Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Foraging for wood on the mountain

This time the wooded

mountain gave up words. Wild,
unbridled verbs thickened the air.
Nouns feathered the ground. It was clear
the leaves were distressed, by the harshness,
the unveiling, as if secrets and belief
were meant to hide forever. No one knows
how the trees’ bark peeled, how to distinguish
the truth among so many naked trunks. Versions
differ. Too many adjectives were lost. What is
disaster, anyway? Words can only describe sorrow.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim
Inspired by Jack Gilbert's poem.

Flurries and wind

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Quotation fun - Do you save all your drafts?

The Hand of the Poet: Poems and Papers in Manuscript, by Rodney Phillips, Susan Benesch, Kenneth Benson, and Barbara Bergeron, is based on an exhibition (in two parts) of poetic manuscripts at The New York Public Library in 1995, 1996, and 1997.

The book contains an introduction by Dana Gioia titled, "The Magical Value of Manuscripts." Here is an excerpt:

Dana Gioia wrote:
The manuscripts of a poem can be divided into three general categories — the working drafts, the final manuscript, and fair copies. Each type of manuscript affords certain insights into the author and the work. The working drafts (or worksheets) of a poem reveal the author's creative process. If all the worksheets survive, they track the poem's development from the author's initial impulse to the text's final form. Many authors, however, discard their drafts.

Do you save all your drafts?

I have a file cabinet filled with scraps of paper and whole sheets of countless revisions from the past 27 years. I don't know what initial impulse moved me to keep my drafts when I was a teenager, but after seeing an exhibition of Sylvia Plath's crayon scribblings at the Morgan Library in the early 1990's, I began to save everything.

Go here to see what other poets have said. . .

After rain. . .

. . . comes sunlight.

Monday, December 25, 2006

One more cookie

If I eat one more cookie I will explode.

Merry Christmas!

Tea on Christmas morning. What could be better?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Autumn Sky Poetry - Number 4 available


The fourth issue of Autumn Sky Poetry is now online.

Read poems by Robert Bolick, Laurie Byro, Jeffrey Calhoun, Lacie Clark, Laurel K. Dodge, Guy Kettelhack, David LaBounty, Duane Locke, Corey Mesler, and Cynthia Neely.

—It's all about the poetry.

Christine Klocek-Lim, Editor

Monday, December 11, 2006

Poem Spark Dec. 11-18 - the Ode

Greetings fellow poets!

Today's sunrise swept over the land quietly, highlighting the yard and bare trees with delicate shades of rose and grey. A few stray cirrus clouds broke up the light behind the horizon. Perhaps the only way to describe how beautiful it felt to see the sun come over the windowsill would be to compose an ode. has a lovely little explanation of the history of the ode and the most well-known forms of this particular form of poetry: Poetic Form: Ode.

However, what struck me most after reading through the page was the intent of this particular type of poem, "the ode can be generalized as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present" This is too dry a recitation of definition. When I think of an ode, I think of my last bike ride, or my grandmother's funeral, or the strange feeling that swept over me when my son's first smile crept across his face. It is the lyric joy or sorrow of the moment or thing that inspires one to write an ode.

This week's spark: write an ode. Don't worry about fitting the poem into a formal robe, instead, write an irregular ode. Write an ode that is completely free, or that rhymes, or that feels like a sonnet, but isn't quite. Let the poem choose its own way, and focus instead on the thing, the reason, the person for which the ode exists.

Here are some examples for you to use as a guide:

Robert Creeley America

Mary Oliver The Black Snake

Dorianne Laux Girl in the Doorway

John Keats Ode on a Grecian Urn

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Quotation fun - Are poets introverts or extroverts?

In the Winter 2006 issue of Rattle, Alan Fox (editor-in-chief) interviews Jane Hirshfield.

Jane Hirshfield wrote:
I think two kinds of people become poets. Extroverts who go out and entertain the family friends, and introverts who hide in the bedroom and put what they write under the mattress. Allen Ginsberg, I imagine, was the first kind; I was the second. For me, words were not about pleasing or entertaining others but about creating a place of refuge, where I could find something out about what it means to have and be a self.

Which are you, introvert or extrovert? Although I enjoy a good conversation once in a while, I know I am an introvert. I appreciate silence.

Do you think a great poet must be either an introvert, or an extrovert? Of course, I'm inclined to think that the truly excellent poets are introverts, if only because they have the time to themselves to work on their poems. However, one could argue that the extroverts are the poets with more life experience, and thus, more important things to say.

Are any poets you know of both introverted and extroverted?

If you'd like see what others have said about this, go here.

It doesn't get much better than this

Me and my new mountain bike; a birthday gift from my husband. I can't think of anything I like better than a good ride on a beautiful day. . .

Monday, November 27, 2006

Poem Spark Nov. 27 - Dec. 4 - Synesthesia

Greetings fellow poets. Several days ago I read an article in LiveScience about synesthesia: in poetry, the use of language that fuses imagery from one sense to another, from the Greek words for "joined feelings." Some examples are: loud hands, bitter colors, a cold voice.

This technique has been used in poetry to great effect because it opens up a world of connotation that cannot otherwise be stated so simply. From comes this explanation of how Keats used synesthesia in his poetry:

Keats's imagery ranges among all our physical sensations: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, temperature, weight, pressure, hunger, thirst, sexuality, and movement. Keats repeatedly combines different senses in one image, that is, he attributes the trait(s) of one sense to another, a practice called synaesthesia. His synaesthetic imagery performs two major functions in his poems: it is part of their sensual effect, and the combining of senses normally experienced as separate suggests an underlying unity of dissimilar happenings, the oneness of all forms of life. Richard H. Fogle calls these images the product of his "unrivaled ability to absorb, sympathize with, and humanize natural objects."

Keats' poem, Ode to a Nightingale, uses synesthesia—for example:

"In some melodious plot / Of beechen green" (stanza I), combines sound ("melodious") and sight ("beechen green").

Here are some other examples of poems that use synesthesia:

Arthur Rimbaud The Seekers of Lice and Vowels, one of the more famous synesthesia poems. According to

In addition to drawing concerted scientific interest, the phenomenon of synesthesia started arousing interest in the salons of fin de siecle Europe. The French Romantic poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire wrote poems which focused on synesthetic experience. Baudelaire's Correspondances (1857) (full text available here) introduced the Romantic notion that the senses can and should intermingle.

More poetic synesthesia examples:

Ann Stafford Listening to Color

Jim Harrison Birds Again

This week's spark: write a poem that uses synesthesia. Good luck, be creative!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Check out "Simply Haiku"

Some of my photos are in this issue of Simply Haiku, with my friend Janet Lynn Davis' luminous poetry. After clicking to enter the site and current issue, click on the Modern Haiga section.

Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
Winter 2006, Volume 4, Number 4

Catch Episode 17 of The Countdown, miPOradio's poetry show:

powered by ODEO

Hosted by Bob Marcacci, this episode features poems by:

- Robert Bohm: All This
- Brian Boutwell: untitled
- Ash Bowen: Broken Sonnet to the Building Super
- Mackenzie Carignan: Fascicles
- Christine Klocek-Lim: Once the Leaf Falls
- John Korn: In Belly Wood Grove
- Lilith Nassuri: retro
- Luc Simonic: You, Time & Silly Dad - As of November.
- Harry K. Stammer: Terror 29

Whenever a writer is unable to record their poem, Julie Carter reads the poem for THE COUNTDOWN.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Poem Spark Nov. 13-20 - the Cento

Greetings fellow poets!

Some days when you wake up, it's raining and you're out of coffee (or tea, in my case). Sometimes the alarm doesn't go off and you dash into your car a half-hour late. By the time you return home, you're wet, hungry, and you have a wicked headache from caffeine deprivation. This is the kind of day when writing anything seems impossible. This is a cento day.

According to, the definition of a cento is:

From the Latin word for "patchwork," the cento is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets. Though poets often borrow lines from other writers and mix them in with their own, a true cento is composed entirely of lines from other sources. Early examples can be found in the work of Homer and Virgil.

For the complete page on centos, go here: Poetic Form: Cento.

So, since the forecast here is calling for rain at least through Thursday, it looks like tomorrow and the day after will be a cento day, too. Your poem spark mission for this week: write a cento. Don't stress-out. Feel free to mix up the lines with some of your own. Feel free to use just the end-of-line words from another poem for yours. Feel free to use just a title. It's difficult to light a candle in the rain, but with the right spark, anything is possible.

If you're looking for poems to steal (uh, I mean borrow) from, here are a few favorites:

Eleanor Wilner Moon Gathering

Anzhelina Polonskaya Sky

Stanley Kunitz The Portrait

Jane Hirshfield A Hand

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Once the leaf falls

Your blue jacket is not the sky.
My hands are not skilled in all
things, as you once believed
long before your fingers grew
as strong as mine. Understanding
seems easy as you dismount
the bus, your backpack dangled
carelessly behind. The trees
above us do not interest you.
I document your footsteps
anyway, memorize the residue
of your childhood left behind
in the thick shadow of an oak
and its easy release of acorns
scattered into bits on the ground

as today’s wind moves your hair
aside, and not for the first time.
Suddenly your chin is strange.
My welcome falls into the breached
door of a future. Years from now
you will no longer be so pleased
to see me. Each week’s phone
call will fall upon the wry
ears of a man concerned
with different things

than those that interest me
now on this walk home beneath
turning leaves. Soon they will fall
into piles where I will pull you,
laughing as we jump into the damp
chaff of trees as though the weather
to come was not cold, not the end
of this year, not a difficult movement
into a season of harsh revelation.
You have no idea what bare branches
await, nearly broken already
from the collective descent
of autumn.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's election day in the USA

Did you vote today? I voted around 9 am and at my rural Pennsylvania polling location, I was voter # 126. According to the workers there, that's an unusual turnout for that early in the morning.

I took both of these photos in 2001. The first is the view out of one of the windows in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, taken in February. The second is at Ringwood Manor in New Jersey, taken in May.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quotation fun — Is political poetry valid in the USA?

These quotations are from the book, "Giving Their Word — Conversations with Contemporary Poets," edited by Steven Ratiner. The quotations are taken from the chapter, "Carolyn Forché — The Poetry of Witness," who Ratiner interviewed in 1994.

This first excerpt is taken from page 148:
Steven Ratiner wrote:
One of my first questions concerned her reputation as a "political poet," a category generally disparaged in American Letters and viewed as a hybrid of the partisan polemicist and the benighted idealist. Her response enveloped the better part of the day and, in the process, provided powerful insights into the politics of language and the education of a young woman writer in the realpolitik of the literary world.

This second excerpt is taken from pages 156-157:
Carolyn Forché wrote:
"By 1980, it had become apparent to me that many Salvadorans had invested their time and even risked their lives to educate me about the situation in their country. And their hope, finally, was that I would come back to the U.S. and talk about it here. They didn't realize that . . . discussing the circumstances that gave rise to the Salvadoran war wasn't something expected of poets in my country and we wouldn't be considered a viable source of information. I tried to explain, but because Latin Americans esteem poets so highly, they didn't understand."

To see the rest of this conversation, click here to enter the discussion forum and view the comments.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

surprise! I'm in Abalone Moon

I was quite surprised today to receive an email from Abalone Moon with a link to the latest issue: Animals. The surprising thing: one of my poems is in the issue, when I had abandoned all hope of hearing back from the editors. This makes today a good start for my favorite month of the year!

My poem: Early man was hunted by birds.

Autumn in Pennsylvania

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Poem Spark Oct. 30-Nov. 6 - Spooky Poems


Because today is the day before Halloween, I think it is fitting that we dedicate this week's spark to our favorite spooky poems. The first piece of poetry that I remember as spooky was from Shakespeare's Macbeth:
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

It still brings a chill to my spine. Such ominousness! There are so many more, and a great place to begin to read them is on's front page: Poems in the Graveyard. From there it's only a short click to this next page: The Graves of Poets.

I read the list of poets and their gravesites. Surely the spookiest is that of Hart Crane, "Drowned while returning to New York from Mexico, Body not recovered." Of course, I clicked his page link and found this gem of a poem, At Melville's Tomb. How fitting! Here are the first few lines:
Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men's bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

Almost prescient, these words. Did Crane know where his death would find him? Perhaps.

This week's spark: write a spooky poem. Simple enough, yes? Or, if you cannot bear the walk into darkness, post a link to your favorite spooky poem (title and author if there is no link). Good luck! Happy hunting.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Busy, busy

Blogging has been scarce lately because I've been very busy with Real Life. My sister is opening a store: Deborah's Interiors and Gifts, and has asked me for some prints of my photos to sell. Opening day is Friday, and we're all very excited (and insanely busy).

The Guardian's Poetry Workshop

I'm thrilled that another of my poems has appeared on the Guardian's Poetry Workshop shortlist. This workshop's theme on ekphrasis was written by Amy Newman. Checkout my poem, How to perceive red, and Newman's comments here: Words on pictures.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Poem Spark Oct. 16-23 - the Poet's Poem

Greetings and Salutations!

Every day, once my house has sighed quietly in the wake of two kids gone to school and the tea in my cup begins to paint the air with ephemeral threads of steam, my thoughts turn to poetry. How can I describe this silence? What does it mean to spend time reading poems? What is the Spotlight Poem today on

Inevitably, I put these thoughts away in order to go about my day, but I always hope I can find a few minutes to jot down a phrase or two that might grow into a poem with enough care and attention. This is important to me, but I'm not sure why. What is it that makes me want to collect words? Why do poets love to play with language? The answers are as many and varied as there are poems in the world.

Here is an essay by Amy Lowell that speaks about The Poet's Trade. In this short piece, she outlines her belief that a poem must be crafted, "As a matter of fact, the poet must learn his trade in the same manner, and with the same painstaking care, as the cabinet-maker." Another poem written by Heather McHugh, begins as a narrative about poets traveling and follows them as they speculate about poetry and its root meaning: What He Thought. It is in the end of the poem where a greater meaning becomes surprisingly apparent to the reader. Poetry seems to spring not out of craft, but from a spontaneous gift on the part of the writer.

Your task this week is to write a poem about writing a poem, or about what it means to be a poet, or about how it feels to be inspired. Write a poet's poem. Write a poem that only another writer will truly understand, but try to do it in a way that invites the non-writer into the poet's world.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

Thomas Lux Render, Render

Harryette Mullen All She Wrote

Charles Bukowski so you want to be a writer?

Richard Wilbur The Writer

Have fun. Be creative. Good luck! I leave you with this quote from this page on the website, various quotes from On Poetry and Craft: Selected Prose of Theodore Roethke.

Theodore Roethke wrote:
"You must believe: a poem is a holy thing -- a good poem, that is."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

How to ride a bicycle

Examine the sublime black
of the road: how it steers
the bike as if grooved,
through a cup
of warm air.
Bow over the drops,
tuck elbows and knees
above the sweet flex
of aluminum
and soon the leaves
cracked with autumn
will wish they could
fly too.

© 2005 Christine Klocek-Lim

Monday, September 25, 2006

Poem Spark Sept. 25-Oct. 2 - Syllabic Verse

Greetings and salutations!

Today, I found myself thinking about line length. There are so many different ways of using the line to enhance your poem: you can decide to use short or long lines or a combination of both to control the pacing, you can focus on which words you'd prefer to end a line to put particular emphasis on the most important, you can consider whether or not to enjamb which also can determine the rhythm of the poem, and/or you can rhyme the end words to give the poem interesting sonics. There are many other considerations I've neglected to list.

I believe that focusing on the number of syllables in each line can open up the way you think about your poems: using a set number of syllables can make all your lines long or short, can force you to be creative with end-words, can make you consider enjambment in a new light. Because you are placing a mechanical framework upon your words, you find that you sometimes pay a lot more attention to the words you choose to form an idea than you might if you were writing freely.

Some of the most famous examples of syllabic verse are the Japanese forms of haiku, and tanka. Additionally, there is the Alexandrine, a French syllabic form where each line has twelve syllables and generally one caesura.

Because English does not traditionally have many forms that use syllabics (mostly because English is accentually, rather than syllabically, rhythmic) does not mean that there aren't great poems written where the poet counted his/her syllables. Here are a few:

Philip Levine What Work Is (averages 9 syllables per line)

Marianne Moore To a Steam Roller (each stanza follows a syllabic form: 5-12-12-15)

Dylan Thomas Fern Hill (you tell me what the syllabics in this poem are!)

This week's spark: write a syllabic poem. Have fun!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Poetry equals shoes

I received a "Commended Award" in the 2006 Margaret Reid Contest for Traditional Verse. This means that I won $50, which = shopping, which = new shoes!

And here's the winning poem:

"Tonight I walked into the sunset"

—sonnet for Georgia O’Keeffe

Here the fragile white of age-bleached skull
curves through a hinge of jaw like youthful skin,
and there, two restless eyes seem fraught with all
she could not say. She didn’t paint within
the lines, couldn’t choose the safe belief
that everything is simple. Stark as grief
her violet buildings rise beneath a moon
so white that bone shows through. There the noon
sun lights the mountains. Here you see how hands
crack wide her heart: she painted sound, used blood
to mark the earth. Because she knew that strands
of life are drawn of clay and bone, not mud,
she wrote: “so give my greetings to the sky. . .”
And in her art the skulls nod in reply.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Monday, September 18, 2006

Poem Spark Sept. 18-25 - E. E. Cummings

Salutations fellow poets!

Recently, a member of the forum suggested I create a poem spark based on one of E. E. Cummings' paintings. Before reading that suggestion, I didn't realize that Cummings was also a prolific painter. You can look at some of his work here: The Paintings of E. E. Cummings.

This made me think, "What else don't I know about Cummings? Or other poets?" I did some more investigation, and uncovered this interesting tidbit: Cummings never wanted his name to appear in lowercase. You can find the article about that interesting fact here: Not "e. e. cummings"

There is even more information about Cummings' poetic work available at here: E. E. Cummings

Fascinating stuff. There must be more that I don't know about so many poets; information that is readily available on the web if one looks for it. So, I will be using the poem spark to do a "poet focus" every now and again. There is always more to learn about poetry, and poets, and the history of this art.

However, to get back to Cummings, I'm sure everyone knows his work in poetry uses huge leaps of imagination with punctuation, form, words, etc. Sometimes, the exhuberant nature of his poetry almost overwhelms the sense of it, but not always. Underneath his marvelous fascination with the visual and the innovative lies the seed of a great voice.

Here are some of my favorite Cummings' poems, each with a singular message that threads the pieces of the poems' language into a coherent whole:

next to of course god america i

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

pity this busy monster,manunkind,

And here is one of E. E. Cummings' paintings I particularly like:

lone figure and tree in stormy sunset

This week, write a poem using E. E. Cummings style (innovative punctuation, etc.) OR write a poem inspired by the painting I linked to above, "lone figure and tree in stormy sunset." Most of all, be creative and have fun!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Autumn Sky Poetry - Number 3 online


The third issue of Autumn Sky Poetry is now online.

Read poems by Julie Carter, Janet Lynn Davis, Dennis Greene, Jeremy Heartberg, Jan Mueller, Stuart Nunn, Pat Paulk, Laura Polley, Gary Charles Wilkens, and Robin Yim.

—It's all about the poetry.

Christine Klocek-Lim, Editor

Monday, September 11, 2006

Poem Spark Sept. 11-18 - Poem titles

Greetings and Salutations fellow poets!

Today's poem spark is about one of the more important elements in a poem: the title. So many times I've decided to read a poem because it had an interesting title, or decided not to read a poem because the title seemed, well, boring. It is the very first thing a reader sees, whether in a table of contents, in a list of poems online, or at the start of a book of poems, not to mention when beginning to read a poem. As such, the title is an extremely useful device for opening a conversation with your reader. As Ted Kooser states in his book, "The Poetry Home Repair Manual:"

Ted Kooser wrote:
. . . a title isn't something you stick on just because you think a poem is supposed to have one. Titles are very important tools for delivering information and setting expectations.

Thinking about poem titles, I went to Google, typed in "poem titles" and found this page: Writing the River - Poem Titles. Look at how many interesting titles are listed. Titles like this one, "During the Long Wait These Dreams" and this one, "even when the moon don't shine" make me wonder what those poems are about. They are intriguing and interesting.

Here are some poems with titles that encourage me to continue the conversation and read the poem:

Heather McHugh What He Thought

Lawrence Ferlinghetti [Constantly Risking Absurdity]

James Wright Goodbye to the Poetry of Calcium

Sometimes titles begin a poem as its first line:

William Stafford Traveling Through the Dark

Henry Reed Naming of Parts

Sometimes a poem ends with its title:

Michael S. Harper Nightmare Begins Responsibility

Stevie Smith Not Waving But Drowning

This week, write a poem that uses either its first line or last line (or phrase) as its title. Have fun and be creative!

3 Quarks Daily 9/11 remembrance

From the editor of 3 Quarks Daily:

We have 15 original pieces on 3QD about 9/11 today expressing very different viewpoints from very different vantage points. Do have a look at them here.
All best,

S. Abbas Raza

Saturday, September 09, 2006


OCHO #5, the print companion to MiPOesias Magazine, is now available.

Poems by Reb Livingston, Helen Losse, Christine Klocek-Lim, Grace Cavalieri, Amy King, Lars Palm, Daryl Rogers, Lesley Jenike, Karl Parker, Luc Simonic, Tom Blessing, Dave Ruslander, and Marl Hartenbach.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Best American Poetry 2006

Here is a link to the Best American Poetry 2006 Table of Contents:

Best American Poetry 2006

If you scroll down, you will see that Reb Livingston's poem, "That's Not Butter" was chosen. That poem first appeared in MiPoesias, an online journal created by Didi Menendez and edited by Amy King.

Does this mean that the online poetry community has finally caught up with print journals? Perhaps.

Spring and all

after WCW

So much is lost in the seasons,
so much slips between
that infinitesimal sliver
of change: cold to hot in an instant,
one night’s sleep that becomes years
stretched out into the waking hours.
Here is where the crumpled red
paint of the barrow crouches
in the aged fist of the barn.
Here is where some old poet
used to walk, noticing everything,
taking note of the simple runnel
of rain that glazed the wood.

Nothing can make this landscape
walk backwards. How would we know,
anyway, which is better: yesterday’s bright
color, today’s comfortable weariness?
If we remember the white chickens
and the rain that slicked everything,
who is to say why the barn, once
shiny and upright with paint
and use, became ordinary,
now slouches into the horizon
like an old and familiar poem?

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Monday, August 28, 2006

Poem Spark Aug. 28-Sept. 3 - Animal poems

Greetings fellow poets!

This morning as I checked my email, I was interrupted by the incessant meowing of my cat Sparkle nudging my legs and scratching at the cabinet. She does this every morning in the hopes that I will pet her. Or possibly she wants to be fed. Or maybe she just feels she deserves more attention than my computer, who knows? Her sister, Snow, is too haughty to beg that early in the morning and sat a few feet away, watching us contemptuously.

Idly, I wondered how many poems have been written with animals in mind, since so many of us share our lives with pets, and this, of course, made me think of the poem spark, since it is Monday. I thought that I would have to do a lot of searching for examples of poetry about animals, but in fact, I turned up far too many excellent poems to include in one little spark. I even found an interesting essay on the subject at Poems for Animals and Pets.

There seem to me to be so many different kinds of poems that that are about animals: poems about our pets, poems about wild animals, poems that speak with an animal's voice, poems that make a metaphor for some human experience using an animal. There are many more, too many to count. Here are this week's examples:

Ted Kooser An Epiphany

Jane Hirshfield Heat

Philip Levine Dog Poem

Mary TallMountain The Last Wolf

Jane Kenyon In the Nursing Home

Deborah Digges Darwin's Finches

William Carlos Williams Poem (As the cat)

This week's spark: write an animal poem. It may be about any animal, any experience. Be creative and have fun!

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Yesterday, with words,
I drew a map of the heart,
avoiding such terms as maudlin,
vulgar, and inertia. Because
the heart moves and the body
twists around it, this way
and that, walking through dreams
and remorse. Because there is
mutilation and denial,
people ignore the road signs
to drive headlong over euphoria
into ignorance. Maps
are needed.

But even maps have a will,
it seems, to twist against
the compass rose’s certainty
that north always points up.
Because some things are too rare
to waste on such recklessness,
words like forever and sorrow
carve their own roads on the heart,
where love is written, a most
important and ordinary

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Monday, August 21, 2006

Speaking of the rain

There is that sense of loss
in the rain, the knowledge
that nature likes to hide,
crooked and lonesome,
beneath the eaves.
Nearly imperceptible,
those slow drops of water,
that torqued wilderness of form,
this stubborn and graceless
endurance of weather.

You can’t crack the rock
open. Nothing can make
stones split except water.
See how the gutters clog
again and again with leaf-fall,
twigs, the occasional acorn
squirreled in the mess
as the rain moves outside
the path which was made
for its flow, indifferent
to the slap of lightening,
the slow blur of thunder.

Loss walks unsolaced,
near-at-hand with a slim,
ceaseless patience.
The rain wets everything.
That which cannot be
remembered is lost
in the sound,
the everlasting funnel
of liquid descending,
deepening all around.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Poem Spark Aug. 21-28 - Words

Salutations fellow poets!

Today I began thinking about the poem spark while the power was once again broken in my house. Everything was quiet, except the bugs, the birds, and the wind. Obviously, I had no access to radio, tv, or the internet, and it made me think about one of the things that first interested me in poetry: the power of words. What does one do when the power goes out? What does a writer do when the power goes out?

It's simply a blast to create unique phrases, verbs, images, etc. that support your poem and transport your reader into a new conversation with the world. Many of my favorite poems use phrases and words in a way different from ordinary conversation. So this week, we will concentrate on the words of a the poem. Here is a random list of words from the Favorite Words topic in the Just Conversation Section of's forum:


If you'd like to know the meaning of some of these words, here's a link to an online dictionary:

This week, write a poem using one or more of the above words OR make a list of your own favorite words for a day, then write a poem with them. Please list the words you use along with your poem.

Along with the usual sampling of poems that I include with the poem spark, I'd like to also include some quotes by poets who are speaking about words and the language with which they use to write poems:

William Stafford wrote:
I have this feeling of wending my way or blundering through a mysterious jungle of possibilities when I am writing.

Mary Oliver wrote:
I looked at words and couldn't believe the largess of their sound—the whole sound structure of stops and sibilants, things which I speak about now with students, until they don't simply look at the word in terms of sense but also in terms of body, in terms of sound.

Sylvia Plath Morning Song

Claudia Emerson Bone

Barry Seiler Pincushion

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Poem Spark Aug. 14-21 - the Haibun

Greetings fellow poets!

Lately I've been reading a great deal of haiku, tanka, haiga, and other traditional forms in their new incarnation in English. A lovely form that I just recently stumbled upon is the haibun. This traditional Japanese form is distinguished by the inclusion of one or more haiku within poetic prose. The haiku can be anywhere in the prose: before, after, or in the middle. In Western poetic sense, this is the combination of a prose poem with a very short free-verse poem. The most important part of what makes a haibun successful is the ability of both the prose and the haiku to stand on their own as a complete piece. In other words, the haiku must not depend on the prose to be a successful poem, nor should the prose depend on the haiku.

Here are some links to an explanation of haibun:

Simply Haiku -click on the link, after the ad, click on Contents, then click on Editor's Welcome under the Haibun section.

Haibun by Contemporary Writers

Here are some examples of haibun:

Basho The Hut of the Phantom Dwelling

Bill Wyatt A Fistful of Frost

Louise Linville A Death in the Family

This week's poem spark: write a haibun. Don't worry about making the haiku adhere to the strict syllabic form. Instead, be creative, and have fun!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

Train number ten is dangerous.
Outside its cars, a precipice hides
in the mountain’s shadow
and I am small as a pebble.
On this train all of us shrink
in the ominous fog and wind
but the conductor is oblivious:
he does pull-ups on the railing,
throws a few shovels of coal
on the boiler, poses for pictures.
He’s thinking of his girl down the mountain.
He’s remembering their date last night,
the cold beer and billiards game.
I’m thinking this train is a fallen horse
about to slide backward like a lost star
to crash at the bottom.
I know the Diapensia on the slope
is two hundred years old.
I know that cairns mark the way
for hikers and train escapees.
I shouldn’t worry about the wind.
I shouldn’t worry about the ravines
I know are there.
The conductor is dozing up front
and does not see the fog clear when I do.
He doesn’t see land appear, or the clouds
strewn on a luminous, vast horizon
that makes me grasp for my useless
small camera just as the train halts
on the top of the world.

© 2005 Christine Klocek-Lim

Friday, July 28, 2006


I'll be on vacation July 29 through August 5, and won't have any access to a computer. I'll see you all when I get back!

The solace of poetry

{poem removed for submission}

Monday, July 24, 2006

Poem Spark July 24-Aug. 7 - the Vatic Voice

Salutations fellow poets!

I am reading the book "Breakfast Served Any Time All Day-Essays on Poetry New and Selected" by Donald Hall. One of the essays is titled: The Vatic Voice. In this essay, Hall defines the idea of vatic as "the Greek word for the inspired bard. . ." He feels that this voice "speaks only in dream, often in unremembered dream." He goes on to explain how this idea of a voice has a place in how we think of poetry:

Hall wrote:
It is the vatic voice (which is not necessarily able to write good poetry, or even passable grammer) which rushes forth the words of excited recognition, and which supplies what we call inspiration.

Two characteristics that distinguish the vatic voice from normal discourse are that it is always original, and that we feel passive to it. We are surprised by it, and we may very well, having uttered its words, not know what we mean. We must find ways to let this voice speak.

This is interesting, I thought as I sipped my morning tea, a spicy rooibus. How do we as writers forget technique, disregard grammer and sense, and open ourselves to that original impulse which caused every one of us to become writers? This is the voice that is often squelched in school. This is the voice that is silenced in adulthood because it is silly, it is melodramatic, it is too truthful to be entirely comfortable. This is the spark from which the best poems are created.

Hall mentions several things he does to encourage this voice to speak to him:

Hall wrote:
Sometimes I have tried to keep in touch with this vatic voice by sleeping a lot.

There is also the deliberate farming of daydream.

When you hum a tune, remember the words that go with the tune. . .

. . . one can train the mind to observe the periphery rather than ignore it.

Here are some other ways I think can stimulate the vatic voice:

— Write down snippets of phrases or words as you read the newspaper, a book, a magazine.

— Remember the phrases you heard in songs on the radio or your favorite CD.

— Assign emotion names to inanimate objects: the distraught lamp, the joyful table, for example.

Mostly, however, I think that opening oneself to the vatic voice involves the abandon of sense and propriety. Here are some examples of poems that I think capitalize on this voice:

David Ayers Let Me Say It Anyway

Jane Hirshfield Waking the Morning Dreamless After Long Sleep

Denise Levertov The Secret

This week's spark: write a poem using one of Hall's techniques or one you've invented. Open yourself to the vatic voice of poetry.

This week's spark will extend into August because I am going on vacation next week. However, this will give us all more than enough time to use the unexpected, the inspired, the vatic voice when writing a poem. Try daydreaming or humming. Let go of sense and write what you feel. The poem will form in the process of revision. Be creative and have fun!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Poem Spark July 17-24 - The "I" Point of View

Greetings fellow poets. I began thinking of the poem spark today after reading Alison Pelegrin's poem "Three Prayers from the Broken-Hearted," in the Summer 2006 issue of Rattle. In this poem there are three parts, all of which use the confessional "I", and each of which is written from a different person's perspective. The first part's speaker, Earl, is the father of two (now grown) daughters. The introductory line of "I. Earl" reads: "In many failures have my daughters cried." In the second part, "II. Cheryl", one of the daughters speaks:

"The day he left my mother cut my hair—
. . .
She said I had to try
to be her little man because my daddy
went and had another little girl."

In the last section, "III. Eunice", the other daughter speaks:

"Mostly I'm in silence when the sadness comes,
imagining the woman I'd be if I were whole.
How can it be he kept us both apart?"

In each of these sections the author writes writes convincingly and with authority from the point of view of three very different people. The only thing that unites the poem is the characters' common sense of "broken-hearted"-ness. "How is this possible?" you may ask. If you were educated in the 20th century you are no doubt familiar with the work of Whitman, Ginsberg, and Plath, all of whom wrote many poems with the "I" firmly entrenched as the dominant point of view.

So, is every "I" point of view in a poem the poet speaking? Or is it a persona? Is the poem's speaker a real person, or is it a character created by the poet? These are valid questions and can be used to further one's understanding of a poem. Indeed, it is much easier to understand Dylan Thomas' poem "Do not go gentle into that good night" if one understands that he suffered from alcoholism and a tendency toward flamboyance.

Yet, assuming that the narrator in the poem is the poet speaking is a dangerous misconception. After all, mystery novelists don't need to be serial killers to portray one in their books. Does every poet need to be suicidal to convincingly write about angst? Here is a essay written by Rachel Zucker which gives us a somewhat amusing take on the "I" in poetry: Confessionalography: A GNAT (Grossly Non-Academic Talk) on "I" in Poetry

Here are some examples of poems that use "I" as the point of view, but which are definitely characters, not the poet him/herself speaking:

John Berryman Dream Song 4

Claudia Emerson Bone

This week, write a poem that uses the "I" as the dominant point of view in the poem. The catch: "I" must be a character. If you are a woman, make your character male. If you are male, make your character female. If you are young, write from the point of view of an old person. You get the drift. Good luck and have fun!

Monday, July 10, 2006



What is this bone, this seizure
of porous strength, this strange
scratch of leftover animal?
I found you in the sandbox
at the zoo, guttered rough
and disjoint from the whole
skeleton that is now nowhere
to be found. Children finger
the edges of your joint;
despite their innocence
they know that you are old
and missing pieces. Now
the sun sharpens its claws
on you. Now the empty
sand cradles your stark voice.
And when I toss you down
from my hands, your solitary
curve shadows the light
with secrets.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Monday, July 03, 2006

After the flood

This is part of why I've been so scarce lately. My family's cabin (the brown one) sits near the Nescopeck creek in Pennsylvania. The water came up to some windows, and above others.

The water sucked the patio enclosure right out of its foundation, as you can see from the bottom of the support pole and broken bricks.

The water also decapitated the fireplace.

I'm not sure how many floods my grandmother's sewing machine has been through, five or six maybe? This is the flood that finally killed it.

Chairs from the dining table. Yucko. The smell is what is really disgusting.

The gas grill is also dead. Like the toaster oven, the microwave, and the coffee maker.

Another photo of the patio pole, because I just can't believe it actually came out of the foundation. In 50 years, this is the worst flood. Well, except for the one that happened in wintertime. When the water froze inside and every time we tried to clean the wash water also froze. And fell on us.

No more carpets. Ever again. My mother promised that she wouldn't even try. The floors will be bare wood from now on. Nothing is more fun than carrying out flood-soaked carpets that leak stuff all over you. Who knows what kind of microbes are in there? Amoeba, protozoa, paramecium, etc.

The water even moved the enclosed portion of the patio three feet or so to the right. And it's not actually touching the ground on the entire right side. It's just floating. In the air.

This is what happens when you mix wash water with flood water. Yummy. Looks like a good, thick, chocolate milkshake. Well, except for the smell. Which I already mentioned.

Monday, June 26, 2006

How to say I love you

Because your magic hands
went soft years ago.

Because you slept through
tonight’s weather forecast
and lightning has just begun
to flash.

Because strands of hair cling
to your brush like antiseptic
threads that bind nothing.

Because I’ve shut the windows
and the deadened silence is chaotic.

Because the veins of your body,
vibrantly knotted for so long,
have disappeared beneath
the fragile parchment
of your skin.

Beacause the power will flicker soon,
and fail, stranding me here
with the bewildered sound
of thunder.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Poem Spark June 26-July 3 - Weather Poems

Salutations fellow poets!

I've been thinking a lot about the weather these past few days, probably because I've woken up to the sound of rain drumming my roof every night for a week. Right now it's windy and pouring again; the air is grey with the falling water outside my window. The trees are bowing low and a new crop of mushrooms has appeared. It's time to write a poem about the weather.

Poets have a long tradition of writing about the natural world. Just last year the number of poems about Hurricane Katrina was incredible and I'm sure there have been other weather-disasters that have sparked poems. But there is also the joyful element of the weather which poems can celebrate: the rain after a long drought, the excitement of a blizzard, the tremendous heat of the desert. Here are some examples of weather poems:

John Berryman Dream Song 8

Louise Glück October (section I)

Ted Kooser Porch Swing in September

Emily Brontë Spellbound

This week's spark: write a weather poem. It can be about the tornado you saw on TV, the winter storm that tore down the gutters, the flood that snatched your neighbor's cat from the tree in your backyard. Be creative! Write a poem that celebrates the wind or grieves the loss of what has happened in a storm's wake. Good luck!