DESIRE’S AUTHORITY, J. I. Kleinberg, from Triple No. 23. Ravenna Press, Edmonds, Washington, 2023, pp. 61-80, paper, $12.95.

Last Saturday, I slipped away from the Chuckanut Writers Conference to attend a reading, at Dakota Art in downtown Bellingham, featuring Anita K. Boyle, Sheila Sondik, and J. I. Kleinberg. Yes, the conference was wonderful, with a plethora of good stuff on offer, but the trifecta of these voices, plus their art, was too great a temptation. I’m so glad I was able to be there.

Kleinberg read from several books, including her Dickinson inspired chapbook of collage poems, Desire’s Authority, published last year by Ravenna Press. I’ve been on a book-buying binge (a binge that seriously has to stop) but this book I already had in my possession. So, once I was home, I went through my TBR pile of poetry books and found it.

Take all the serendipity of how I stumbled into this happy accident, and times it by three, and you have Triple No. 23 (also featuring chapbooks by Michelle Eames and Heikki Huotari).

Kleinberg’s collage poems, alone, are all about serendipity, juxtaposition, and happy accidents.  She creates them by cutting apart words found in magazines—if it sounds a bit like ransom demands, you’re not wrong. Not demanding in the sense of difficulty, but definitely willing to hold your attention hostage. In the author’s note Kleinberg reveals how she came up with her collage series (which is extensive, and not only this set of poems):

Through the accident of magazine page design, unrelated words fell into proximity to cast unintended meaning across the boundaries of sentence, paragraph, and column break. Leaving behind the words’ original sense and syntax, I collected these contiguous fragments of text, each roughly the equivalent of a poetic line. Arrayed on my worktable, they began to talk with one another and assume a new shape of visual poems. —J. I. Kleinberg (p. 89)

Gaps, fragments, the hop from one word or phrase to the next like hopping stone to stone across a creek, the occasional precarious drop—these found poems are a visual and poetic delight. I can’t decide on a water metaphor or fire to best describe them. Either way, I love these poems in part for how they invite a reader’s imagination into their creation. If there’s sometimes a little groping to find a shutter or door to throw open, a match to light, the illumination comes.

You can learn more about Kleinberg’s collage poems—and see examples—at her blog, Chocolate Is a Verb. She is also the curator of The Poetry Department, which delivers one poetry event, quotation, or other enticing poetry-related discovery every day.


borrowed from Judy’s blog, a photo from the exhibit, “Ink, Paper, Scissors: nature speaks in three voices”

Just a Note

I’ve had several emails in response to recent blog posts, and I want to highlight these two:


First, this shout-out from J. I. Kleinberg’s Chocolate Is a Verb:

And DO notice the nudge toward Judy’s reading at Pelican Bay Books in Anacortes on Feb. 24, with none other than the fabulous Claudia Castro Luna.










And an email from the Jackstraw Cultural Center, regarding this podcast — part interview, part poetry reading, of my dear friend Carla Shafer:


THE WORD FOR STANDING ALONE IN A FIELD, J. I. Kleinberg. Bottlecap Press, 2023, 32 pages, $10,

I have been a follower of J. I. (Judy) Kleinberg, Bellingham poet, artist, and blogger for a number of years. If you have not already subscribed to her near-daily blog The Poetry Department, you must do so immediately. You’ll find there all sorts of poetry-centric announcements—for readings both local and world-wide, for book and journal recommendations, for great quotes, and more.

Kleinberg posts her own artfully collaged, found poems at her personal blog, Chocolate Is a Verb, and this, too, I recommend.

What a delight to have not one but three collections of poetry by Kleinberg released to the wild in 2023. (I am breathlessly awaiting a full-length collection.)

In The Word for Standing Alone in a Field every poem brings to life a scarecrow—part Dorothy’s Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz; partly an actual scarecrow, hung in a corn field, immobile, abandoned; partly dark witness to the world. I want to write to “the world on fire.” We meet him, and get to know him through the voice of a girl, who seems to me beyond lonely. But, once she has her scarecrow, she becomes his friend and amanuensis, and through her we learn the scarecrow’s secrets, and through him we glimpse her secrets.

I don’t want to tell you too much. She holds the scarecrow when he weeps. She observes how his “shadow / stretches across the tasseled corn, / a long scarf pulled in hour by hour / until it’s hidden beneath the circle / of his hat” (“Shadow”), and how she finds him, and the crows, and more, as “We all kneel together // in the church of corn.” (“Alike”).

Any of these 28 poems would be a good choice to share. Some are imagist, some paint a larger picture: “Oh scarecrow, faded effigy, straw man, / what can you tell us…” (“Effigy”). Every one of them shot right through me.


Indoors and in doorways,
the scarecrow is a stranger.

His roof is blue or gray or black,
fastened by stars. His carpet

the color of seasons—green,
gold, brown, green again—

but his feet in his boots
never touch down, suspended

in a wilted crucifixion,
arms flung, eyes turned

to the girl in the doorway.

—J. I. Kleinberg

Kleinberg is an award-winning poet and has published widely. To learn more about her, find her at Poets & Writers:

Or read the lovely overiew at her author page at Bottlecap Press:

Such a treat!