Friday, October 31, 2008

Poetry Friday - The Love of Stationery Goods

If you want a Halloween poem, click here for a Google Books look at an early edition of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti (especially that horrible moment when the goblins are all over Lizzie, trying to mash ripe fruit into her mouth - yikes!) The painting to the right is from the edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham.

Meanwhile, here's a poem from me to all you stationery supply addicts:


I put four bits on the counter
and the box was mine.
Six yellow pencils fit there
side by side, I was perfectly addled,
I was a goner – even before I knew
the alphabet, I knew its cedar perfume –
I flew over the high-humped bridge
painted on the top, over the willow,
the m-stroke for a bird, everything
was suggestion then, before
the putting on of too fine a point.
People expected me to come
to my senses, save the change
in my burning pockets, after all
the box was wooden, cheap

Chinatown, but half a dollar
went a long way toward heaven
when heaven was closer.


It's always been my theory that you could predict who was going to be a writer by the way he or she behaved in stationary stores when young. An early love of pencils, pens, erasers, rulers, graph paper, tracing paper, architectural supplies, index cards, blank books, ledgers.....a love of those is a good predictor, for some reason, of a later love of words.

The poem was first published in The Threepenny Review. If you subscribe to just one literary journal, that's the one you should subscribe to - the editor is Wendy Lesser (who wrote the fascinating Pictures at an Execution and edited The Genius of Language: Fifteen Writers Reflect on Their Mother Tongue) and she fills every issue to the brim with wonderful essays, poems, stories, reviews and art (often photography). TTR is stimulating and intelligent, and it never disappoints. Think about giving a subscription to someone (even yourself!) as a gift.

To see the round-up this week for Poetry Friday, go to Sylvia Vardell's wonderful blog, Poetry for Children.


  1. Hi Julie,

    This is wonderful. I, too, am a stationery supply addict. Fine-point Sharpies, fountain pens with colored inks...
    Thanks for sharing, and for the link to The Threepenny Review!

  2. Thanks for the wonderful poem and heads up on The Threepenny Review. Love pencil boxes and fountain pens! :)

  3. Jama and Jennifer - Ooh, yes, fountain pens!

  4. Love it! Thanks for participating in Poetry Friday at PoetryforChildren this Halloween and for your kind "shout out!"

  5. Julie,

    Great poem. I still spend lots of money on paper goods and pencils. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in fifth grade. I'm so old that I can remember ink wells in our schools desks.

    Glad you liked my political poem. You are welcome to post a portion of it at your blog. I'm keeping my fingers crossed until all the election results are in.

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Julie! I love the last line, "half a dollar
    went a long way toward heaven
    when heaven was closer."

    I remember my first pencil box, too: Care Bears!