Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 days of Catmas





12 days of Catmas
On the first day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the second day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the third day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the sixth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the seventh day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the ninth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
nine fishy farts,
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the tenth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
ten tons of fur,
nine fishy farts,
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the eleventh day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
eleven spitting kittens,
ten tons of fur,
nine fishy farts,
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.
On the twelfth day of Christmas
my two cats gave to me
twelve stolen salmon,
eleven spitting kittens,
ten tons of fur,
nine fishy farts,
eight hissy fits,
seven shredded sparrows,
six stinging scratches,
five piles of poo,
four pathetic howls,
three dead mice,
two hair balls,
and a dingleberry in a pine tree.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pushcart Nomination for Coventina

My poem Coventina has been nominated for a Pushcart. I'm delighted. Thrilled. And really, really late posting about it. I received the email from O.P.W. Fredericks, the editor of The Lives You Touch Publications nine days ago. This particular poem is very near and dear to my heart and I'm so happy people are enjoying it.

Why didn't I post about it sooner? I've been a little busy. In the last few weeks, I've battled a leaky roof, dance rehearsals, a recital squeezed into the smallest stage I've ever seen, sick kids, field trips, shopping, xmas lights and tree decorating, huge dead tree removal, moving a kid to a new room, moving furniture to another room, parties, cooking, painting various parts of the house, cleaning, and etc. I could go on ad nauseum about the craziness that is my life this year but it's actually kind of unbelievable. I think it will all calm down by January 17, 2012. That's going to be the awesomest Tuesday EVER.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Knight in Black Leather by Gail Dayton




Romance novels are awesome. Read the following two sentences and tell me you're not jealous you didn't write them:

"The woman didn't belong. She was as out of place in the dark winter streets of this part of Pittsburgh as a poodle in a jungle."

Those gorgeous sentences are from a new book just out now on Kindle by Gail Dayton: Knight in Black Leather. Notice how the entire novel begins with a negative. "I thought we weren't supposed to do that?" all the writing students will be thinking. Yeah, no. Please ignore that old high school English teacher advice. The second sentence gives us a little more information: the speaker is watching a woman, not with a vaguely disapproving attitude, but with curiosity. Just as the reader begins to think, "Hmm, interesting," Dayton cuts loose with one of the most creative metaphors I've ever read. IN THE SECOND SENTENCE OF THE BOOK. And we've got location, time of day, and the season to boot. At first, I was jealous. I want to write like that. I REALLY want to write like that. Happily, my jealousy didn't last long, mostly because those sentences are so intriguing that I couldn't stop reading long enough to savor my envy. It faded away as quickly as an ice cube taped to a poodle's butt.

When reading a romance novel, one jumps into the thing with a single, solid certainty: the book will always have a happy ending. This book doesn't disappoint with that, of course, but the journey toward that ending is so freaking awesome that I stopped thinking about it halfway through the first chapter. Another staple of the romance genre is the role of hero and heroine. My biggest pet peeve with romances is when these characters are stupid and fight all through the book about dumb things. A great many writers do this to create tension but it's really just lazy writing, in my opinion. This novel does not fall prey to that problem. Eli, the hero, is one of the most likable characters I've read. He always keeps his promises. The heroine, Marilyn, is also incredibly decent. Neither of them fight over stupid things. Instead of fake tension created by fake problems, every single one of the plot points in this book arises out of who these two people are, how they got to be where they are in their lives, and how those experiences (both painful and joyful) cause them to react to each other in the midst of the larger plot. The sheer brilliance of the writing of these two characters makes me utterly grateful that Gail Dayton is alive and can type and apparently plans to continue for the forceable future at those tasks.

Eli and Marilyn felt real to me as I read their story. Neither was perfect yet neither was so completely a caricature of brokenness that I grew exasperated. I adored the way they met and how they grew to know each other. I would've been perfectly content reading about their love story, except the book managed to introduce supporting characters that were just as real as Eli and Marilyn. Marilyn's family, and the characters close to Eli were just as well put together. And then, as I settled into the book, thinking "oh, I know where this is going," the plot intensified. Things happened that I just did NOT expect. And the characters STILL didn't panic and do dumb things that made no sense. I don't want to give anything away, so I've left the particulars rather vague in this review. Suffice to say, I laughed out loud during the first chapter. I sighed in happiness by the seventh and bit my lip in dismay by the twenty-third (I also might have cried a little, but I refuse to get into that).

On Twitter, Ms. Dayton said both her agent and her editors loved the novel, but that it "didn't quite fit anywhere." This astonishes me, especially now that I've finished reading it. Truly, if a well-published author can't get a book this phenomenal published, I don't know what that says about the state of the book industry. Bad things, I suppose. The novel, "Knight in Black Leather," is now at the top of my list of books I adore and will read again over and over. Thank you Ms. Dayton for writing this book. Thank you. I loved it.

(Disclaimer: I do not personally know Gail Dayton. I've never met her. And yes, I think all of her books are awesome. My personal favorites are "The Compass Rose," "The Barbed Rose," "The Eternal Rose," "New Blood," and "Heart's Blood.")

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Autumn Sky Poetry 23, the Art issue, now live


Greetings!

The twenty-third issue of Autumn Sky Poetry, the Art issue, is now online.

Read poems and enjoy art by Mary Alexandra Agner & Julia Tenney, Jesse Anger & Adamo Sacchetti, Catherine Chandler, Noelle Leslie dela Cruz, Luke Evans, Jen Karetnick & Jaime Ferreyros, Jean L. Kreiling, Mary Meriam, Richard Meyer, John Savoie & Shannon E. Thomas, Joannie Stangeland, and Laura Elizabeth Woollett.

With this issue, Autumn Sky Poetry is going on an indefinite hiatus. I’m grateful, as always, that so many talented artists and poets have graciously allowed me to publish their work over these past six years. Thank you for making Autumn Sky Poetry one of the more enduring poetic experiences of my writing life.

—It's all about the poetry.

Sincerely,
Christine Klocek-Lim, Editor

Thursday, November 03, 2011

NaNoWriMo has begun



And once again I'm doing the crazy thing: trying to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. *gulp*

Friday, October 07, 2011

Editor's Choice: The Voice of Christine Klocek-Lim

I'm happy to say that three poems of mine (Coventina, Jeremiel, and Phoenix) have been selected as the Editor's Choice in the September 2011 issue of Touch: The Journal of Healing. I am so very honored and delighted to have been selected, especially because this issue is dedicated to my friend Larina's son. And too, I was incredibly moved by the way in which the editor of the journal, O.P.W. Fredericks, described my work. Here is an excerpt:

"What I appreciate most about Christine's poetry is the eloquence with which she conveys the moments about which she writes.  The movement of her poetry from moment to moment seems effortless; her imagery is clear and concise; her adherence to form, technique, and poetic diction is sound; her grounding in place is solid; and there is an immediacy to Christine’s poetry that is often realized in the first line.  The subjects in her work are always treated with sensitivity and honesty, and there is a lilting quality to her words even when they describe turmoil and heartache."


Thank you Touch: The Journal of Healing. Thank you O.P.W and Daniel, editors extraordinaire.

Monday, September 05, 2011

It's September

but the summer of hell continues. A dear friend of mine lost his mother yesterday. That makes three deaths this summer for people close to me. I'm not really feeling the urge to write or blog or whatever. Two more people close to me are ill. And my house is possessed by demons if the way pieces of it (including things inside) keep breaking is any indication.

With that, I leave you with a poem by Coleridge that feels strangely appropriate, via Poets.org:

Work Without Hope

Coleridge is the author of the first poem I ever memorized so I have a special fondness for his work. If only I could be reciting Kubla Khan and reveling in that pleasure dome, but alas, I think that might actually require psychotropic drugs, of which I have none. I have only my tea and the view from my office window. Yesterday a hummingbird dive bombed a monarch butterfly. It was awesome. I also have my kids who continue to amuse me. Today my 14 year old emailed me this video: Yeah, toast (warning: video game violence). So funny!

Friday, August 05, 2011

When all else fails —> dance



I'm going out dancing tonight and we will be practicing our Viennese waltz.



Viennese Waltz — natural turn

It’s like flying
or falling.
Each step a revolution.
The planet tilted
too much.
Sunlight far off.
Clouds strangely graceful
even as the storm
arrives.
She says, lean back further.
Enough to contain
the rotation.

The ballroom is wide
as a plain. I’m a sapling
and he is the wind.
Sometimes I touch the floor,
toes starved for solid ground.
Sometimes I leap.
Every other step a lock
as though leaves
can be caged.

He is vertigo.
The darkened tornado
peeling my meadow.
The sky falters but I hang on,
fingers lodged in his bones.
I am a white birch.
I am a falling
branch.

I am a spinning
leaf, spiked
with rain.


Written this past April 2011 during NaPoWriMo, this poem is part of a manuscript of ballroom poems, though one could argue they're also love poems. Yes, I'm a sentimentalist.

photo credit: Vladimir Pervuninsky, "The Viennese Waltz."




Edited to remove embarrassing public whining. You see, it all started with—. . . . . you know what? Never mind.
.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Can rage cause a crack in one's floor? Yes. Yes it can.

Warning: this post has nothing to do with poetry and everything to do with real life.


Yesterday my son and I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (aka: the seventh circle of hell) to get my son a learner's permit (driving). It took two hours to get there because of construction traffic. Then we waited in line for two and a half hours. A person who smelled like smoked salami sat next to me for most of this time. When we finally got to the counter, Jeremy easily passed the test, BUT:

They said his birth certificate isn't valid, even though I used it to get him an official state photo id last year with it. Even though he got a passport with it years ago. Even though I registered him for school with it. Even though it has a raised seal and all the pertinent information and was issued to me by the state of NJ.

Naturally, I argued. Demanded to see a supervisor. Three DMV workers insisted the certificate was wrong. Fine.

NJ (his birth state) requires a valid state photo id (or driver's license) to get a valid birth certificate. Theoretically, my son could get his valid birth certificate with his existing photo id (obtained with the non-valid birth certificate), but he can't get a driver's permit.

*bangs head on wall*

To get a valid birth certificate online, one must upload identity documents. The system won't upload even though I already paid. The system has no phone number so I can call a human. I sent complaint via email. No answer.

To get a valid birth certificate via writing, it will take 10 WEEKS. Yes, weeks.

*bangs head on wall harder*

We have only one option left: drive to Trenton, NJ to get it in person. I know that probably won't go well. We'll hit more construction. When we get there they will insist that I, his mother, present a valid birth certificate as proof of identity. That certificate will be invalid (I'd bet money on this).

We have 30 days before he has to retake the learner's permit test. And before you ask the obvious, I already did: we can't use his passport because it's too old.

*bangs head on marble floor*

*floor cracks*



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Autumn Sky Poetry 22 now online!




Greetings!


Read poems by Hala N. Alyan, Zeina Hashem Beck, Whitney Egstad, Joseph Harker, David Hubbard, Clyde Kessler, Bob McHeffey, Winnona Elson Pasquini, Kathleen T. Smith, and Kelley White.


—It's all about the poetry.

Sincerely,
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 19, for examples.
~~~

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Museum of Fine Arts—oh the irony

So far, this summer has been rather difficult. I won't go into details but suffice to say that real life growled and smacked me upside the head. Yeah, I'm not starving, my kids are fine, et cetera, et cetera but still, it's sucked. Anyway, I keep reading Auden's poem, Musée des Beaux Arts, because it seems strangely appropriate given my personal life, the life of most of my friends, and the larger world's recent horrors. Suffering is as transitory as joy. Or perhaps joy is as transitory as suffering. And there will always be someone who is unaffected or who doesn't particularly care what is happening because everything is relative.


About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;


I won't argue that I find this comforting, because I don't. Rather, I think I like the poem because it's so beautifully constructed. Because it says something truthful. Because that painting is incredibly amusing to me. I mean, no one is paying any attention to Icarus. Stupid kid gives the sun the finger and then crashes into the sea while "the torturer's horse / Scratches its innocent behind on a tree."

Hilarious. The horse is always innocent. Life is a museum of fine things, is it not?

Clearly I have a twisted sense of humor.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Coventina

My dear friend Larina lost her son this past weekend. I am heartbroken for her. He was only eleven years old and though he had cerebral palsy, his passing was unexpected. Several years ago I wrote a poem for her based on a newspaper article written about her and her son. I'm pasting it below in honor of his memory.



Coventina


— river goddess, known for healing

That morning he dreamed of dolphins. Deep waves. Smooth hide and clicks against his body. The sea moved his feet as if he could walk on water and he woke sweating, afraid of the thunder outside. Afraid of the rain, but the dream remained, too, even as his mother strapped him in his wheelchair. For once, the squeak of its joints didn’t upset him. Because this was his first time at the pool, he tried not to show how much he wanted it but her face told him she knew. She knew he wanted to swim, even if his limbs disobeyed his mind. Even if that black feeling came back. And the water was warm. Buoyant. They’d painted dolphins and fish on the tile so he swallowed the fear down, almost choking. Closed his eyes. He imagined the pool was a river, an ocean. The slap of hands splashing became waves and he almost smiled as the lights flickered, buzzing electricity. When they blinked out and emergency lamps clicked on, he discovered the mural on the ceiling: a woman with butterfly wings, black hair flowing past her cattail dress. Coins strewn around her feet. Shimmering green light everywhere. He wished he had a dime to toss, but then his mother lifted him up and let go and for the first time in his life he moved by himself. He laughed, something inside breaking open like a tsunami, like an impossible dream, and then he saw his mother smile as tears slipped down her face like rain.

— for Larina and her son Zack




.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things that frighten me

You would think I'd say zombies or perhaps my house burning down. Fear of being poor. Fear of tornados. Yeah, no. None of those things. I'm not even really that frightened of breaking my ankle again, though it would suck. Honestly, there are only a few things that really make my heart race: death (mine or my family's), illness (fatal and unpleasant, mine or my family's), and breaking one of my fingers or otherwise permanently damaging my hand.

I've lived through death (not my own, obviously) and illness and they are both hideous and unpleasant. I'd like to not do it again but I guess I'll have no choice at some point. Shit happens.

However, I have never injured my hands. I've strained a muscle or two and had my wrist ache from too much mousing (computer mousing, that is), but I've never broken a finger. And I bet that would be unbelievably HORRIBLE. Why? Because I couldn't type. Omigosh I can't even think about it without feeling hysterical. People think of musicians and surgeons and their hands. They say: oh that would be tragic, if something happened to her hands. Why, why don't they ever mention writers?

I've thought about it. Even if I never truly sell a lot of books (or even sell any, which could definitely happen), the act of writing sustains me. I read an essay today about what success means for a poet (at Jeannine Hall Gailey's blog) and her conclusion was that the writing itself was enough. I agree. (I strive to agree with that incredibly heathy attitude while I continue to weep and moan over the rejections that fly into my inbox.) Writing itself is a wonderful act of creation. Of defiance. Of hey, this is what I have to say and if you don't like it, too bad rebellion against our culture and society and art and stagnancy and sometimes myself. Except, how the hell would I do that if something happened to my hands?

I know/have known two writers who lost the use of their hands through illness. One managed by typing with a pencil in her mouth. The other, well I don't actually know how he gets by, but he continues to write amazing poetry. I know it's not impossible. Still. I imagine it must be like that nightmare where your body is frozen and you can't get up the hill. Words would back up inside my head like a truly epic sentence-traffic jam. And how would I read? How to hold a book? Even now my heart rate speeds up at the idea. . .

deep breath


deep breath


deep breath


.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Page two, page two, oh I love you so

Earlier this month I wrote about trying to get one of my unpublished manuscripts out in the world. One agent gave me a nibble, but I must have jerked on the line too hard: she swam away. I am still hopeful because clearly, I'm still on page one of my novel writing career. Despite years of scribbling, page one is difficult to move past. Page two weighs about ten thousand pounds and I keep losing my grip, my hands are sweaty and weak. . . (and I am mixing my metaphors, whatever, sue me).

I want to move on to page two. I'm nearly desperate to move on to that golden, shining page, but really, what does it matter? I'm not going to stop writing. I could make it to age 99 and still have my sci-fi novels unpublished and I'll be tapping away at my keyboard. Or maybe I'll just be thinking the words directly into my computer, courtesy of the neuro-implant we're all going to have eventually that connects us to the digital world forever, at all times.

Ahem.

Okay, that's one of my ideas for yet another novel. I seem to be overflowing with ideas these days, which is a welcome change from my twenties where I had nothing, NOTHING in my head except a vain hope for a full night's sleep.

And with that, I'll leave you with page two of my unpublished, in dire need of an agent, sci-fi novel, The Quantum Archives. (Psst, Brigita? I posted this for you.)

———


Quantum imager on display through December
By Thomas Miles, Associated Planet Press Writer
September 8, 2099 4:35 PM EDT
NEW YORK (APP) — Scientist Sarah Metis invented the quantum neuro-imager with the help of her sister, Eve Metis, a neuro-linguist. Though the imager only worked for a short time, the experiments and data from the recorded vocal fragments, catalogued by Eve, changed the face of human society, both religious and scientific. Advances in the fields of neuroscience, quantum physics, psychology, and many others were made possible, though the rise of the Post-Charasmatic religious group, Daestar, was also spurred by the invention of the imager. Nonetheless, most people agree that the benefits to humanity outweigh the negatives. Advances made in the medical field were especially welcome as research into the brain and genetics became more accurate. Most people alive today enjoy an extended life expectancy that would not have been possible without the new imaging technology invented by scientists studying Sarah Metis’s quantum imager.
The device, catalogued archives, and media of the Metis sisters and their work are on display through December 2099 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Sarah Metis’ death. Because security is heightened for the duration of the exhibit, all visitors must submit to a search before entering. All visitors are accompanied by a guide and no one will be allowed to stay longer than the one-hour limit. No unauthorized representatives of Daestar will be admitted. For further information, please visit the Newton Society Museum’s website.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How to write through extreme physical discomfort

Namely: a really bad itch.

Yeah, sure, I guess a lack of sleep (two hours total last night, suck on that you wimpy full-night's sleep people, I am awesome) could also qualify as extreme discomfort, but it's really more of a drunken buzzy edge-of-hallucination feeling than discomfort. I suppose the weird muscle spasms at 3 am could qualify, but still, no. Or the hot flashes (it's not menopause, trust me), but also no. It's really the itch that is the hardest thing to ignore.

Why are you so itchy, you ask? TMI ahead: Monday I had a dermatologist cut off a funny-looking mole (not cancer, the biopsy was benign). The mole was on my cleavage. So, yeah, I was a bit sad to see it disappear. No more Marilyn Monroe flash of sexiness to make me feel cool anymore, but really, it wasn't a big deal. Until I realized I was allergic to EVERYTHING the doctor put on the wound.

Allergic to Doctor's bandaid? Check. Allergic to four other types of bandage/surgical tape/adhesive/ointment/water/air/just-looking-at-the-damn-thing? Check. Red marks on my skin where all the various adhesives have raised patterns of itchy hellishness? Check. Why don't I just leave it exposed, you wonder? Well, the skin is missing. It'll take at least ten days, I think, for it to be safe from infection.

So the question remains, how does one write through such extreme physical discomfort? What will help?

---> Vodka.

Or so I thought.

I tried pouring it on the wound, but that SURE DIDN'T HELP AT ALL. No siree. Then I drank a little with my Benadryl. That was a fun couple hours right there but it didn't really help with the writing.

So I bought myself a ginormous, chocolate chip, chocolate frosted, chocolate muffin and perched it on my desk. That will be dinner. I'm not allowed to eat it until I write my word count quota for the day.

The fumes of sweet yummy goodness are extremely discomfiting.

I have named my muffin Incentive.


(Yeah, yeah, I can hear you laughing at the obscene pun all the way in PA. Whatevs)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Rejection, rejection, wherefore art thou?



Oh yeah. You're in my inbox, therefore my words exist.

I've been sending out queries for one of my novels, a literary sci-fi titled The Quantum Archives. I've revised it four times, but it could probably stand some more attention. Even so, the other day I received a nibble from an agent (she wanted more pages), then she rejected the manuscript.

The weirdest thing about being a writer? You are totally convinced people want to read your words. I mean, sure, there's the niggling doubt, the worry that your writing sucks coupled with a lot of frantic revision, but ultimately, to be a writer you have to be completely certain that what you're writing is something other people will want to read. It's a weird contradiction—all that insecurity mixed up with confidence. And it seems like it would be easy to freak out and give up; I'm a serious pessimist, after all, but when it really comes down to it, I can't give up. I love writing too much. The work itself is a joy and that's enough to keep me writing, convinced that somehow, someday, someone else will read the words I type and enjoy them.

The Quantum Archives made it to the semi-finals in the Black Lawrence Press Black River Chapbook Competition. I've since rewritten it as a novel and am still hopeful it will find its way to readers someday. Here's a peek at the first page:



Eulogy
Sarah, my sister, I know everything. You created that silver machine to illuminate the impenetrable, and as usual, you are gone ahead of me. I kept it, your diadem, its stiff wires and electrodes, the strange toggle you claimed was the key to omniscience. I hated it. One flick and the thing hummed, your eyes closing as bliss walked into your face, as you spoke in tongues, fragments of the past skinned open for you like the plums mother used to peel so carefully. And now you are gone to dust.
When the diadem was announced, everyone was delighted, not knowing how it bound you as if you were a slave, not a queen. Not a scientist. We should not have fooled with time. I should not have helped you build it but I never thought it would work. I knew better. You could do anything, stroll inside the brains of the dead, fold space until even Einstein grew confused. You claimed it would tell you how to fix the world, not realizing that the Earth already had become another place entirely and it was too late for repair. By then, I was too late to save you. That damn thing burned into your skull so badly I had to peel your skin away to get it off.
My dear Sarah, I am no longer angry, but I miss you. I grieve your passing. I am altogether bereaved and I wonder if you saw this future. I hope not. I have disabled the diadem, hidden its crystal. No one will know. Never again will a woman peer into her own past. We are safe, though I wish you had explained the euphoria you felt when you recorded. I could have fixed it, perhaps. I could have done more if I knew that was the problem.
I wish you had told me you were so sad.
—from the private diary of Eve Metis, sister of Sarah Metis, entry dated December 12, 2049.




Like what you see? If so, let me know and maybe I'll post the second page too. . .



.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

My winner for The Big Poetry Giveaway is . . .


Gale! I used a random number generator to pick the winner and counted down the comments on my blog. Thanks to everyone who participated in The Big Poetry Giveaway 2011!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

E-journal? E-zine? Why do we have to preface everything online with a big E?

E

I keep seeing people posting online/tweeting/facebooking about great new e-journals. This reminds me that I edit an e-journal, though I've never once called it that. I used to call it an online journal but then I decided it was silly to make that distinction and stopped. Is making sure everyone knows it's an e-journal so very important? And how does this even signify when so many print journals have e-issues? Or e-samples? Or e-mail? Oh wait, you don't have to say e DASH mail anymore. The AP Stylebook finally lost the hyphen. Does that make e-journal an ejournal now?

The distinction between an e-journal and a plain old paper journal is, I believe, one of status. Everything online is terribly gauche and new, despite the decades-long existence of the internet. Print journals (I'm looking at you Poetry and The New Yorker) have a sort of embedded upper-class sheen that e-journals do not. This sheen of awesomeness carries over to everything print in the literary world, so that even a baby paper journal, fresh off its maker's homemade press and with a distribution of oh, say ten, has a sense of literary hauteur attached to it that makes it better than an e-journal.

To this I say ptew! I spit on you, paper journal fanatics! Pjournals (hmm, that's kinda interesting, onomatopoeiacally-speaking) are no more or less well-constructed than e-journals in this era of web-literacy. Attaching ridiculous distinctions to web-only journals is one of the things that continues to divide poets. We've got online poets and academic poets. Old poets and young poets. New formalists and lang-po practitioners. It's like an episode of celebrity death match! Watch the dude who only uses his 1953 typewriter go at it against the smart phone guru! Bah.

All of these conflicts are a result of ego. Poets practice an obscure art which makes little to no money. The only way to keep score is to win contests and get published. Generally speaking, getting published in print leads to tenure. Getting published online leads to more readers. The decision between which venue to pursue is agonizing for all of us. Don't you hate trying to decide where to send your poems? I know I do. The cure? Let's all drop our Ps and Es and focus on quality publications rather than paper or pixels. Submit to both, then tell everyone about that great new journal you love without adding extraneous letters to a poor, defenseless word. After all, poetry is all about paring down the excess verbiage, right?

Monday, April 25, 2011

First poem tossed in the shark pool

(aka first poem posted on an online workshop)

I know exactly why I posted my poem to the No Holds Barred workshop on CompuServe on Friday, April 18, 1997: ego. I'd written a sestina and thought it was the best thing ever. I wanted someone to tell me how amazing it was. Isn't that why all beginners post to online workshops? You bet. The very first line of the very first critique I ever received is this:

"When I read your poem, my first response was to laugh."

I know you're thinking: hey, it's a comedic poem! Um, no. Hate to break it to you, but this poem was/is a melodramatic pile of adolescent angst. Sadly, I wasn't anywhere near adolescence when I posted it, though I admit I was 22 when I wrote it (which is near enough to puberty to merit a bit of mercy, right?). It contains metaphor and personification. It follows the sestina form nicely. It uses concrete imagery and active verbs: "Cars like intermittent wipers. . ." and "I punch the glass. . ." Unfortunately, all these poetic devices are at the mercy of a poem which says nothing except: I exist and it kinda sucks. It's just like all those other badly written poems floating around in the universe, pining for an eraser.

My response to that first sentence of critique? Devastation. Possibly a bit of anger. But what about the rest of the critique? you ask. Here is the second sentence of it: "I expect that you didn't intend it to elicit this response, but the piece comes across to me as almost a parody of over-imaged poetic angst." Oh snap! I think I might have cried, but I can't remember now. The reader continued with some excellent details about why he found the poem impossible: "You start with the sound being a wild animal and by the third stanza, the animal is you and it is in agony for some completely unexplained reason."

I didn't see his point at the time. I was using creative license to make comparisons, all of which failed (hindsight! my old friend!). However, the point is that I had NO IDEA what the hell just happened. I posted my darling and it came back to me eviscerated. I'd never participated online before. I read the rules of the workshop just enough to know where to post without completely falling all over my virtual self in stupidity. Little did I know that here, online, people were going to read the poem and actually tell me the truth. See, I'd gone to college for creative writing. Some of the workshops there were brutal, but it was my fellow students who were red-lining everything, not my professors. Since what they'd written was also barely comprehensible drivel, I was confident in my contempt for their opinions. In this online workshop, however, I had no idea who this person was or what he'd written. How could I believe what he had to say was valid?

By noon I'd formulated a response. It contained a great many exclamations points, question marks, and I'm sure it would've had a ton of smilies if they'd existed back then in animated form (I have the universe to thank for sparing me that humiliation). To my credit, I was polite and answered some of his points with the barest inkling of reason since even then I knew that a reader, any reader, had to be able to at least comprehend my work once I released it into the pool. I revised a bit. I found it hilarious that this person didn't even realize he was critiquing a sestina. My favorite part, the one which makes me writhe in embarrassment for my youthful self, is where I explain thus: "I actually wanted the reader to guess at this to provide an emotional atmosphere."

His response?

"If, in the main character's point of view, anything and everything is an animal, then I would regard the main character as psychotic and I usually find psychotic statements confusing. The poem is, to me, so highy [sic] internalized that it fails to communicate either a mood or a point of understanding to the reader."

Did I find this helpful at the time? NO. Of course not. I was so traumatized by his use of the word "psychotic" in reference to my poem that I ignored everything else he said. Unfortunately, every word of his second sentence about the poem being highly internalized was an extremely useful and valid critique. There is a bit more, but the result is that he basically wiped his hands of me and my poem due to my complete and utter incomprehension of the situation. After that, three moderators posted apologies for him. Another person posted an excellent critique of my poem, all of which I ignored.

Fourteen years later I find myself in charge of an online workshop: Poets.org's discussion forums. I've been at the job off and on since 2005 (several years hiatus in-between). I am the shark. I eat poems for breakfast. Now, you may be wondering: what is the point of this long, self-absorbed post already? And why the hell did she save her very first critique online? That's kind of weird. My answer: I deserve to feel that sense of horrible dismay now and then because it's good for me. It reminds me of what it felt like before I knew how to write a poem. Before I'd mutated into one of the evil sharks who munch on passive verbs. Because now people are tossing their poems into the pool and I would like to remember that while I can provide good, solid critique, there's no need to eviscerate the poem while I do it.

I'll be the first to admit, sometimes I fail at this. Just the other day I posted a somewhat sharp critique of a poem because after years of reading the same cliches over and over again, we who critique poetry grow bored and find ourselves fiddling with language just to keep ourselves awake. Snark is a great, freaking blast to write. So much fun can be had at the mercy of some poor, unsuspecting novice. When this happens and when I recognize it in myself, I pull out that first critique of mine and force myself to read it. I remember the sting. And instead of writing snarky criticism that delights in itself (oh, ego again!) I try to be merely truthful instead. And then I go write a poem. Maybe sometime soon I'll post it and see what happens.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Autumn Sky Poetry 21 now live!


Greetings!

The twenty-first issue of Autumn Sky Poetry is now online.

Read poems by Amy Billone, Mary Campbell, Alexandra Cannon, Carolyn Martin, Wyk McGowan, JB Mulligan, David Oestreich, James Owens, Simon Perchik, and Gail White.


—It's all about the poetry.

Sincerely,
Christine Klocek-Lim, Editor

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My NaPoWriMo love affair


NaPoWriMo, forgive me. I love you deeply, madly, but I wish you were yesterday. I dream of sci-fi novels while you twist your literary lines around my fingers, jealous and cold. Your spare imagery no longer makes me shiver with anticipation. Instead, I have been sneaking sentences of prose: outlines, plots, characters trapped on alien planets. I know you suspect. I've been making excuses: oh, just another minute on Twitter. Five more on Facebook. Its just—your reckless alliteration has grown wearisome. Your line-breaks are sharp as thorns.

One spring, when I was young, for a whole month I snuck a teaspoonful of sugar after school while my mom was at work. The first two or three days: oh, such sweetness! My fifth grade fingers tingled with anticipation each time I snuck into the kitchen, certain I would be caught but so desperate for that sugary goodness I couldn't stop. I loved biting at the stuff. Once I even put some in water and drank it like candy, but strangely, by day fourteen, the granules stuck in my throat. I tried sprinkling it on toast. On grapefruit. It just wasn't the same. NaPoWriMo, you are sugar stuck in my mouth, bittersweet. Addictive. Can I handle sixteen more days of you?

I want to break your heart.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Favorite Poetry Books



I've been reading the lovely poetry book reviews posted this National Poetry Month by Dave Bonta and Nic Sebastian. It's a great idea, and one I'd love to do myself, but if I add another thing to my plate I think my head will explode. However, I can at least compile a list of my favorite poetry books of all time, right? Here they are:

The Heath Guide to Poetry. This was the book used by my high school English teacher and the one that first seduced me into learning more about writing poetry rather than just dabbling with my emo teenage journal. This is where I discovered Williams, Roethke, Bishop, Thomas, Cummings, Stafford, Sexton, etc.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser. This is the book that taught me about poetry's emotional footprint. It's much more an explanation of how poems can move the reader than anything technical, but I think it's one of the most influential books I've read when it comes to my own theory of poetics. I'm always trying to move the reader emotionally in some way thanks to this book.

In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit. This book is a natural extension of Kooser's. I read it right after and it was perfect because of the way it talks about all forms of poetry (free verse, formal, etc.). Sure, I knew a lot about poetry and forms before, but this book is so well-organized that I still refer to it when I have a quick question. The poems used as examples are a special bonus for any reader of this book. Most of them are brilliant.

A Poet's Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie. Where the previous two books are easy and enjoyable reads, this book is a complicated challenge. Nevertheless, I learned more about the nitty gritty theory of poetry from this book than I ever intended. It took me two years, but I read the entire thing and I'm glad I did. Some of it is arcane and impossible to parse, but the encyclopedic detail is incredibly useful.

Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert. The poems in this book are deceptively simple: great imagery, brief narratives. When I found myself reading the poems several times, I discovered a world of emotion and philosophical richness. Gorgeous work.

talking in the dark by Billy Merrell. I didn't think you could write a memoir with poetry, but this book proved me wrong. The poems are sometimes gritty, sometimes beautiful (sometimes both), but all of them are surprisingly truthful. I don't know if I could write about my life so honestly.

The Country Between Us by Carolyn Forche. This is the book that convinced me poetry could be gorgeous and horrifying at the same time. I'm still in awe of this work.

Becoming Light by Erica Jong. This book was my first experience reading poetry that made me happy to be female. It's a celebration of womanhood. My particular favorite is "For My Sister, Against Narrowness."


What are your favorites? I could use a good summer wish list.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Guest Poet at Poets.org's discussion forums: Oliver de la Paz

As most of you know by know, I've returned to Poets.org's discussion forums as Site Admin after a long hiatus. I'm very excited to be back and pleased to report that the NaPoWriMo section is hopping with fresh poems and new members.

For your poetic pleasure, we also have Oliver de la Paz as the Guest Poet this month. You can ask him questions! He's a really nice guy! Seriously, head on over and see for yourself. There are some poems of his there (including my favorite "Wolf Boy") and he's written a few words about poetics as well as some advice for beginners.

——> Oliver de la Paz - Guest Poet for April 2011

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Monday, April 04, 2011

It's been ten years or so

since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (fms). What have I learned?



1. You aren't dying. You just wish you were, drat it.

2. It's possible to go five days without sleep before you start hallucinating. The hallucinations are usually of the hideous variety (melting walls, etc.) not fun ones (everything is candy). If you want fun hallucinations, take a few benadryl. With vodka.

3. You are allergic to everything, including, sometimes, yourself. However, if your throat closes up, don't panic. You don't actually need air for at least a minute and the spasms usually pass before that happens. However, if you have one of these attacks in front of your husband, get up and run from the room or he will call 911. The EMTs are never as cute in real life as they are on tv.

4. No one remembers you have fms. Probably because the whole scar tissue, oozing lesions, crippled look is so 1008.

5. You will never be on time because just when you thought you were ready, you have to run to the bathroom. Because your hair hurts and you need to try a different barrette. Be prepared to explain over and over that you can't get there by 7 am. You will NEVER get there at 7 am. Since the person you are meeting will never remember that fact, be prepared to lie after you remind them the third or fourth time or they will think you are a whining loser. You have to come up with some whoppers: a tree fell on your house, you were struck by lightning, an alien stole your shoes, etc. The crazier the lies, the more amusement potential for you which will give you a reason to get out of bed.

6. Never talk about fms. Strangely, people think your illness is all in your head. Oh wait, it is!!! Central Nervous System disorder! W00t!

7. Everyone else is just as sick/miserable as you are. Or more so. Yeah, that means if you wake up and suddenly realize that Oh, today I can't put on any rings because of water retention, don't mention it. Because your neighbor couldn't even squeeze on a pair of pants and you really didn't need to see that just so you could bitch about your puffy fingers. If your feet hurt, theirs hurt worse, probably because of a dog bite. Or cancer. If your skin feels like it's on fire they will tell you all about how their last sunburn was insane. Insane! Those two weeks in Daytona Beach were torture! Seriously, just Keep Your Mouth Shut. No one needs to know that you fell down when you got out of bed today.

8. Keep going. There is really no point to staying in bed because you will be neither sleeping nor having sex there anytime soon. Because of the nausea. It's always better to drag one's doughy ass out of bed and start the day. If you stay in bed you will feel worse in two hours than you thought possible. It's like having the flu and morning sickness! At the same time! Thankfully, fms does not result in infants (but sex might so it's just as well the fms prevents that).

9. Exercise. Every rational human being grows up with a healthy aversion to exercise (nerdy bookworms FTW!). However, doctor's say that exercise is the single most important part of managing fms. Why? Because if you force yourself to suffer through just one excruciating hour of exercise, the pain is sometimes less than it would be otherwise (see point 8 above about lazing around). Or maybe just concentrating the pain all at once into a single session makes the rest of the day's pain feel less awful? *scratches head* Okay, not sure about this one.

10. You may only blog about fibromyalgia once every ten years. Why? Because if you start writing about it, you will NEVER STOP. Language diarrhea. And do you really need yet another bizarre disorder with an unpronounceable name?


(Yeah, this is what I did for the last hour while I was supposed to be writing today's NaPoWriMo poem. I am such a whining loser.)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

NaPoWriMo 2011


A month ago I said I wasn't going to do this again. I'm supposed to be writing a new novel and creating the next issue of Autumn Sky Poetry and revising two other novels so I can send them out and make piles of money (ok, just kidding about the $, unfortunately) and. . . well. You get the idea. But then I hit on this great idea: why don't I write poems that are completely self-indulgent? I mean, for years now I've been writing to figure something out (meter, sonnets, alliteration, etc.), or to prove a point (prose poems? hell yeah!), or to learn the discipline of writing every day. I did it. I learned a lot. But I'd never really written just because. What would happen if I did that? Hmm. You're not supposed to be self-indulgent when you write, everyone says. I can hear a little voice chiding me for it even now — uh excuse me for a moment. . .

[Shut UP stupid little voice, I spit on you! Ptew! *sounds of a scuffle* Take that!]

So! starting tomorrow I will attempt to write a collection of poems tentatively titled: Ballroom - a memoir. It's about dance (in case that wasn't obvious). I began taking ballroom dance lessons about two and a half years ago, and I love it in a way I never expected. It's not like I didn't already have an art that I loved, so I didn't really approach dance as anything other than a fun hobby, and then it reared up and bit me on the a**.

Anyway. We'll see what happens, yes?

I'll be posting at Poets.org's Discussion Forums. Click here to see the poems, one per day all month long.
Egad.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Big Poetry Giveaway! 2011



Kelli Russell Agodon started this nifty project where a bunch of poetry bloggers get together and give away poetry books for National Poetry Month! The idea was so cool I decided to participate. 



How this works:

1. I'm giving away two books. If you want to win these books, please leave a comment on this post with a link back to your blog/website OR leave your email address (if you don't have a blog/website). The giveaway runs from now until April 30. On May 1, 2, or 3, I will be randomly drawing one name from the list of people who commented and that person will be the winner! I will mail two poetry books to you for free!


Here are the two books I'm giving away:





Uncommon Refrains by Gregory W. Randall, published by The Lives You Touch Publications. Why this book? Because it's fantastic. I wrote a review of this book a little while ago—to read it click here.











Cloud Studies - a sonnet sequence by Christine Klocek-Lim (yeah, that's me), published by Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks. Why this book? Because Kelli says to give away one favorite book of poems, and then give away one of your own. This book is available free on the internet, but Whale Sound also published a print version and I'd like to give someone the opportunity to hold that in their hands. It's a book of sonnets. If you'd like to read Nic's process notes about my chapbook (she's the editor/publisher), click here.








2. A little note about myselfI'm a poet. I'm really terrible when it comes to writing about myself, so no clever bio here. I'd love to say that I've worked in the circus, been a professional surfer, or lived on the Appalachian trail for a year with no shelter, but alas, I've done none of those things because I'm afraid of heights, hate to swim, and there is no way I'm going to live in the woods with no access to a porcelain tub for longer than one night. However, I have been a technical writer, an editor, a proofreader, and a novelist. I've won a few awards and had some stuff published a few places. If you're really curious, click here for my bio and here for my list of publications.


Good luck!




BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY! The list is at Kelli's blog:


Link to the List of Blogs Participating... 





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Here are the rules, via Kelli's site ~ Book of Kells:

"The goal is to share our favorite poets with others as well as to visit different blogs and see who others are reading. There is also a benefit for those who participate as it will bring people to your blog and share your work and/or the work of a favorite poet with them."