Artists of the Year

Christine Boyka Kluge

By Ray Gonzalez

In these days of short attention spans and popular literary texts appearing quick and flashy, the prose poem has come into its own. Absent of stanzas and line breaks, and sounding very poetic, the prose poem is taking over American poetry. In 2007, at least two dozen books of prose poems were published in the U.S. One of the best poets writing in paragraph form is Christine Boyka Kluge, author of Stirring the Mirror. In her third book, this North Salem, New York, native shows a keen awareness of what a prose poem does and how it can surprise the reader. Her book stands out in a crowded field of prose poetry.

Stirring the Mirror is filled with poems that transform daily experiences into legends and myths that bring the poems to life and remind the reader of the timeless action great poetry delivers. Kluge's uncanny ability to do this is essential, because part of the magic of prose poems is the way they take traditional poetic devices like metaphors and images and change them, often in one paragraph, into narratives, parables, and human lessons that stay ahead of readers, while inviting them in. As Kluge does this in poems like "Cold Truth, Bright as a Coin" and "Sixty Little Flames," she takes the prose poem into a whole new territory of poetic accomplishment.

In "All of Its Words, Both Winged and Quilled," Kluge writes, "The best poems have a steady wind blowing through them, a low, haunting howl you can almost hear. The wind threatens to lift the surface world like a rock, releasing the scent of damp soil, exposing the scurrying, chewing things beneath."

Ray Gonzalez is the author of several books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including the forthcoming Renaming the Earth: Personal Essays (University of Arizona Press) and Cool Auditor: Prose Poems (BOA Editions). He teaches writing and literature at the University of Minnesota.

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