Friday, July 28, 2006


I'll be on vacation July 29 through August 5, and won't have any access to a computer. I'll see you all when I get back!

The solace of poetry

{poem removed for submission}

Monday, July 24, 2006

Poem Spark July 24-Aug. 7 - the Vatic Voice

Salutations fellow poets!

I am reading the book "Breakfast Served Any Time All Day-Essays on Poetry New and Selected" by Donald Hall. One of the essays is titled: The Vatic Voice. In this essay, Hall defines the idea of vatic as "the Greek word for the inspired bard. . ." He feels that this voice "speaks only in dream, often in unremembered dream." He goes on to explain how this idea of a voice has a place in how we think of poetry:

Hall wrote:
It is the vatic voice (which is not necessarily able to write good poetry, or even passable grammer) which rushes forth the words of excited recognition, and which supplies what we call inspiration.

Two characteristics that distinguish the vatic voice from normal discourse are that it is always original, and that we feel passive to it. We are surprised by it, and we may very well, having uttered its words, not know what we mean. We must find ways to let this voice speak.

This is interesting, I thought as I sipped my morning tea, a spicy rooibus. How do we as writers forget technique, disregard grammer and sense, and open ourselves to that original impulse which caused every one of us to become writers? This is the voice that is often squelched in school. This is the voice that is silenced in adulthood because it is silly, it is melodramatic, it is too truthful to be entirely comfortable. This is the spark from which the best poems are created.

Hall mentions several things he does to encourage this voice to speak to him:

Hall wrote:
Sometimes I have tried to keep in touch with this vatic voice by sleeping a lot.

There is also the deliberate farming of daydream.

When you hum a tune, remember the words that go with the tune. . .

. . . one can train the mind to observe the periphery rather than ignore it.

Here are some other ways I think can stimulate the vatic voice:

— Write down snippets of phrases or words as you read the newspaper, a book, a magazine.

— Remember the phrases you heard in songs on the radio or your favorite CD.

— Assign emotion names to inanimate objects: the distraught lamp, the joyful table, for example.

Mostly, however, I think that opening oneself to the vatic voice involves the abandon of sense and propriety. Here are some examples of poems that I think capitalize on this voice:

David Ayers Let Me Say It Anyway

Jane Hirshfield Waking the Morning Dreamless After Long Sleep

Denise Levertov The Secret

This week's spark: write a poem using one of Hall's techniques or one you've invented. Open yourself to the vatic voice of poetry.

This week's spark will extend into August because I am going on vacation next week. However, this will give us all more than enough time to use the unexpected, the inspired, the vatic voice when writing a poem. Try daydreaming or humming. Let go of sense and write what you feel. The poem will form in the process of revision. Be creative and have fun!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Poem Spark July 17-24 - The "I" Point of View

Greetings fellow poets. I began thinking of the poem spark today after reading Alison Pelegrin's poem "Three Prayers from the Broken-Hearted," in the Summer 2006 issue of Rattle. In this poem there are three parts, all of which use the confessional "I", and each of which is written from a different person's perspective. The first part's speaker, Earl, is the father of two (now grown) daughters. The introductory line of "I. Earl" reads: "In many failures have my daughters cried." In the second part, "II. Cheryl", one of the daughters speaks:

"The day he left my mother cut my hair—
. . .
She said I had to try
to be her little man because my daddy
went and had another little girl."

In the last section, "III. Eunice", the other daughter speaks:

"Mostly I'm in silence when the sadness comes,
imagining the woman I'd be if I were whole.
How can it be he kept us both apart?"

In each of these sections the author writes writes convincingly and with authority from the point of view of three very different people. The only thing that unites the poem is the characters' common sense of "broken-hearted"-ness. "How is this possible?" you may ask. If you were educated in the 20th century you are no doubt familiar with the work of Whitman, Ginsberg, and Plath, all of whom wrote many poems with the "I" firmly entrenched as the dominant point of view.

So, is every "I" point of view in a poem the poet speaking? Or is it a persona? Is the poem's speaker a real person, or is it a character created by the poet? These are valid questions and can be used to further one's understanding of a poem. Indeed, it is much easier to understand Dylan Thomas' poem "Do not go gentle into that good night" if one understands that he suffered from alcoholism and a tendency toward flamboyance.

Yet, assuming that the narrator in the poem is the poet speaking is a dangerous misconception. After all, mystery novelists don't need to be serial killers to portray one in their books. Does every poet need to be suicidal to convincingly write about angst? Here is a essay written by Rachel Zucker which gives us a somewhat amusing take on the "I" in poetry: Confessionalography: A GNAT (Grossly Non-Academic Talk) on "I" in Poetry

Here are some examples of poems that use "I" as the point of view, but which are definitely characters, not the poet him/herself speaking:

John Berryman Dream Song 4

Claudia Emerson Bone

This week, write a poem that uses the "I" as the dominant point of view in the poem. The catch: "I" must be a character. If you are a woman, make your character male. If you are male, make your character female. If you are young, write from the point of view of an old person. You get the drift. Good luck and have fun!

Monday, July 10, 2006



What is this bone, this seizure
of porous strength, this strange
scratch of leftover animal?
I found you in the sandbox
at the zoo, guttered rough
and disjoint from the whole
skeleton that is now nowhere
to be found. Children finger
the edges of your joint;
despite their innocence
they know that you are old
and missing pieces. Now
the sun sharpens its claws
on you. Now the empty
sand cradles your stark voice.
And when I toss you down
from my hands, your solitary
curve shadows the light
with secrets.

© 2006 Christine Klocek-Lim

Monday, July 03, 2006

After the flood

This is part of why I've been so scarce lately. My family's cabin (the brown one) sits near the Nescopeck creek in Pennsylvania. The water came up to some windows, and above others.

The water sucked the patio enclosure right out of its foundation, as you can see from the bottom of the support pole and broken bricks.

The water also decapitated the fireplace.

I'm not sure how many floods my grandmother's sewing machine has been through, five or six maybe? This is the flood that finally killed it.

Chairs from the dining table. Yucko. The smell is what is really disgusting.

The gas grill is also dead. Like the toaster oven, the microwave, and the coffee maker.

Another photo of the patio pole, because I just can't believe it actually came out of the foundation. In 50 years, this is the worst flood. Well, except for the one that happened in wintertime. When the water froze inside and every time we tried to clean the wash water also froze. And fell on us.

No more carpets. Ever again. My mother promised that she wouldn't even try. The floors will be bare wood from now on. Nothing is more fun than carrying out flood-soaked carpets that leak stuff all over you. Who knows what kind of microbes are in there? Amoeba, protozoa, paramecium, etc.

The water even moved the enclosed portion of the patio three feet or so to the right. And it's not actually touching the ground on the entire right side. It's just floating. In the air.

This is what happens when you mix wash water with flood water. Yummy. Looks like a good, thick, chocolate milkshake. Well, except for the smell. Which I already mentioned.