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Poetry and prose on campus: E Hall’s poemball machine

Poem ball machine located on the right-hand side of Elizabeth Hall’s entrance.

Walking into Elizabeth Hall, one may notice a purple gumball machine, but this machine is not filled with gumballs. Instead, this machine holds small, round plastic balls that each contain a poem.

Students, faculty and any other visitors of Weber State University can pay a quarter and receive a ball that contains a poem inside.

Laura Stott, an instructor of English at WSU, is in charge of this poemball machine. Stott says she got the inspiration to create the poemball machine from Trish Hopkinson, a longtime poet, who created a similar poemball machine in Provo.

When Stott learned about Hopkinson’s creation, she thought it was a fun idea and wanted to recreate it at WSU.

Stott brought the idea to Metaphor, the campus student literary journal, and Sigma Tau Delta, the English honors society. Both groups agreed that it would be a good addition to campus and they wanted to make it happen, but it remained an idea for a couple of years.

“It was one of those things where you said, ‘oh that’s really cool,’ but it seemed kind of daunting to get the actual machine,” Stott said.

Stott worried the machine was too expensive until Weber Book Links, a community organization that plans literary events in Weber County, started the process of putting poemball machines around the state.

Community members can find two additional poemball machines in Ogden; one in the Weber County Library and the other in the Queen Bee Bookstore on Historic 25th Street.

After helping set up those machines, Stott realized the machines weren’t that expensive or involved to set up.

“We decided to run with it,” Stott said. “We went big and got the biggest machine.”

Stott explains that anyone is welcome to submit work to the poemball machine. It doesn’t have to only be poetry, it can also be prose or short stories.

“I’ve had students submit little micro-flash fiction or nonfiction. Even though it’s called the poemball machine it features prose as well,” Stott said.

Whatever a student decides to submit, must also meet a certain set of criteria to be featured in the machine. Outside of poetry, it should be no more than 200 words and for poetry there should be no more than 10 lines.

Writers can submit their work to [email protected].

Typically, the machine is relatively full, but recently there has been a small debate going on with those who come across the poemball machine.

Currently, people must pay one quarter to get a poem, but Stott has received feedback from students that no one carries around coins anymore.

“I like the idea of the process of paying for something. It seems to me like it adds value to getting the poems,” Stott said.

Stott said once they take out the pay mechanisms inside the machine they can’t be put back in. Currently the money from the machine goes towards printing the poems and purchase of the containers, but Stott says she’s going to talk to more students and maybe it will be free in the future.

Another potential future for the machine, Stott mentions, is having it moved to an alternative location on campus so more people can find it. Stott has recommended it be put in the Shepherd Union building so everyone on campus has the chance to see the featured work.

Stott explains that most of the students who know about it are already in Elizabeth Hall the majority of the time and she wants to share it with the rest of campus, who may not know about the twenty five cent student poems.

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Lexie Andrew
Lexie Andrew, Culture editor

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