work has a touch of the erotic.  Her YA novels are so inspiring – her prose is so lyric and fluid.  She’s also a poet, but it’s her novels that inspire me most.  Whenever I’m having a literary dry spell I read her.  A poet that gets me going is Louise Glück.  Her narrative verse is so evocative and yummy.  Plus, she loves making classical literature and mythology references, and that hits me in that spot every time.  Book of poetry?  I know this is a total tsk tsk by most modern poets’ standards, but Emily Dickinson’s COMPLETE POEMS is always like, wowzers.  I open it to any page and I get tingles up my spine.

2. Who were you reading when you started writing? Who are you reading now?
When I started writing, like started started? Like as a little girl? I read a lot of Cricket Magazine, and Louis Sachar and, um, Emily Dickinson.  When I started being “serious” in college it was mostly what was assigned – my poetry professor introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop, William Matthews, Galway Kinnell, Philip Larkin, William Carlos Williams.  My classics professor re-introduced me to Catullus and Virgil.  Now I mostly read poetry that I find in lit mags, and poetry by YA authors like Francesca Lia Block and Naomi Shihab Nye.  And Emily Dickinson.  And Louise Glück.

3. Where do you get your ideas from? Yes, I’m asking this out of malice.

You’re evil.  But actually, right now, I get like 90% of my ideas from watching TV.  I know, a proper writer doesn’t even have cable.  But I love reruns of The X Files.  I love bizarro Discovery Channel documentaries about Bigfoot and sharks and people who believe they’re vampires.  I love writing down lines of dialogue from episodes of Law & Order and using them as the centerpiece for a poem.  The other 10% of my ideas come to me in the shower and I usually forget them while I’m drying my hair anyway.

E. & her friend Patrick laying on the concrete for no reason except to giggle and listen to "I'm On A Boat" over and over.

4. What sort of naughty things do you get up to when you’re not writing?
I like going to roller derby bouts in the summer and shouting cheers for my favorite roller girls.  I enjoy cooking bratwurst sausages on a stick at this park called Arkansas Bend right outside of Austin on Lake Somethingorother (we have too many man made lakes in Central Texas).  I like eating at food trucks and going to the mall.  I like going to my friends’ book signings and various writing/reading/library conferences.  I like grocery shopping.  And I like cake balls.  Also, television.  My favorite thing is just doing silly stuff with friends.  Being outside, laughing, feeling the love.  Also, reading.

5. Take us through a few of your publication credits. Take us through them all!
The first magazine that ever published me was Mimesis, edited by James Midgley.  Sadly it’s now gone under.  I’ve since had work in Controlled Burn, Etchings, Pinyon Poetry, Poetry New Zealand, Fuselit (Fox and Aquarium), Red Wheelbarrow (US), Verandah, The Wolf, Illumen, Plain Spoke, The Cimmarron Review, Hunger Mountain (before I was editing), Pearl, Illya’s Honey, RE:AL, Fourteen Hills, Umbrella, Soundzine, Pomegranate, Quay, Iota, The Roanoke Review, and Orbis Quarterly.  I think that covers it.  All of them.

6. Name your favourite lit magazines, both for reading and appearing in.
Fuselit.  Hands down.  I love them so much!  I’ve also been trying for years to get into Barrelhouse, because I think they’re brilliant.  Willow Springs, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Rattle.

7. What do you do when the block hits? What would you recommend I do?
If I’m writing a novel, I try to just skip the scene I’m working on and find the next scene where I know what happens and write that.  With poetry, it’s a little different.  I usually will watch TV or read or sit in a café and write down things I see and hear, write down phrases that sound cool, and freewrite on them.  I think journalling and freewriting is a great way to beat the block.  Pen, paper, go!

8. Aliens are invading Earth and only your poetry can save us. But how?
My poetry would be a secret code.  The aliens would totally ignore poetry since their brains are wired for math and hard science and they have evolved beyond needing art.  But we lowly humans, we still love art.  We see the value in poetry.  And it’s through these poems that we’re able to communicate.  It’s with poems that we build a giant stinkbomb, overwhelm the aliens, and send them packing.  Thank God for poems.


9. What do you have planned for the next few months? Publications, projects?
Oh good lord it feels like I’m always knee deep in projects.  I’m working right now on finishing up bits and bobs for DEAR TEEN ME, the anthology I edited with Miranda Kenneally.  The book comes out this fall from Zest Books and features letters from over 70 young adult authors to their teen selves.  It’s epic, in all the best possible ways.  I’m working on a first draft for a novella called GRUNGE which is about two teens dealing with the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994.  And I am scribbling away at poems that I’d like to include in a chapbook full of cryptids, UFOs, ghosties, and other unexplained phenomena.  I have no idea who will publish it, but I’m enjoying the process.  Oh!  And the COIN OPERA II anthology comes out this year, I believe, from Sidekick Books. It’s about video games. I have two poems in it.  They make me giggle.


Art by Chris Giles of My Beautiful Paintings.

10. What’s your favourite dinosaur or other prehistoric geek chic beast?
This is hard for me considering that I love sharks and I love crypozoology.  And of course I want to be like OMG VELOCIRAPTOR because, holy crap, right?  In the end though, it’s between Megolodon and Plesiosaur.  And I don’t think you can make me choose.  On the one hand, Megolodon is a giant, badass shark.  GIANT. BADASS. SHARK.  And Plesiosaur might still live in Loch Ness and Lake Champlain and various other lakes who claim to have lake monsters.  (I could go on.  I’ll spare you.  But if you’re curious I have plenty of literature to recommend.)  So there you have it.  Megalodon or Plesousaur.  We’d have to have a cage match.


Dear Reader,

In February of 2012 four poets and friends decided to start a blog.  Another blog.  Another poetry blog.

And we know what you’re thinking — why on earth do we need another poetry blog?  We kinda thought that, too.  We forged ahead anyway.  And in talking about it, it occurred to us that we could really make a go of this thing.  Talk about poetry in an accessible way.  Discuss the whimsy of poetry.  The joy of it, without the pretense, the pomp, or the circumstance.

We want to have fun with this.  We want our readers to enjoy it.  We want to share books and think about craft and talk to our favorite editors and writers.  We want to discuss resources for emerging and seasoned poets.  We want to consider the way we live poetry and the way we live prose and how hard it is to live both at the same time.  We want to fangirl (fanboy) lit mags and make a go at overcoming writer’s block. We want to be a part of the community, online and off, and to bring these communities together.  We want to have a giant, poetic group hug.

Does the world need another poetry blog?  Maybe not.  If not, we have the work of MS Paint genius, Chris Giles from My Beautiful Paintings to charm our way out of it.  We hope you like it.