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!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Good news!

I recently found out that a group of poems I entered in Nimrod's poetry contest, the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry was selected as a finalist. And although I didn't win, Nimrod accepted two poems to be published either fall 2006 or spring 2007, so I'm still very happy.

Butterfly & Lavender

Monday, June 19, 2006

Poem Spark June 19-26 - Ars Poetica

Salutations fellow poets!

This week I wanted to talk a little about our new Poet Laureate: Donald Hall. So I pulled down a few books from my collection and began randomly searching for poems by Hall and/or conversations with him. I came across his intriguing interpretation of his poem, "Ox Cart Man," in the book "What Will Suffice - Contemporary American Poets on the Art of Poetry," edited by Christopher Buckley and Christopher Merrill:

Donald Hall wrote:
Every poem suggests an Ars Poetica. In the 1960s I wrote something called "The Poem," then late in the 1980s another called "This Poem." In between, I wrote "Ox Cart Man" in which (as I worked on it) I had no notice that I addressed the poet's purpose or task. I wrote an ars poetica anyhow. The ox-cart man's endless labor makes a cycle like a perennial plant's; writing the poem, I exulted in his annual rite of accumulation and dispersal. Not until I finished it, published it aloud and in print, did I become aware of a response that astonished me: Some people found it depressing: all that work, and then he has to start over again. . . . Later, a friend compared the ox-cart man's story to a poet making a poem—and when I heard the notion, it rang true. For decades I have known that you must bring everything to a poem that you can possibly bring: Never hold anything back; spend everything at once—or you will never write a poem. . .

This is interesting, I thought, because on my search for the text of the "Ox Cart Man" I ran across this wonderful page that shows us the nineteen revisions his poem went through and three different published versions. The art of poetry is work that is endless: just when you think you've got it perfectly written, you come back to it months and even years later to find a revision lurking between the lines.

So what is an ars poetica? Simply put, it is a poem about writing a poem. Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it first appears and the same is true when trying to define the idea of ars poetica. Poets have been speaking about poetry for thousands of years: from Horace to the present. As always, I feel the best way to learn is through example. So here are a few "ars poetica" for your perusal:

Donald Hall Ox Cart Man

Archibald MacLeish Ars Poetica

Czeslaw Milosz Ars Poetica?

Dana Levin Ars Poetica (cocoons)

This week's spark: write an ars poetica. Use any style, any form, any words you like. Be creative and have fun!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Autumn Sky Poetry - Number 2


The second issue of Autumn Sky Poetry is now online at

Read poems by Aurora Antonovic, Wendy Babiak, Brion Berkshire, Rus Bowden, Ayesha Chatterjee, Mukul Dahal, Lindsay Flood, Guy Kettelhack, JB Mulligan, and Dave Rowley.

It's all about the poetry.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What we know about poverty

This was written for the poem spark of last week: the Political Poem.

What we know about poverty

On the street
the mouth of the world
asks: whose mother is this?
Whose baited hook tore
the smile from her cold cheek?
Crows fly above the invisible
hands of the sidewalk (cracked
in mourning). The country’s lips
are pursed. The difficult breaths
of the people blow like scattered leaves.
There are tears. Missing books and no water.
The burden of so many locked doors keeps
the tongues still. The skill of learning has been taken,
removed, amputated until there is no belonging in this place,
no where to rest but in the cramped shoulders of the buildings.
No one claims the mother’s body. No one staunches the blood
though the crows keep flying like madmen in the sunken cheeks
of the sky.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Monday, June 05, 2006

Poem Spark June 5-12 - the Political Poem

Greetings fellow poets!

Today I began thinking about political poems because of a thread in the Poetry Criticism & Reviews section of the online discussion forum On Carolyn Forché’s “The Colonel”. This is one of my favorite poems, probably because I read an interview of her speaking about it before I read the poem. Here is the interview: Carolyn Forché (from an interview with Bill Moyers)

Here is Forché's poem: The Colonel

Another more recent poem of hers that deals with the political is from her book, The Angel of History. The opening poem states:

Forché wrote:
This is how one pictures the angel of history.
His face is turned toward the past. Where we
perceive a chain of events, he sees one single
catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and
hurls it in front of his feet.

Some more of that poem can be seen here. These poems make me think about poetry's place in the larger world of human culture. How does poetry affect the common person? How does poetry effect change in the political universe? How do poems speak of the unspeakable? On there is an essay titled Poems about War and in it is an excerpt describing a Neruda poem:

The numerous conflicts of the twentieth century produced poets who sometimes chose to concentrate their writing on the horrifying effects of war on civilians. In Pablo Neruda’s famous poem about the Spanish Civil War, "I Explain a Few Things," he discards metaphor entirely to say: "in the streets the blood of the children / ran simply, like the blood of children." At the end of the poem he implores the reader to look at the devastating results of war:

Come and see the blood in the streets,
come and see
the blood in the streets,
come and see the blood
in the streets!

Here is Neruda's poem: I Explain A Few Things

Even now, poets are being imprisoned for what they have written. Damned Freaking Poets! is a conversation about several such poets over at the blog, Bud Bloom Poetry.

Your spark this week is to write a political poem. However, I'm going to make it easy and give you 10 words, chosen at random from Carolyn Forché’s book, The Country Between Us:


Write your poem using all or some of these words in any form, style, or combination. Good luck!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Sonnet for Georgia O'Keeffe

“Tonight I walked into the sunset”
—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

See Georgia O'Keeffe's art here.