Friday, July 30, 2010

Poetry Book Blog Tour: Interview with Joanne Merriam

Yes, it's part 5 of the Poetry Book Blog Tour! Today I interview Joanne Merriam:

Joanne Merriam is a supremely talented writer with books, prizes, and numerous publication credits to her name. She was nominated for the 2009 Dwarf Stars Award, winner of Asimov’s Science Fiction‘s Readers’ Awards for Best Poem of 2008, for “Deaths on Other Planets,” and First and Third place winner (respectively) of the Strange Horizons 2005 and 2004 Reader’s Choice Awards for Fiction.
Belinda Cooke explains Joanne’s poetry book, “The Glaze from Breaking,” thus: “She reminded me a lot of the early work of Boris Pasternak where the poet does not so much observe the natural world as fuse with it breaking down the boundaries between speaker and landscape… She also does clever things with sound… [and] has the odd image that manages to be both unusual and just right.”

On to the interview:
(CKL): Nearly twenty years ago, I visited the Morgan Library in Manhattan and saw Sylvia Plath’s crayon printed first attempts at poetry. Since then, I’ve always enjoyed reading the very early poems of poets. Have you saved any of your first attempts? 
(JM): I no longer have any of my very early work - I started writing when I
was eight and the earliest poems I have are from my very late teens.
Here's one of them, written when I was 19 (also my earliest published
poem--after some stuff that appeared in a tiny local magazine which I
lost in one of my many moves--it was in the Spring 1996 issue of Feux
To be with you in the early hours of the evening is enough.
To watch your back and shoulders move under your shirt, to smilingly
feel your eyes on me is enough.
Yes, I want to feel your hands tangled in my hair, yes, I want to run
my fingers along the smooth soft skin of your wrists and arms, and
yes, I want to rake my calves over your calves.
But more than that I need only to observe you move across the room I'm in.
You don't have to do anything.
It is enough to hear your low voice talk or laugh, or say my name,
and, not touching, while talking and laughing, to feel near me your
long lean warmth.
Here's a very recent poem (published here
and written in April 2010):
Ah Inflorescence
         (after Walt Whitman's 'Ah Poverties, Wincings and Sulky Retreats')
You're an umbel--
your shoots; your loosenesses; your legs like pedicels;
eyes dark flat seeds screwed nearly shut against the light;
woodbine nerves; you seacoast angelica
(for what are your heteroflexible hands on my skin
but a flower moving, seeds drifting on a breeze?)--
when you finally touch me (my hands the dumbest of any)
(fingernails red petals on white sheets) I pluck you
(a cluster of flowers comes undone;
grinds into the ground)

(CKL): What changed in your work from the beginning to where you are now?
(JM): Well, obviously in the interim I lost my virginity.
I learned a lot about the craft of writing in my twenties, and am much
more comfortable now using metaphor and internal rhymes. I also
figured out somewhere along the way that line breaks are useful. I'm
more comfortable with interrupting my syntax and generally less
But more than that, my whole approach has changed. As much as my life
inescapably informs my work, I'm not drawing from autobiography in
quite the same way (and sometimes hardly at all, especially in my
science fiction poetry). "Enough" was a deeply personal poem for me
when I was 19, but while "Ah Inflorescence" is about a real person, I
didn't write it to express emotions I couldn't figure out how to
express outside my writing, or for therapy. When I was a teenager,
writing a poem was almost always a stand-in for having a real
conversation with a real person--it was safer and less messy, because
I didn't have to deal with the other person at all. Now, although I
frequently write about my life, it's not a replacement for
communicating with my loved ones.

(CKL): Why did you start writing?
(JM): Despite what I've just said, not for therapy. I started writing when I
was eight because I was (and am) a people-pleaser, and my grade three
teacher praised a poem I had written for class. It was a rhyming poem
called "Dryad Lake" and was very derivative of the Anne of Green
Gables books. I wish I still had a copy. My parents liked it too. I
liked pleasing all these adults, so I wrote some more. At some point I
fell in love with the actual process of writing and now I can't stop.
I get really crotchedy if I go awhile without writing anything.

(CKL): Do you still like to write or is it a chore?
(JM): Both. It's a chore which I enjoy. I like the mental stimulation, the
necessary extended focus, and the sense of accomplishment when I
complete something. I like being part of a conversation that's bigger
than me.

(CKL): Do you write anything other than poetry?
(JM): Yes, I also write fiction, both literary and speculative (science
fiction, fantasy, horror). I've finished the first draft of a novel,
which needs catastrophic edits before it'll be any good, and have
written a bunch of short stories, which have been published in places
like The Fiddlehead, Stirring and Strange Horizons. I'm also working
on a web comic with my roommate, who is an artist, but we haven't
gotten to the point where anything is ready to post online.

(CKL): Was getting a book published what you expected?
(JM): Ha. Not even remotely. I had some kind of an idea that having a book
published would open doors for me, involve some small sort of
celebrity, make me into a real writer. It's nice to be able to say I
had a book out when I tell people I'm a writer, but it really hasn't
changed anything at all.
And the whole process was quite a bit of a struggle, as I had to do a
lot more marketing than I'd expected. Not that I didn't expect to have
to market my work, because by 2005 when the book came out I knew
enough to know that publishers, especially poetry publishers, have
very little money. But I made the mistake of choosing a UK publisher
who had no North American distribution. Stride Books was otherwise
absolutely fantastic in every possible way; I just lived on the wrong
It also came out just after I immigrated to the US from Canada, and I
was in that dead period many immigrants face when you're not allowed
to work in the country (lest you be deported), and you're not allowed
to leave the country (or you'll have to start the whole process over
again). So I had no money. My husband was working at a used car
dealership (you can read about his experience here:
and making just barely enough to keep us afloat. I didn't have the
money for gas to drive to readings, let alone organize any sort of
promotional tour. What I had was time, and an internet connection, so
I did most of my marketing online, which was a great learning

See the rest of the week:
27 July: Jeannine hosts Christine (that's me!)
28 July: Wendy hosts Mary
29 July: Mary hosts Jeannine
30 July: Christine hosts Joanne

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Poetry Book Blog Tour Part 2!

Today, Jeannine Hall Gailey interviews me! Check out the full interview at Jeannine's blog.

See the rest of the week:
27 July: Jeannine hosts Christine (that's me!)
28 July: Wendy hosts Mary
29 July: Mary hosts Jeannine
30 July: Christine hosts Joanne


Monday, July 26, 2010

Oh yes, it's the poetry book blog tour!

Today, Joanne Merriam interviews Wendy Babiak! Check out the full interview at Conspiracy of Leaves.

See the rest of the week:
27 July: Jeannine hosts Christine (that's me!)
28 July: Wendy hosts Mary
29 July: Mary hosts Jeannine
30 July: Christine hosts Joanne


Thursday, July 22, 2010

I've updated my website: November Sky

I've updated my website, November SkyI've updated my bio page and my published work page. I also added poems written in 2010 and audio for a number of poems: AnaelCrescent moon with earthshineTwenty-year love poemFirst CrocusHow to photograph the heartZachary learns to swim,Cicadas, and Peace

Check it out!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Autumn Sky Poetry 18 now live!


The eighteenth issue of Autumn Sky Poetry is now online.

Read poems by Peter Branson, Nielle Buswell , Melissa Butler, Luke Evans, Jennifer Givhan, Laura Levesque, Brigita Orel, Laura Sobbott Ross, Matthew Sholler, and Lew Watts.

—It's all about the poetry.

Christine Klocek-Lim, Editor

Call for Submissions: Every October, Autumn Sky Poetry publishes artwork as well as poems: visual, video, etc. I'm looking for poems with corresponding artwork, or ekphrastic poems. Please read the Submission Guidelines for details and feel free to peruse last year's Art issue, Number 15, for examples.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Poetry Reading at Earth Bread & Brewery: Where written art meets liquid art.

I'm doing a reading! And there will be beer, which will probably help my reading a great deal, either by making me somewhat entertaining, or by blunting perception so that everyone believes I am somewhat entertaining. Here are the details:

Where: 7136 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia (Mt. Airy)
Wednesday, July 28th 2010
Time: 9-11pm
Featuring Philadelphia poets: Ernest Hilbert, Teresa Leo and Christine Klocek-Lim, with an open mic session starting at 10pm.
Ernest Hilbert is the editor of the Contemporary Poetry Review. He was educated at Oxford University, where he edited the Oxford Quarterly. He later became the poetry editor for Random House’s magazine Bold Type in New York City. He hosts the popular blog and video show His debut collection is Sixty Sonnets. LATR Editions, Brooklyn, issued Aim Your Arrows at the Sun, a hand-sewn chapbook in an edition of 250 with a foreword by Adam Kirsch.  Hilbert’s poems have appeared in Fence, The New Republic, Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Parnassus, Boston Review, Verse, Meridian, American Scholar, and the London Review. He works as an antiquarian book dealer in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, a classical archaeologist.

Here is Ernest's write-up at E-Verse Radio: "Written art meets liquid art"
Teresa Leo is the author of a book of poems, The Halo Rule (Elixir Press, 2008), winner of the Elixir Press Editors' Prize and a broadside, "After Twelve Months, Someone Tells Me It’s Time to Join the Living" (The Center for Book Arts, 2009). Her poetry and essays have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, La Petite Zine, the anthology Whatever It Takes: Women on Women’s Sport (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), and elsewhere.  She also co-wrote and co-directed (with David Deifer) "Virtually, Paris," a short educational film on literary magazine publishing in the electronic age, which was presented at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs annual conference in 1999, 2001, and 2002. She works at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a former columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Commentary Page, past Editor-in-Chief of Painted Bride Quarterly, and has served as Acting Director of the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania.  
Christine Klocek-Lim received the 2009 Ellen La Forge Memorial Prize in poetry. In 2010, her manuscript “Dark matter” was a semi-finalist for the Sawtooth Poetry Prize and the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry and her manuscript “The Quantum Archives” was a semi-finalist at Black Lawrence Press' Black River Chapbook Competition. She has two chapbooks: How to photograph the heart (The Lives You Touch Publications, November 2009) and The book of small treasures (Seven Kitchens Press, March 2010). Her poems have appeared in Nimrod, OCHO, Poets and Artists (O&S), The Pedestal Magazine, Diode, the anthology Riffing on Strings: Creative Writing Inspired by String Theory and elsewhere. She is editor of Autumn Sky Poetry and her website is
About Earth Bread & Brewery:
“Earth Bread + Brewery is an earth-friendly place that puts respect for the environment and the comfort of our guests above all else.  From the green-minded details of our build out, to our choice of vendors and the way we treat our colleagues, you will find Earth an enticing place to visit.  We support local agriculture, local breweries and small producers from around the world. 
“Our tenet is founded upon honesty, sustainability, environmental stewardship and a sense of place in our community.  We embrace the connection between people and the foods we eat, emphasizing local and organic ingredients and products, and the producers and farmers with whom we work.  The restaurant will offer a menu of wholesome hearth-baked flatbreads.  The bar will present unique house-made craft beer and feature a selection of world-class beer and wine.”

Monday, July 05, 2010

Some poems published

Two of my sonnets are in the new Think Journal: Iridescence and Tail clouds. Please consider buying an issue to peruse. It's a lovely little literary magazine.

Three of my astronomical poems are in MiPOesias' summer 2010 issue: Moondust, Enceladus creates Saturn's E ring, and The star trails of Kilimanjaro. These poems are on pages, 8, 9, and 10.

I'm rather happy about the Kilimanjaro poem being published. It's one of my favorites and has been rejected numerous times. Does that make the poem bad? Why do I continue to like it so much when so many editors didn't? It's a mystery, this submitting and publication thing. As an editor, I know that sometimes poems just don't fit in with the others I've chosen, so I know how it goes. Still, I find myself confused by the difficulty of knowing which of my own work is publishable. Some poems, more than others, seem to find their way into print.

As for the sonnets, I'd despaired of ever finding an editor who wanted them. So far, I've managed to get three published. With those, I'm more inclined to think it's because so many people just don't like formal poems and that's why the others haven't been picked up. It's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Coming soon! July poetry book blog tour!

Later this month, I will be participating in an awesome book blog tour with some pretty fabulous authors: Jeannine Hall Gailey, Joanne Merriam, Wendy Babiak, and Mary Alexandra Agner. Stay tuned!