Monday, May 29, 2006


Poem Spark May 19-June 5 - The Sonnet

Greetings fellow poets!

Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S., and I woke up thinking of one of my favorite poems by e.e. cummings: "next to of course god america i . This marvelous little poem is a sonnet, albeit a modern interpretation of the form. has an excellent page on the sonnet-- Poetic Form: Sonnet.

Here's the short version explanation of the form from that page:

Petrarchan Sonnet
The first and most common sonnet is the Petrarchan, or Italian. Named after one of its greatest practitioners, the Italian poet Petrarch, the Petrarchan sonnet is divided into two stanzas, the octave (the first eight lines) followed by the answering sestet (the final six lines). The tightly woven rhyme scheme, abba, abba, cdecde or cdcdcd, is suited for the rhyme-rich Italian language, though there are many fine examples in English. Since the Petrarchan presents an argument, observation, question, or some other answerable charge in the octave, a turn, or volta, occurs between the eighth and ninth lines. This turn marks a shift in the direction of the foregoing argument or narrative, turning the sestet into the vehicle for the counterargument, clarification, or whatever answer the octave demands.

Shakespearean Sonnet
The second major type of sonnet, the Shakespearean, or English sonnet, follows a different set of rules. Here, four quatrains and a couplet follow this rhyme scheme: abab, cdcd, efef, gg. The couplet plays a pivotal role, usually arriving in the form of a conclusion, amplification, or even refutation of the previous three stanzas, often creating an epiphanic quality to the end.

Modern Sonnets

. . . Stretched and teased formally and thematically, today’s sonnet can often only be identified by the ghost imprint that haunts it, recognizable by the presence of 14 lines or even by name only.

And here are your examples for this week:

Robert Lowell History

Edna St. Vincent Millay What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)

e.e. cummings "next to of course god america i

Your task this week is to write a sonnet. Don't worry about paying strict attention to the form, rather, take liberties with it, as does cummings. Instead of looking at the sonnet as a form that restricts your words, use it to control what you want to say. You may be surprised. As always, have fun and be creative!

Monday, May 22, 2006


Poem Spark May 22-29 - Song Lyrics

Hello fellow poets!

Today an odd thing happened just as I got in the car to pick the kids up from school. I'd been thinking about what to write for this week's spark and decided to talk about song lyrics, but it was 3 pm and time to go. Of course, Fresh Air with Terry Gross is on NPR at 3 pm and I often listen to the show. Surprisingly, today's show featured Leonard Cohen, a songwriter, poet, and novelist: Fresh Air with Terry Gross May 22. His latest book of poetry is Book of Longing. After some searching, I found the lyrics to the title song of his album Dear Heather.

I haven't heard the song, but the lyrics function luminously as a poem. They don't rhyme, they aren't very long, nothing is repeated. How is this a song? How is this a poem? Yet it is both. Here is the page on Leonard Cohen: Poet, Novelist, Musician.

Of course, there no way to talk about lyrics and poetry without mentioning Bob Dylan. He has a page at, too: "I'm a poet, and I know it". The snippet of lyrics on that page delighted me with their irreverence:

Dylan wrote:

Praise be to Nero's Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody's shouting
"Which Side Are You On?"
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain's tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers

But enough of history. What about lyrics? What about how to write a song that works as a poem? A very rough explanation of what a song might look like is this: Most song lyrics have a great deal of repetition. Most of them are built of phrases that have rhyme and rhythm; it makes them easy to remember and sing. These phrases are separated into different sections. Sometimes the chorus is its own section and is repeated several times.

However, I'm of the opinion that with songs, the best way to understand how they are put together is to read some lyrics. Learn by example. Here are some:

Sting, from the album "Ten Summoner's Tales" -- Shape of My Heart

Eminem, from the album "8 Mile" -- Lose Yourself

Alanis Morissette, from the album "Under Rug Swept" -- Hands Clean

This week's spark:

Write a song.


Share your favorite lyrics and tell us why you think it succeeds as a poem as well as a song. Just a small paragraph will do. Please provide a link to the lyrics and do not quote more than 4-5 lines.

As always, have fun and be creative!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Online Poetry Event: This Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer!

Here's some news that just came over the wire from Rus Bowden, a fine poet. There's going to be an article about online poetry in Sunday's edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer's books section, written by Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. blogger fame, and incidentally, the Inquirer's book review editor. Be sure to click in on Sunday at:

Here's a bit from the blurb Rus posted at numerous venues:

"Years of hoping for online poetry participants, comes into fruition this Sunday, when Frank Wilson's article gets published at the Philadephia Inquirer's Books section--and goes out over the wire, to be picked up and published through the paper world, and where those papers have internet presences.

Instead of waxing promotionally, let me be a bit reflective at this time, to get some grounding for us, as the exciting and important news comes out. We use to have a sense that there were the published poets and there is us online, some sort of heirarchy that keeps us out. I have found that this is not the case. "

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Poem Spark May 15-22 - Nonsense Poems

Salutations fellow poets!

Today as I began reading my copy of Poetry, I found the following paragraph:

Kay Ryan wrote:
4 INCONGRUITY. Nonsense revels in working incompatible elements “into a paste.” For example, “some cream, some slices of Cheshire cheese, four quires of foolscap paper and a packet of black pins.” The poet too feels that things which bear no outward relationship to one another must nonetheless be brought into proximity.

This is from Kay Ryan's essay, "A Consideration of Poetry," the full text of which you may read here: Poetry: Featured Prose.

This essay and some of Ryan's ideas on nonsense in poetry brought to mind some poems I've read that feel like nonsense at the beginning, but by the end of the poem the reader has been ushered into a world of startling insight. How is this achieved? How can a poem that makes no sense at first glance become a thing of beauty? Or emotion? Or realization?

In thinking about this, I feel the above paragraph is particularly interesting. When brought together, seemingly unrelated things, ideas, or images take on a relationship together. The reader is forced to compare the things and often, surprisingly, the result is sense. Some examples of this kind of poem follow.

e.e. cummings
(This is a poem of startling strangeness that nonetheless opens within the reader a greater understanding of grief and love.) love is more thicker than forget

Mónica de la Torre
(How does one begin to understand a poet in terms of a greater human relationship? One reads this poem several times) On Translation

Ted Kooser (This poem begins with an impossible assertion. How does the speaker know about a glacier? Yet this is how the poem illustrates the sense of the speaker's underlying emotion which is too huge for normal images.) After Years

This week's spark: write a nonsense poem. Use the above poems as examples of what can be done: no punctuation, no capitals, no rules of grammer, impossible comparisons, hyperbole, etc. Let go of the formal rules and see what happens. Be creative and have fun!

Monday, May 15, 2006

I've been interviewed

For those who are curious, you can read an interview, Magna on Magna, over at the Magnapoets blog. My friend Janet asked some interesting questions which made me think more clearly about how and why I write than I've done in some time. . .

Friday, May 12, 2006

Dying wishes

Here my spine is broken.
Here it is curved
backward, sideways
into the body’s darkness.
Bones don’t cooperate.

I tell you this so
you won’t be disappointed
when your skin grows tired.
Look. There is your fallen hair
gleaming almost gray
in the sun.

Tomorrow when your feet
also lose their prints, dust
will settle behind you:
the ground bones
of the earth.

Don’t cooperate.
Step hard, my son.
While you live, make
mountains of your wishes.
Carve your path deeply
onto the spine of the world.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Friday, May 05, 2006

Monday, May 01, 2006

Poem Spark May 1-8 - Short Stanzas

Every Monday, at's Discussion Forums, I write a "poem spark" which is an exercise meant to spark an idea for a poem. Starting today, I'm going to begin posting them here to give everyone who stops by a fun thing to try out if boredom strikes. Hope you enjoy them!


Hello fellow poets!

Today as I drove to school to pick up my sons, flowers were blooming everywhere. Of course, this puts me in mind of one of my favorite forms of poetry: haiku. Any other form that has its roots in ancient Japanese forms reminds me of the image and how often that idea takes shape in a poem and speaks through the description of the natural world. Another of these forms is the Tanka. has an explanation of the tanka, and this particular piece caught my eye:

Like the sonnet, the tanka employs a turn, known as a pivotal image, which marks the transition from the examination of an image to the examination of the personal response.

The important part of that quote is the idea of image. There is also a wonderful explanation of Imagism on this website and it says this:

The Imagist movement included English and American poets in the early twentieth century who wrote free verse and were devoted to "clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images."

By now you're probably wondering what this has to do with the stanza, "unit of a poem often repeated in the same form throughout a poem; a unit of poetic lines." I've often found that when concentrating on creating a poem that relies heavily on imagery rather than narrative to make a point, it helps immensely if one separates each image into two or three line stanzas.

Much attention is paid to a poem that has no extraneous verbiage weighing down the description. Each and every word becomes famous: each one is standing there alone on the stage. The poet must be certain that each word is central to the image and the poem's meaning without much transition or extra adjectives to carry the poem's voice.

This week's poem spark: Write a poem that contains stanzas of two to three lines only.

Here are some examples of poems that work in this way:

Carolyn Kizer's Villanelle On a Line from
Valéry (The Gulf War)

Hsieh Ling-yun (translated by Sam Hamill) Visiting Pai-an Pavilion

William Carlos Williams This Is Just To Say

As always, be creative and have fun!