Bare Ruined Choirs

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"The way the inner world meets the outer world in these poems is extraordinary." 
~Diane Frank, Blackberries in the Dream House

"Whether you are a reader or a crafter of words, Tom Kepler's poetry renews your appreciation for the beautiful." 
 ~Rustin Larson, Crazy Star and The Wine-Dark House

Sleeping Magnolia

Whose tight flowers
are drops of opaque oil
cupped by black
waxy leaves?

Whose spiderweb fragrance
captures the night
in a net
of loose wind?

Whose root fingernails
the black skin of earth
redden dusk and dawn?

A magnolia woman sleeps
beneath a wax leaf tree:
opaque necklace of her breasts,
ruffled sheets of wind,
black earth beneath long fingernails.

This poem, the first in the book, is one read by me in the Radio KRUU interview.  Prior to publication in California Quarterly, the editor asked, "Is this a poem about a woman or a tree?"  The answer to that question was "both."  The poem was accepted for publication.

Audio reading of "I Forgive Your Death" from Bare Ruined Choirs

Link to full audio radio broadcast of KRUU This Enduring Gift poetry reading

From the KRUU interview:

  • Do you feel poetry is a journey or an expression of the journey?
  • Tom Kepler:
    • I think it's both. I think that if you look at what many poets have done, it is their means of diving within themselves and really exploring who they are. I think very much any artistic endeavor is beginning at some point and then refining through revision if you are a writer or through the manipulations of color or form if you are a physical artist, and then coming to some deeper understanding. I think that is a refining process.
  • At the same time it is a chance to express who we are. Practicing the TM technique gives me a chance to probably work more on the level of expression rather than the level of using [poetry] as an evolutionary technique. I think that [if you use writing poetry as an evolutionary technique], you end up like [poet Phillip] Lamantia, banging your fists against the portals [windows of perception], wanting to get through, realizing intuitively that there is some further way to go, that language stops at the relative and that the transcendent is beyond that, the field of pure spirituality.

Links to Poems from Bare Ruined Choirs in my Blog


This is what I see…
a wide stretch of river,
peering lazily into water...

Silence Heard Twice

You say that the hermit in me enjoys
being left to these times of solitude,
to these times of echoes,
to be stripped clean of sound and abandoned...

Moved by rhythms reaching to their roots,
hydrangeas in November rain sway,
wear crushed corsages of wilted umber...

She reaches through wire squares,
fenced from the flower,
work-calloused hands
bruised blossoms which wrinkle around...

Bare Ruined Choirs, poetry by Tom Kepler

Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved