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poetry Archives - CHRISTIAN KIEFER


I tell you now: there are no epiphanies.

Category: poetry

2012 SPC Spring Writers Conference

I’m happy to be giving a talk and a reading at this year’s Sacramento Poetry Center Writers Conference.  Information can be found on the SPC website.  In brief, the event is being held on Saturday April 14 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the SPC, 1719 25th Street, Sacramento, CA.  A steal at $30 non-members / $20 for members.  With Michelle Bitting, Tim Kahl, Kate Gale, Steve Gehrke, and Christina Hutchins.  I’ll be talking about setting in literature around 10:30.  Planning on bringing in some work by Stephen Shore, Frank Golkhe, Richard Adams, Faulkner, Flaubert, Barthes, and Philip Levine and having a general discussion on the relationship between self and environment, and extending that into how that manifests itself in literature.  This is something of a preview of a more formal version I’ll be giving at American River College’s SummerWords at the end of May / beginning of June.

Why Yu will keep you from drowning

Yu the Great

I’ve been working on a poem about Yu the Great, founder of the Xia Dynasty.  The above image is Ma Lin’s portrayal.  Yu was famous for, among other feats, controlling the floods.  I’m interested in him as a cartography.  He wasn’t actually a cartographer, incidentally, but his flood control (via creating new channels and aqueducts rather than dams) fueled a very interesting map wherein the landscape is divided up, grid-wise, into one li blocks.

This is part of a potentially longer project of interlocking and interrelated poems on cartography and cartographers.  The Yu poem is, I think, just a starting point.  Excuse the hesitation here, as this is a new project and I’ve not yet worked it all out.  Just letting it flow some.  Part of this may have started with a song, “Cartographers,” that I did for Ptolemaic Terrascope (not out yet).  Who knows how the mind works?  Not me.

In any case, I’m spending time seeped in (simultaneously) Leonardo da Vinci, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage, and Chinese mythology, hydrology, and cartography.  The connections make sense to me in ways that I can’t even think of now that I’m looking at them all in a list.  Egads.


sometimes the faces
from the day’s melt
come to me in dreams:
white and hot as god.
and I speak to them.
they tell me
of the other side
where everything is
cool and dark and soft.
they tell me
I already know the rest.


Sitting at the coffeeshop down the street from my house grading.  I’m doing 100% on-line teaching right now and the logistics of it are quite complex and difficult.  In a physical classroom you are handed a stack of papers and can clip them together or rubber band them together.  If they’re not in the rubber band or clip, you didn’t get them.  With digital you’ve got lots of individual files everywhere and are faced with “but I e-mailed it to you,” which is the modern equivalent of the dog ate my homework.  Egads.

After the full court press of the Presidents mixing + SXSW + the subsequent flu, I’ve been eschewing music and having been writing again (and occasionally recording other people).  Here’s a recent draft of something new.  Much of the language needs work.  Tendrilous?  I don’t think so, but haven’t developed an alternative.  Poetry isn’t like riding a bike.  If you don’t keep up the practice it does, in fact, start to wane.

I think I was on an Ophelia kick.  Weirdly I wrote this a week ago and last night was reading Brautigan and he has various Ophelia poems mixed in.  Some quiet beautiful.  Not as icy as this one, though.  If this is even about Ophelia.



Shells in the snowpack
and occasionally
the bright orange of a fish.
Tendrilous seaweed
bulbing out in the clear ice
by the bridge footing.
And you too
red hair caught back
and eyes open.
So silent. 


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