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Ollie Shane ’24 on Finding Purpose and People Through Poetry

May 1, 2024 Peyton Davis '26
Ollie Shane, '24

Senior Ollie Shane’s forthcoming collection of poetry, Notes From the Void, has been accepted by Wild Ink Publishing. 

From the publisher: 

“COVID, institutionalization, coming out, and Kurtz and Marlowe’s relationship in Heart of Darkness are among many of the topics that Ollie Shane discusses in ‘notes from the void.’ Like in 'Brute' by Emily Skaja, and fellow Wild Ink writer Johnny Francis Wolf’s ‘Men Unlike Others,’ honesty and a painstakingly observant view of their subjects is what guides them through the work. Come for the transparency about mental health, stay for the numerous literary references.” 

Shane, a Literatures in English major and history minor from Los Angeles, Calif., says he wrote his first poem in sixth grade for a history assignment on World War II. “[The poem] was me looking at atrocities from the perspective of a dog… it wasn’t very great but it’s still in my Google Drive.” 

Shane’s first poem has since been joined by excellent company. His writing continued in the pages of “a tiny little journal that my dad got at the Metropolitan Art Museum,” says Shane. Today, his work resides in the pages of numerous literary magazines and anthologies. Shane’s poems can be found in Milkweed Literary Magazine, Thirty West Press, Palindrome Journal, and New Voices Magazine, among others.  

Notes From the Void will be Shane’s second chapbook. His first, I Do It So It Feels Like Hell, was published by Bottlecap Press in 2022. Bottlecap describes the collection as “an essential book for understanding the mental health system from someone who lived through it.” 

Shane believes his first chapbook to be both a self-reflection and an entry into a larger mental health conversation. “Someone from Haverford was like ‘Oh my God, I just saw your poems and they’re so comforting’… it’s the weirdest and best feeling.” While I Do It So It Feels Like Hell was born out of an urgent desire to get his words into public spaces, “[the] second one was a slow process… mostly going through my Google Drive and thinking ‘which poems work?’” says Shane. He is currently working on a third chapbook about the Beatniks

Surprisingly, Shane hasn’t taken any poetry writing classes in the Bi-Co, but he says that “the poetry in my [English] classes has opened other ways of understanding, and then that helps me with writing. There’s a lot of advice of ‘you need to write by reading,’ and I think that’s very true.” Shane mentions Jane Hedley of Bryn Mawr and Stephen Finley of Haverford as professors that have expanded his horizons within the literary canon.  

Shane is as prolific a reader as he is a writer. “Around eleventh grade, we were reading a lot of poetry from one of those standardized textbooks; there weren’t many contemporary poets… it stops around 2010.” Shane says that what he couldn’t find in class, he found in The New Yorker. Thanks to his dad’s subscription, Shane discovered poets like Danez Smith, author of the poetry collection Don’t Call Us Dead

As for other authors that have inspired him, Alan Ginsburg is quick to be acknowledged. “I have this big, collected edition from my grandfather… [Ginsburg’s poems] were also the first time I’d ever read about any mentions of homosexuality, besides AIDS.” In this way, poetry has always been a medium of discovery for the young writer. 

But finding your own voice in a noisy crowd is never easy. Shane describes the experience as long and interactive. “When I was a kid, I loved Ray Bradbury’s short stories, and I was like ‘I want to write as lyrically as that.’ Then I tried writing short stories, and I was like ‘no.’ There was a lot of [work] where I was imitating, but it just took a lot of reading, and also feedback from people, even in rejections. At some point you stop writing like Ray Bradbury. Once you have written enough, and people have told you enough, you actually find your own style. But it takes time.”  

Shane expresses immense gratitude toward the people that have supported him through this journey. Referring to magazines closing and publishing stress, Shane says, “writing is still there; the community is still there. And that’s what I’ve really enjoyed. At first, it was this abstract idea of stuff I’ve read in books. And now, these are people I know. Like the people at Nimbus… people include me, and that makes me feel very happy.” 

After graduation, Shane says he intends to pursue a master’s in library science—in conjunction with his poetry, of course. Shane’s writings, newsletter, and social media can be found on his website. The poet himself can be found reading at Philadelphia poetry clubs, interning for independent presses, and working in Canaday Library.  

No matter what the future holds, Shane will never stop writing. “If I feel weird, it’s probably because I haven’t put pen to paper.” 

Notes From the Void is slated for release early next year.