J.E. Klimek’s poetry collection Left to Write is divided into three sections: “Reorientation,” “Abstraction,” and “Sequestration.” The abstract titles indicate the character of the contents, as here Klimek explores heady metaphysical questions.
Klimek’s poems often examine the dialectic between dark and light or other opposing forces, expressed spatially or intellectually. Such abstractness is a strength because he is asking big questions, but the work lacks the fresh sensory images and details that would engage readers’ emotions as well as their minds. (For example: “Every exhale now releases/the nothingness that’s found/in each inhale that’s gathered…”) When imagery is employed, it tends to be well-worn staples from nature, such as rivers, rain, waves and so on.
Still, there is much to appreciate here. Klimek often uses metaphor aptly to travel into self-discovery. (“Sliding ink across this gridded terrain / there are times the pen begins to dig / deeper into the word it is constructing, / seeking the treasure hidden there…”)
In “Iced Cycle, Klimek intriguingly uses opposites to express the idea that the spirit makes its own light: “It may be a dark place/ …these pillars and arrows/ (pointing up or down)/ not made of a color /…seem to glow with a light/ not there.”
And “Sense of Prayer” cleverly uses oxymoron to present a conversation with God: “I hear a voice always silent, / that grabs me without touching / so without a sniff, I can smell that meal / whose taste is not for the mouth, / as speaking to Him removes this world’s nonsense.”
Left to Write is full of unanswerable questions: Why do we feel sorrow at death when it unites us with the divine? How can something seemingly ominous also present pleasure? Ultimately, though, this is a hopeful book about finding joy in solitude and contemplation. The poems don’t take great risks in form or imagery, but readers with a philosophical bent may find satisfactions here.
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