Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ten years of internet poetry (is poetry dead?)

I like to tell people that I've been writing poetry since I was ten or eleven years old, and it's true. I went to school to write, after college I went to work as a technical writer, and I wrote poems throughout my twenties, but I never seriously worked at it until 1999. I posted my first poem in an online workshop in 1997 and received scathing comments which sent me into hibernation for two more years. Then I decided I couldn't wait any longer. I couldn't wait for my kids to get older or easier, I couldn't wait to have a better computer, I couldn't wait for more time or sleep or space or any of those things you tell yourself you need in order to write.

By 2001 I was posting regularly at and I learned how to let the nasty comments slide. I learned how take the helpful ones and use them to make my writing better. I didn't submit often, but when I did I was mostly rejected. The few acceptances I received gave me the impetus to keep going. I learned that most of my writing was dreck because the stuff I read online was amazing. The people with whom I discussed poetry were intelligent and insightful, and their advice and commentary made me rethink everything I thought I knew about poetry. Ironically, these people were not widely published. They weren't famous. The internet poets I knew were somewhat stigmatized, somewhat separated from the print poetry scene. Online publishing was somehow lesser and we all knew it.

I had to reevaluate the reasons I wanted to write: Did I want to be widely published? Well, yeah. Was that more important than the love of language, the thrill of writing something unique? Well, no, thankfully, because I'd finally accepted that being published wasn't the point. It was the extra bonus, the frosting, the: oh yeah, by the way this is awesome when it happens. I wanted to continue online because it was easy to post poems. It was easy to meet other poets. I didn't have to spend all my time writing snail-mail letters and waiting and waiting for a response. I didn't have to spend a lot of money for an MFA I didn't want and couldn't afford with small children in the house. I was convinced that the web would change the face of the writing world; I just had to be patient.

I went back to the beginning and spent the next several years relearning the basics: metaphor and rhyme, meter and imagery, intent and audience. I still submitted, thought not a lot and the rejections continued, both online and snail mail. I kept writing because I loved that sensation of joy, the moment of creation that I felt when I really had a good line or image. I kept writing because I discovered that the more I wrote, the easier it was to find that joy. By 2009, I'd written four chapbooks, one full-length poetry manuscript, and two novels. I started submitting more, both online and via snail mail. All along this journey, I've posted poems online to and other poetry workshops like Desert Moon Review, the Atlantic (now defunct), The Gazebo, and lurked at others just to learn: Eratosphere, Slate's The Fray, etc. I've dealt with trolls, flame wars, and discrimination. I've been encouraged and helped and published in small poetry magazines, more often online than in print. I found that I love the flexibility of online publishing and started my own poetry journal, Autumn Sky Poetry, which now gets hundreds of submissions every few months, poems from writers who are beginners and from poets who have published widely.

Today is December 31, 2009. In the last year, I've won the 2009 Ellen La Forge Poetry prize. My manuscript, "Dark matter," made semi-finalist in the Brittingham and Pollak Poetry Prizes (University of Wisconsin Press) and is a semi-finalist at the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry (waiting to hear about the winner). Today I found out that my freaky sci-fi poetry chapbook manuscript, "The Quantum Archives," that I never, ever thought anyone would read let alone like made it to semi-finalist status at the Black Lawrence Press' Black River Chapbook Competition. I've had two chapbooks published: "How to photograph the heart" by The Lives You Touch Publications and "The book of small treasures" by Seven Kitchens Press. It's been a good ten years of waiting for the two worlds of poetry, online and print, to collide. And everything I've learned about writing is possible only because the internet has revitalized the poetry world. Right now, all of us who write poems are benefitting from the diversity and richness of the web. This online world made it possible for me to get to today: I don't have an advanced degree and don't teach. I do, however, love to write and because the internet made it possible for me to learn and meet other writers and put my work out into the virtual world, I've become part of a community of poets that didn't exist fifteen years ago.

Is poetry dead? Not even a little.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

first snow so quiet
you can hear the doves flutter
their wingtips and leap

© 2009 Christine Klocek-Lim

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

poet interviews

I'm very lucky to be included in another series of poet interviews, by the wonderful Didi Menendez. Go check out the entire series and my interview: Christine Klocek-Lim.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

List poem: This day on Twitter

Cute kitty is cute. #kitty!

Evil Twitter is evil and so is Facebook. #addicted

Lonesome tree has no leaves and is lonesome

above brown grass that is dead brown. #haiku

Early, you left so early today. #sad

Hot tea is so hot I burned my tongue. #damnit

Junk mail came late full of junk

and too much paper and dead trees. #sad

Quiet lunch is a sandwich and soup quietly 

steaming until it’s gone. #haiku

Pithy texts sent to my husband are pithy. #random

Sad news is sad-->no more NPR. #sad

Loud kids after school are really loud! #parenting

Hateful homework is still hateful even
I'm a grownup. #homeworksuks #parenting

Evil Twitter is still evil-->so many 
to congenital heart defect stories. #chd #sad #addicted

Sarcastic teens are sarcastic and this is awesome. #not

Early, you came home so early. #love

Yummy dinner is yummy though kitty

stole morsel right from the pan. #badkitty!

Don’t tell my mom, but we can tell yours. #stillafraidofmom

Funny tv is funny, especially with sarcastic teens. #parenting

You say I am sleepy but so are you. #random #love

Cute kitty is so cute she must be dreaming. #kitty!

©2009 Christine Klocek-Lim

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Review of Holly Rose Review Issue 3

Holly Rose Review's Issue Three, the Wonder issue, opens with the photo of a spectacular tattoo, a remarkably colorful peacock inked by Michael Kozlenko cleverly eyeing the viewer as if to say: "What you looking at?" And indeed, I wondered what I was going to see in the pages to come, hoping I would not be disappointed. I was not. The next page revealed "Metus Orbis," oil on canvas by Aaron Zimmerman. I could not tell if the peaks were mountains or the soft heads and flowing hair of goddesses waiting out a storm. Delightfully fanciful, the image made me think of that surrealistic moment one feels on the edge of waking when the dream world and real life intersect, lighting everything with surprise.

Inside the issue, the tattoos range from what looks to me like the moment of creation, creatures springing full-grown from the soft earth of the skin as in Rich Bustamante's work, to the impossible mermaid in Jason Wainwright's art. I wished I had the courage to let someone needle such worlds into my skin; the wings etched on the back of yet another person seem nearly real, the face of the woman in Sean Herman's art mysterious and compelling.

Of course, the tattoos are only half of the wonder of this issue. The poetry is also astonishing, given how many of them walk that fine line between psalm and bitterness, all of them surreal in the way that only metaphor can explain. Dorianne Laux's poem "Wonder," written specifically for this issue serves as the backbone of the journal. Every word leads the reader into a strange place, familiar yet not, like a dreamscape where you are not falling, but flying. The sky becomes a tattoo becomes a bird. The accompanying art is a tree that is as strange as ink and skin can make it: curving along the canvas of the skin in a wonderfully twisted way, the colors vibrant and alive.

The other poems in the issue continue the idea of wonder, like Eugenia Hepworth Petty's "The Bird" and its focus on life and death and the delicate moment of childhood when one learns how terribly the two are connected. Or Christine Hamm's "The Mermaid of September Cove" which explains clearly the gritty reality of that imaginary creature, how working for a living in a tank of water could still touch the lives of so many in a way that is more tangible than myth. Erika Moya's poem, "Chassure [1]" details the odd intimacy of flesh and scent, using the sensuality of making love to spring into the larger world of memory. Raina León's "Face" is even more fractured than the rest, each numbered stanza its own piece of the whole, discrete images of the body that are connected only because we know how important and necessary our faces are to each other.

However, my favorite poem of this issue is Joseph Millar's "Skin." Cengiz Eyvazov's tattoo shows the bliss of sharp objects, a woman both captured and set free by the shackles and spikes decorating her body. The poem explains why this is possible, how the pain of such piercings leads to transcendence. At first the imagery is nearly unbearable, "one-inch ebony dowel/stretching the hole in his earlobe" and "mute/dreadlocked carcass." But one must give in to the poem as one gives into pain, and in the end, adrenaline lights "the body's soft candle" in a way that makes perfect sense. It's been years since I remembered this and now I almost want to get another piercing after reading this poem.

The issue ends with Siimon Petkovich's fractured words, the very disarray of the lines serving as a visual explanation for the tattoo by Jason Wainwright: a huge orange sky and ocean, waves crashing like flowers against the skin. This is what it feels like to gallop into the world, the poem seems to say, the idea too active to keep words together. Instead, Siimon makes every letter dance into pieces on the page. After reading this issue, I can do no less.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

How to photograph the heart - available

My poetry chapbook, How to photograph the heart, is now available from The Lives You Touch Publications.

I'm thrilled! Thanks go to my wonderful publisher/editors: O.P.W. Fredericks and Daniel Milbo. Their unflagging attention to detail and support of my poetry made creating this book a pleasure.