Like all websites of a certain age, the Garden of Words has grown and evolved over time. Most content on the site now deals with poetry, books, Boston’s thriving literary scene, and the wheel of the year, with occasional forays into memoir, technology, queer experience, and social justice. You know — for kids.

About the Poet

Photo of Frances Donovan (Okelle) pointing at a picture of a cat pasted on a wall
Frances Cat points at Street Art Cat

Frances Donovan’s work has appeared or is upcoming in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Snapdragon, Marathon Literary Review, Ishka Bibble, 823 on High, Lyrical Somerville, PIF Magazine, The Writer, Chronogram, Perimeter, Gender Focus, Oddball Magazine, and The dVerse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry. She holds a degree in English from Vassar College, is a member of the Workshop for Publishing Poets, and has led workshops at Toni Amato’s Write Here Write Now. She curated the Poetry@Prose reading series and has appeared as a featured reader at numerous venues in the Northeast, including the Newton Public Library and the PoemWorks Reading Series. She enjoys candle-lit dinners, long walks on the beach, and writing about herself in the third person. A native Californian and failed New Yorker, she will never be a true Bostonian until she can forgive the drunk Red Sox fan who pasted a “Yankees Sucks” bumper sticker over her car’s rainbow flag. You can find her climbing hills in Roslindale and online at www.gardenofwords.com, twitter.com/okelle, www.facebook.com/frances.donovan.poet, and plus.google.com/+FrancesDonovan.

Brief History of a Website

The Garden of Words (originally Frances’s Garden Party) was born on the web in 1996, when people published artisanal websites on locally-owned Internet Service Providers and didn’t even know they were being hipsters.  Those were heady, wild days when the world referred to the WebNet with clunky metaphors like the “Information Superhighway” and added “cyber” as a prefix to everything (cyberspace, cybersex, cyber-washing-the-dishes). People eschewed their meatspace names and went by handles, operating anonymously, fearlessly, and sometimes quite rudely in mostly text-based spaces like IRC channels, MUDs, ListServs, and newsgroups. In those days, Frances used the handle Okelle, a name derived from an obscure bit of folklore about the Kelles, who were either priestesses or harlots, depending on whether you were an Irish heathen or a Christian missionary.

Brief History of a Webmaster

Frances had originally planned to win the Nobel Prize for poetry by the age of 30, but the gods had other plans for her. After graduating from Vassar she spent some time working as a temporary secretary in a crappy little town in upstate New York, smoking pot every night and wondering why her life wasn’t going anywhere. Then things got worse. She ended up in Hartford, Connecticut, where she continued failing to break into the traditional publishing industry. Through a series of fortunate events, she did happen upon a fledgling new industry and embarked on a completely unexpected career doing stuff that people still think is pretty cool today. Al Gore may have invented the Internet, but Frances and her fellow gen-exers built most of it.

In 1998 she met a nice girl in Provincetown. They defied the lesbian U-Haul stereotype and commuted back and forth from Boston to Hartford until Frances got tired of living in her car. After she moved to Boston, she discovered that people wanted to pay a lot more for coders than writers (aka “content providers”). She worked really hard but never won the stock-option lottery. After the dot-com bomb, Frances started her own business in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She had many exciting adventures in self-employment until a nonprofit lured her back to the Dark Side with the promise of free bookkeeping.

Binky says to Akbar, "I've just been through the love blender"
Love is Hell, by Matt Groening, a web comic printed on dead trees in the late 1980s.

Frances was fortunate enough to leave her second domestic partnership just before the Federal government forced everybody to get gay-married. She really, really enjoyed being single for most of her 30s and has lots of interesting stories to tell about it, but this isn’t that kind of blog. After a few more trips through the love blender, she met a nice boy, which was a total surprise because she’d always figured she’d end up living in a hippie commune with a butch dyke who liked to bake bread. Instead, she moved from her beloved Cambridge to be with a man who has more lesbian friends than she does. Today all those ladies are married with babies, and she and her cisgendered, male, heterosexual domestic partner live together with their two cats. Because stereotypes are for losers.

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