Poet You Should Know: Loren Kleinman


In short stories and novels, readers often look for opportunities to be transported into another world. In poetry, however, they search for something different. Unlike other art forms, poetry’s most prominent feature and attraction is emotion; its genesis comes from “the spontaneous overflow of feelings,” as William Wordsworth once so elegantly said, which are then channeled and expressed through vivid imagery and captivating language. In other words, poetry is an emotional cocktail which, when consumed by the reader, has the potential to hit them where it hurts the most: in the tender and vulnerable parts of their hearts and souls.

Loren Kleinman’s impressive poetry collections are prime examples of this exceptional ability. An American-born poet and writer from New Jersey, Kleinman’s work is notable for her remarkable ability to capture and communicate multifaceted emotions in relatable ways. Her poetry has been featured in a multitude of literary journals, including Drunken Boat, The Moth, Domestic Cherry, Blue Lake Review, Columbia Journal, Stony Thursday Anthology (Arts Council Ireland) LEVURE LITTERAIRE, Nimrod, Narrative Northeast, Writer’s Bloc, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Paterson Literary Review, Resurgence, HerCircleEzine and Aesthetica Annual. On account of her talent, she has also received the Spire Press Poetry Prize in 2003, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2000 and 2003 and was a Nimrod/Pablo Neruda Prize finalist for poetry in 2004.

Already, she has published four separate and distinct poetry anthologies—Flamenco Sketches (2003), The Dark Cave Between My Ribs (2014), Breakable Things (2015) and Stay With Me Awhile (2016)—each of which tackles and traces the complexity of love, loss, pain and hope through different lenses. However, while the primary objective of Flamenco Sketches was to explore these themes as they relate to jazz, the latter three took a different approach. Starting with The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, Kleinman began to turn the camera inward so to speak, taking snapshots of the poignant internal dialogue that often occurs as a consequence of loneliness, trauma, and longing. In the process, she shined a light on the tumultuous external relationships that erupt as a result of internal turmoil.

She writes a lot about loneliness in The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, but it’s the type of loneliness that occurs when the past continually encroaches on the present, tainting even the pleasurable moments. It’s the kind of loneliness that makes people desperate for connection and understanding and angry when relationships fall short of their ideals. “We thought love/ would make us whole,” she laments in the poem “We Are Not Who We Thought We’d Be,” and then she goes on to add: “We thought that with so much love/ We’d be parked/ Not searching anymore.” It’s that disappointment and sorrow that permeates The Dark Cave Between My Ribs but amidst that, there’s still that glimmer of hope—that one tiny bit of permanent longing—that encourages us to keep searching, to keep looking and to keep moving.

That hope persists in Breakable Things and this time, it’s a healing force as well as a force of destruction. Breakable Things deals with the fragility of the human condition through a series of metaphors—for aren’t we all, at our core, no different than the breakable objects that surround us throughout our everyday lives? It speaks of the openness inherent in being broken for all to see, but it doesn’t paint this as a weakness. On the contrary, Breakable Things portrays brokenness as the birthplace of strength—the womb of resilience and motivation. It’s inspirational; it’s intoxicating. Most important of all, it’s wonderfully candid in its nakedness in a way that all of us long to be but are too afraid to be.

In Stay With Me Awhile, Kleinman turns her attention to memory—or, rather, the transitory nature of time and memory. There is still that cry for love and the thrill that comes from finding it. But, hovering over that is a shadow of uneasiness. How long can love stay? How long can a person stay rooted in a moment, in a feeling, in a memory? All of these things come into sharp focus through Kleinman’s poems; she threads them together until the work itself becomes a livable, breathable being with which the reader desires to converse and play. And there is a lot of playfulness, too; Kleinman highlights that playfulness that emerges from paying attention to the little things, the things that are too often taken for granted or ignored. “I saw a bear once pop its head out from behind the/ cashier’s head, from inside her ear. She didn’t notice,” Kleinman testifies in “Living the Dream.” But would you notice?

In all of her works, Kleinman calls on each of us to take notice, to stay rooted in the moment instead of trapped in the past. She asks us for one thing and one thing only: to embrace the contrasts of life instead of shirking them for ideals. She reminds us that, although we are breakable, we are not weak, for within our broken pieces is the promise of reconstruction. And with that lasting message, she lets her readers go, hoping that they can carry these lessons with them on their own dark and often lonely journeys down the road of life.

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