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Preview: Christine Boyka Kluge

Christine Boyka Kluge

Poetry - Prose Poetry - Short Fiction - Art

Updated: 2017-12-10T22:13:47.196-05:00


Poetry and Home


POETRY AND HOME“Multitude, solitude: identical terms and interchangeable by the active and fertile poet.  The man who is unable to people his solitude is equally unable to be alone in a bustling crowd.”--Charles Baudelaire, from "Crowds" in Paris SpleenWhen I moved, after living for decades in one house, one of the first things I did was create a bedroom like a seaside sanctuary in shades of green and blue and sand.  This is my serene thinking place, with late afternoon’s gold light streaming through the rippling, grey-green curtains.   Next, I liberated my poetry books from their boxes and relocated them to alphabetical places of honor on shelves in my room and the connecting hallway.  I needed their silent wisdom, their beauty, their bright light and deep shadows to surround me.  They flicker alive as each day’s changing light passes over them.This morning, as I drift barefoot past the shelves, I stop and draw in close to my books.  I breathe them in, as if I can inhale those many words, rich with meaning and messages.  I notice how they stand side by side, companionable, leaning against each other as if whispering.  I touch some of their spines in welcome, admiring their titles.  Some titles are poems in themselves.I feel compelled to get up from my desk and pull Charles Simic’s books from the shelf.  I carry them back with me, and here they are, sitting on my lap.  His masterpiece titles: “Dime Store Alchemy,” “The Monster Loves His Labyrinth,” “My Noiseless Entourage,” “Night Picnic,” “The Voice at 3:00 A.M.,” “The World Doesn’t End.”  So few words creating such big worlds.   These titles speak to each other, and to me.With a little electric zap, I realize that my entire community of poetry books creates “found poetry” with their wealth of striking titles.   Titles brought together by alphabetical chance create haiku-like poems of their own.  In twin, triplet, and even quadruplet assemblages, the accidental poems arrive.  Here is Joy Harjo’s “A Map to the Next World,” adjacent to Jennifer Michael Hecht’s “The Next Ancient World.”  Thrillingly, “On Love” by Edward Hirsch stands shoulder to shoulder with “The Lives of the Heart” (Jane Hirshfield), which is next to “Lives of Water” (John Hoppenthaler), which is next to “What the Living Do” (Marie Howe).   And – wonderful – René Char’s “This Smoke That Carried Us” connects with Ye Chun’s “Travel Over Water.”  Some matches are eerily comical: Beckian Fritz Goldberg’s “Never Be the Horse” rubs shoulders with “Circling the Tortilla Dragon” by Ray Gonzalez.  All the magical correspondences turn into inspiration and personal connection.  (And uplifting play.)  That same zap crackles when my eye, hungry for poetry’s odd juxtapositions, forms the bridge that links book to book.  I love those serendipitous interconnections.  Early-early this morning, I was reading at random from two books, Baudelaire’s “Paris Spleen” and “The Selected Works of Tomas Tranströmer.”  I like to meander inside a varying landscape, sampling surprise vistas as I wander book to book.  I like to inhabit other poets’ eyes and minds and hearts.  Baudelaire’s quote above seems so fitting.  And here are lines, seemingly meant for me, from Tranströmer’s poem, “Baltics”: “Foghorn blasting every other minute.  His eyes reading straight into the invisible. / (Did he have the labyrinth in his head?)”. Inside my new place, I’m finding my way home.  I still live among the conversations of my community of books: the comforting, the unsettling, the wild and heady and inspiring.  I keep company with so many geniuses.  Together, we have moved through late winter into spring.[...]

Weather Sampler


Fascinating weather on the drive home from Thanksgiving at my daughter's in central NY.  I got a sampler of snow, sunshine, hail, wild wind, majestic clouds in shades from white to black ... and upon my arrival home, a gorgeous moon with a rainbow ring around it. I stopped along the way to take this photo of the ice on my windshield.

Click on image to enlarge.  Photo taken Saturday, 11/24/12.

Five-Leaf Clover


"If you do not expect it, you will not find the unexpected,
 for it is hard to find and difficult."
-- Heraclitus

Lucky five-leaf clover, found 10/6/12.   Click on image to enlarge.

Eye of the Anemone


"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
-- Marcel Proust

The eye of the anemone, this morning.

Photo taken 9/27/12.  Anemone from my self-serve bouquet
 from Battenfeld's in Red Hook, NY.

Interior Clouds


"They who dream by day are cognizant of many things
 which escape those who dream only by night."
 -- Edgar Allan Poe, from "Eleonora"

My window, my interior clouds, my daydream.  The camera had fun capturing this one, the image peeking out from reflections.  This carried me floating through the mysterious atmosphere to another quote, from an old song I kept listening to on my vacation drive.  These lines leaped out to me, and I had to hear them again and again:

"Somebody could walk into this room
And say your life is on fire ...."
-- Paul Simon, from "Crazy Love"

Such a fire theme in my life these days.  Pondering ... if your life is on fire, what do you save?  And what do you leave to the flames as you turn your back?

Art and Poetry Collaboration: Jan Turner


Calligrapher and illuminator Jan Turner of Kent, England, e-mailed me to ask for permission to use my poem, "Toadstools," for a project.   She had found it in Decomposition: An Anthology of Fungi-Inspired Poetry, edited by Roehl & Chadwick, from Lost Horse Press.  (Yes, I know -- the perfect themed collection for me.)  This serendipitous art-poetry intersection/collaboration is one of the thrilling benefits of the Internet.  Here's her beautiful finished piece, which includes her "spore print."  Thanks, Jan.

More Dragonfly Magic


My iridescent-winged "Halloween Pennants" are back, right where I knew I'd find them.  Every summer, these intricate dragonflies (Celithemis eponina) welcome me into their circle for an afternoon.  They always allow me to get astonishingly close.  I was surprised there were so many so early.  For the two years previous, I took their portraits in August.  Yesterday they seemed skittish at first; they kept zipping away.  But then we all relaxed into it ... and it was magic.

Picnic Table Shadows


Happy 4th of July!

Piano Window


The window in the piano.  There are still so many places in my house that I didn't know existed.

Easter Bonnet or Thinking Cap?


(image) Easter bonnet or thinking cap? Daffodoll decked out in her organic finery.

"There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself." -- Hermann Hesse

Hmmmm ... well, it could be reused as a graduation cap ...

Photo taken 3/25/12. Click on image to enlarge.

Those Barriers


(image) "Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it." -- Rumi

Official spring is here, and with the unexpected summer-like warmth, the world has opened to us again, inviting us in, calling us outdoors. The heart throws wide its own doors and windows to the new scents and budding surprises. That hibernating part of us, curled in darkest dreaming, wants to stretch, to reach out and bask in the sunlight. To obey the invitation of birds, brook and breeze. To unfurl.

I took the photo on the 23rd. When I got up the next morning, I discovered my writer friend's Facebook post linking to
Brain Pickings, with this quote as the opening. (Thank you Deborah Batterman!) Another invitation, another unfurling. Perfect.

Head Filled with Light


(image) I press my eye to another lens in invitation and fill my head with morning. The three vases dance with reflections, tossing sparks like confetti. On the wall, a miniature aurora borealis ripples. I touch the silent waves as if to test their depth. They skitter over my skin, painting my hand blue. The angle of sunlight changes, clouds arrive, and I lose my hold. My will no longer bends the muted light.

The three blue vases were a birthday gift from Thea. (Thanks and love!) The photo was taken 1/20/12. Click on image to enlarge.

Last Day of the Year


(image) The perfect last day of the year activity: a long, long walk at the reservation with a friend. It turned into a positively balmy, blue sky afternoon, so we wandered until dusk. Along the way, my camera was drawn to this rock wall decorated like a work of art with moss and lichens. What a great way to say farewell to 2011 and get ready to say hello to 2012. Happy New Year!

"Nothing is improbable until it moves into the past tense."
-- George Ade

Piece by Piece


(image) "Piece by piece I seem
to re-enter the world."
-- Adrienne Rich, from Necessities of Life

The photo was taken 12/2/11 at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Click on image to enlarge.

Slowing Down Time


(image) My current project: slowing down time. Today: successful. These milkweed seeds caught the afternoon sun in the most beautiful way. Watching them escape in the breeze changed time from linear to billowy.

"Give me the clear blue sky over my head, and the green turf beneath my feet, a winding road before me, and a three hours' march to dinner -- and then to thinking!"
-- William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

He also wrote:

"Horus non numero nisi serenas is the motto of a sundial near Venice. There is a softness and a harmony in the words and in the thought unparalleled." -- William Hazlitt

("I count only the hours that are serene.")

The photo was taken this afternoon at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, New York.



(image) Thank you to Will Nixon, who invited me to be a guest blogger on his Hudson Valley Poetry Blog. I'm not sure exactly what Will anticipated, or actually wanted, but this is what I felt like writing about: Tenderness. In poetry. Here's how my essay begins:


"I want to feel my life. That unbidden line keeps circulating through my mind these days, reminding me to pay attention, to be open, to let the world in. To say yes. Toward that end, poetry widens and deepens what I feel. It colors and enriches my existence, joins me to humanity.

One of the ways a poem awakens the heart is through revealing our human tenderness. In a fabulous piece by Stan Rice, "Monkey Hill," there is a gift of a line: "Over and over the egg of tenderness will break in our hearts." That kills me.... " (Simply click on the "Tenderness" link to leap to Will's blog and finish reading the essay.)

Scrolling through my photos for an image to accompany the piece, I came across this picture. By contrast, the essay is serious, but somehow this bit of over-the-top visual silliness works in tandem. Look, apparently I'm incapable of keeping my camera away from my mother-daughter monkeys, one of my favorite gifts, from my dear CSJ, who knew I needed them.

Click on image to enlarge.



Here is a passage from a book that beckoned to me to pick it up the other morning, to let my finger (like a dowser's divining rod!) find a meaningful passage. It was an "aha!"

People have already had to rethink so many concepts of motion; and they will also gradually come to realize that what we call fate does not come into us from the outside, but emerges from us. It is only because so many ... people have not absorbed and transformed their fates while they were living in them that they have not realized what was emerging from them; it was so alien to them that, in their confusion and fear, they thought it must have entered them at the very moment they became aware of it, for they swore they had never before found anything like that inside them. Just as people for a long time had a wrong idea about the sun's motion, they are even now wrong about the motion of what is to come. The future stands still, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet, tr. by Stephen Mitchell

Just love Rilke's way of thinking.

The photo of the leaf was taken 8/30/11.

Swallowing a Cloud


(image) White porcelain cup:
bindweed swallowing a cloud
The eye brims with light

The middle line arrived when I turned back to look more closely at the bindweed and noticed the cloud disappearing "into" the flower. Wednesday's line was joined by two others this morning, two days later. A gift. I don't generally use formal structures or rules in writing poetry; my pieces tend to evolve, creating (summoning) their own shapes. However, the haiku-like form's simplicity seemed to suit the snapshot's capture of an expansive August moment.

This Evening's Enchantment


(image) Magnificent evening walk at the reservation. I wondered if the particular dragonflies I love would be out, and there they were ... magic. It was like an enchantment observing them in all their glittering glory. As before, they invited my camera in, right up close. It was breezy, but they cling like little pennants to the plants. In fact, that's what they are named: Halloween Pennant, Celithemis eponina.

How invisibly
it changes color
in this world,
the flower
of the human heart.

-- Komachi



(image) "To dare to live alone is the rarest courage; since there are many who had rather meet their bitterest enemy in the field, than their own hearts in their closet."

--Charles Caleb Colton

"Secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster."

-- Charles Dickens

Yes, just love these words. I'm back.

A Small Serving of Spring Darkness


(image) As an antidote to this brilliant (but cold) spring sunlight, here's a small serving of poetic darkness. The editor of RALPH: The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities asked to reprint "Arms of the Snake," a piece of mine that first appeared in Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts. This is a poem that arrived unbidden, a duende-fueled surprise, even to me. Read on:

Arms of the Snake

Click on photo to enlarge image.

Skeletal Ice


(image) The Soul should stand in Awe --
-- Emily Dickinson

Delicate claws, skeletons, spiderwebs, daggers and ripples of ice. I suffered a wet sock and shoe getting this picture -- twice -- but it was worth it. This was the most beautiful, intricate ice I have ever seen, a gift formed by the crazy weather at the end of February. Now we are on the cusp of spring; even the last gritty rinds of snow have been washed away by the rain. The world is dripping, thawing. Things are about to happen.

The photo was taken 2/26/11. Click on image to enlarge.

Simian Awe


(image) Nonsense is an assertion of man's spiritual freedom
in spite of all the oppressions of circumstance.
-- Aldous Huxley

Humor is just another defense against the universe.
-- Mel Brooks

I agree. I believe in what I refer to as "the dark and twisted little laugh." It saves me from the shadows every time.

Click on image to enlarge. The photo was taken 2/16/11.

Monkey Love Tulip


(image) Monkey love tulip. Spring. Soon. Really.

The monkey also has a baby. The baby is its own kind of wonderful. (Beware, I'm sure other photos will follow.) The attached antique shop price tag was highly entertaining: "Celluloid monkeys AS IS -- wind up not workin, hole in baby's face." You can't wait to see that baby, now can you?

The photograph was taken this afternoon at my house. Thanks, Cindy S-J for the fabulous birthday monkey and baby. You knew I could no way, no how live without them. Simian bliss.

Simply click on photo to enlarge image.

Magic Skylight


(image) I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by an immense, long, deliberate derangement of all the senses.

-- Arthur Rimbaud, Letter to Paul Demeny [May 15, 1871]

This is my magic skylight, sharing its own odd perspective on the world through its frame of thawing ice. When you look up through it, it toys with your orientation in space. I like that dizzy sensation, the momentary vision of the world as a new and thrilling place. In one of its earlier incarnations, fully covered with layers of ice, the skylight allowed enough light through to become a three-dimensional Mark Rothko painting. This morning its frame has melted and cracked, leaving the naked trees looming like crackled varnish, patterns backlit by February sun. I praise its kaleidoscope eye.

The photograph was taken 2/6/11.