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Travis Nichols
Travis Nichols is a poet, novelist, and environmental activist. He is the author of Iowa, See Me Improving, Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder, and The More You Ignore Me. He works for Greenpeace.

Entries by Travis Nichols

Obama to Arctic: "Drop Dead"

(0) Comments | Posted May 14, 2015 | 4:11 PM

On Monday, President Obama gave Royal Dutch Shell permission to drill in the Alaskan Arctic this summer. It was the President's last, best chance to leave an historic environmental legacy that started at the top of the world. Now, while Obama is the first U.S. president to acknowledge...

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"All My Poems Are Social Crucifixions": A Conversation About Robert Creeley's Letters

(0) Comments | Posted March 24, 2015 | 3:47 PM

It is impossible to conceive of post-modern poetry without Robert Creeley. And poetry -- in whatever iteration it is in right now -- has not been the same since Creeley died in 2005.

Thankfully, the poet's work still has much to teach us, and works like Creeley's

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How You Can #SaveTheArctic With Your #WorstJoke

(4) Comments | Posted February 10, 2015 | 2:22 PM

Why did the global oil giant go to the Arctic?

To drill for more of the oil that's causing catastrophic climate change and massive Arctic melting in the first place!!!!

Shell's plans for this summer are like a really bad joke. Like, literally, the WORST joke I can think of. Corny set-up, bad timing, and then total groan-inducing punchline.

Millions of people have already taken action to help stop Shell from heading up to Alaska this summer, but it still seems people don't quite get the total absurdity of it all--one of the most reckless oil companies on Earth is going to one of America's most delicate ecosystems to drill for one of the most extreme and destructive form of energy we have.

Shiza! It's crazy!

That's why Greenpeace is launching a project--with Lewis Black, Michael Showalter, Shalyah Evans, and hundreds of other participants -- called "Arctic Drilling is No Joke." And we're inviting YOU to participate so we can help tell Shell and the Obama administration how much flop sweat Arctic drilling will to produce.

Here's how you can join the #WorstJoke party:

Use your phone or webcam to record yourself telling the worst joke you can think of, tag it #WorstJoke & #SaveTheArctic, share it on Facebook, Instagram, Vine, or Twitter, and then challenge your friends to do worse by tagging them in our post. I know you know some terrible joke tellers.

Your Dad, your Uncle Duey, your Aunt Jen, or your friend Kyle. They're all reliably terrible punsters, jokesters, and riddlers, and we need them all to save the Arctic. We'll feature the jokes on our site -- -- and if you share your video and tag it #WorstJoke and #SaveTheArctic, we'll feature yours on the site, too.

Remember, no matter how bad your worst joke may be, Arctic drilling is worse.

Why? Because climate change has put the Arctic in grave danger. Instead of protecting the Arctic for all of us, Shell is using the crisis as an opportunity to drill for more of the oil causing climate change in the first place. If we don't stop them, the Arctic could disappear forever. And this won't just affect Alaskans. The Arctic helps stabilize the climate, so burning more fossil fuels means less sea ice, and less sea ice means more extreme effects of climate change around the world.

So, if you want to save the planet, start at the top of the world.

Sadly, oil companies like Shell are giving up on clean energy and betting on a fossil fuel future--and the Obama administration is letting them. They know there are alternatives to oil, gas, and coal, but they'd prefer to rake in the profits now and not worry about the future.

Even worse, an Arctic oil spill would be catastrophic. The Obama administration's own experts agree that there's a 75% chance of a major oil spill if Shell goes forward in Alaska, but they're letting them go forward anyway. Shell proved in 2012, it is NOT Arctic ready, and, more importantly, the Arctic will never be Shell-ready.

Greenpeace supporters know this is the fight of a generation, and they see what's happening in the Arctic right now as a turning point in the fight against fossil fuels. That's why millions of people around the world have become Arctic defenders, with more joining every day.

We'd love to have you help spread the word with your friends, and hopefully we can help tell the world that exploiting a pristine wilderness for more of the fossil fuels putting it in peril in the first place is super not funny.

Together we can tell Shell and President Obama, "Arctic Drilling is No...

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LEGO Quits Shell Over Arctic Drilling -- Who's Next?

(18) Comments | Posted October 9, 2014 | 7:52 PM

Shell is running out of places to hide. Today, LEGO announced it will be ending its 50-year relationship with the oil company after millions of people around the world called on the toymaker to put the partnership on ice.

Over the summer, LEGO fans saw the company...

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What Can a 19th Century Arctic Shipwreck Tell Us About the 21st Century's Most Wicked Problem?

(0) Comments | Posted August 16, 2014 | 3:50 PM

Hampton Sides has written one hell of an Arctic adventure story. In the Kingdom of Ice is the tale of Lieutenant George Washington De Long and his crew aboard the USS Jeannette who, in 1879, attempted to find the North Pole through the Arctic. Their ship left from...

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Everything Is Not Awesome in LEGOland

(2) Comments | Posted July 24, 2014 | 12:09 PM


LEGO holds a special place in the hearts and minds of children and families around the world. But everything is not awesome in LEGOland. LEGO is partnering with Shell on a global advertising campaign that includes co-branded toys, billboards, celebrity endorsements,...

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11 Questions for Poet and Essayist Elisa Gabbert

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2014 | 7:21 PM

Elisa Gabbert is a poet and essayist whose most recent book, The Self Unstable (Black Ocean), is a vibrant humming meditation on how we make our selves out of stories, data, and suggestion. Gabbert works in the tradition of the selfie, if we can agree that the tradition...

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Could Poetry Start an Educational Revolution?

(5) Comments | Posted January 2, 2014 | 4:01 PM

Dorothea Lasky is a force of nature. Not only has she published three full-length books and numerous chapbooks of magnificent poetry, she is also a fierce advocate for placing creativity at the core of childhood education. She is the co-editor of Open the Door:...

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Bonnie "Prince" Billy Sings a Song for Arctic 30 Captain Peter Willcox (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted November 25, 2013 | 2:05 PM

Peter Willcox is the American captain of the Arctic Sunrise, the Greenpeace ship Russian authorities seized at gunpoint in international waters on September 19th. The day before, activists had attempted to hang a protest banner on the Prirazlomnaya, the oil rig that was to become the first active offshore rig in the Arctic, but the Russian military countered with gunfire and knives, and then they hauled all 30 activists, crew members, and journalists to prison where they have been for the past two months under charges of "piracy" and "hooliganism." Last week, 29 of the Arctic 30, including Peter WIllcox, were granted bail. They are now out of prison, but they can't leave Russia, and the threat of years in prison or a labor camp still hangs over all of them.

The case has led to an international outcry, with everyone millions of people from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to Madonna calling for the release of the Arctic 30. You can join them by signing the petition here.

Captain Willcox was doing what he has done for his entire adult life, since he sailed with Pete Seeger on the Clearwater, since he captained the Rainbow Warrior when the French government bombed it in 1985, and since he helped document and clean up the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon disaster --he was working to save the planet and all its life from unnatural destruction.

He is a hero, not a hooligan. He knows catastrophic climate change will be intensified dramatically if we continue to allow carbon pollution to melt the Arctic, and he knows that not even the best and brightest from the oil industry can prevent a spill in that remote and delicate Arctic ecosystem. He sailed to save the Arctic, and now he's captive to the Russian legal system.

It's not right, and it must end.

Last year, Bonnie "Prince" Billy came aboard the Esperanza when it was docked in Seattle, before it sailed to the Alaskan Arctic to protest Shell's plans to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. We talked about life on board, how it wasn't so different from life on tour, or on a film set. All of these endeavors take collective vision, collaborative effort, and strong, intelligent leadership.

By all accounts, Peter Willcox is an excellent captain.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy sang this song for Peter on the docks in Annapolis, Maryland. The original is on his album Wolfroy Goes to Town, but he changed the last verse for Peter. The song now goes like this:

When he'd disappeared into hazard I'd feared
I was now meant to sail on my own

There is a place on the open sea
You will say it is like any other
It has an air of importance to me
As it waits for the hull of my brother
It had been my thought that the power he got
Couldn't be there without what I gave him
And now I find a good part of my mind
Will be worthless unless I help save him

He ain't here ain't here
I can't handle this lack

And now
Want my captain back

Peter and all of his colleagues have been granted bail, but they still aren't free. It's time for this injustice to end. President Putin, I want my captain back. We all do. Free the Arctic...

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Into the Vortex: An Interview with Paul Killebrew

(0) Comments | Posted October 10, 2013 | 8:47 PM

Once you read Paul Killebrew's meditative, funny, and often strikingly lyrical work, it is very hard to stop thinking about it. With so much forgettable poetry in the world, this memorable strangeness is a minor miracle. Slippery lines such as, "Sometimes we blubbered through the fallout / of...

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"Perpetual Delight": 10 Questions for Poet Ron Padgett

(0) Comments | Posted October 7, 2013 | 11:07 AM

Ron Padgett is a national treasure. He's published, edited, and translated dozens of collections of poetry and prose, and over the past fifty years he has been an influential and necessary force in American letters. After coming to New York City from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early '60s,...

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Poetry Best Sellers of 2010

(2) Comments | Posted December 8, 2010 | 1:58 PM

Every week, the Poetry Foundation compiles information from Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales from more than 4,500 retail booksellers -- from Borders and to 400 smaller, independent bookstores. This information leads to our weekly best seller lists for contemporary poets, anthologies, and children's poetry.

This is...

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Howl on the Red Carpet

(3) Comments | Posted September 24, 2010 | 11:02 AM

The red carpet for a movie about a poem is small, but it's still red. Here at the IFC Center in New York for the premiere of Howl the press people are complaining that yeah, it's red, but it's too crowded, and there isn't enough room for the camera equipment...

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Howl Is James Franco's Girlfriend

(11) Comments | Posted September 15, 2010 | 4:03 PM

Howl starring James Franco. It sounds like it's going to be another biopic or period drama like most -- all? -- movies about poets, like Sylvia, Bright Star, Il Postino, Barfly. Movies where the idea of poetry trumps the thing itself. You might hear a clip of a poet reading...

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The E-Book Ugly Stick

(13) Comments | Posted July 14, 2010 | 5:35 PM

As sales of e-books on various platforms continue to rise -- Publisher's Weekly reported a 176% increase over the past year -- poetry appears to be getting lost in the shuffle.

Hillel Italie filed a story this week for the AP detailing how contemporary poetry...

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The Poetry Feminaissance

(1) Comments | Posted June 11, 2010 | 12:52 PM

Are you a poet? Do you feel overwhelmed by negativity? Feel like there's no hope for a poet in this world? Especially a female poet? Well don't despair. Spend some time with Amy King. She's the author of Slaves to Do These Things (Blazevox), and, with Ana Bozicevic,...

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Let Us Now Praise Undead Poets

(2) Comments | Posted May 13, 2010 | 12:56 PM

Are all poets dead poets? Not a super cheerful thought here in the midst of a rainy Chicago spring, but it would solve some things if it were true. The ceaseless debate over whether or not poetry is relevant to the living and breathing getters and spenders of the world--most...

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Pulitzer Prize Winner Rae Armantrout, 2010's Miss Thing-In-Itself, Answers the Big Questions

(0) Comments | Posted April 14, 2010 | 11:00 AM

On Monday, the Pulitzer Prize jury awarded Versed by Rae Armantrout their 2010 award for poetry. The collection is, they said, "striking for its wit and linguistic inventiveness, offering poems that are often little thought-bombs detonating in the mind long after the first reading."

As it so happens, Armantrout delivered...

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National Poetry Month: Breeding Hyperlinks Out of the Dead Land

(6) Comments | Posted April 5, 2010 | 2:14 PM

It's National Poetry Month, so media outlets all across the country are shining a spotlight on the art form they normally ignore, mangle, or treat with derision. Hooray!

Every year some spittle gets flecked from speakers who question the value of a month specifically set aside for poetry, but...

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The nOulipo's S&M Aesthetic Will Set You Free

(3) Comments | Posted March 23, 2010 | 11:52 AM

On the bus, I watch two elementary school girls in the midst of an argument. One, a big slovenly thing, rains profanity down on the other, a prim looking girl in pigtails. The prim girl's face twitches in paroxysms of rage and frustration as her astonishingly foul-mouthed peer berates her,...

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