A morning walk in the quiet
street; I rounded a curve
and the rabbit sat, in a space of its own
on a sloping lawn gone wild at the edges,
its ears translucent red in the early sun;
each umbel of Queen Anne’s Lace
pointed in brilliance,
the grasses whiskered with light.
The rabbit held quite still: staring, unafraid,
as if we were together in the place
where every grass-blade always shines like that.
(First published in Antiphon online journal, Issue 6, Spring 2013).
My first collection of poetry, Sudden Arabesque, has been published by Oversteps Books. For a link to the publisher and to buy it from them directly, see my HOME page.
Some responses to the book:
Christine Whittemore’s debut collection is thoughtful, acutely observed and shows a fine control of language. Her precision and deft touch with subtle metaphor brings each poem to invoke, for this reader, ‘this quicker night, this different atmosphere’ ('Evening in America'). Angela France
Christine Whittemore’s poems are a gift. Their observations are delicate and vital, their colours compelling. She is equally alert to words and to the wild world beyond them. Her vision is lucid and profound, her humour wry. This is a deeply enjoyable collection, which seems to end far too soon. Alison Brackenbury
'Such fine articulation', an art lover says in this graceful new collection. The phrase could equally apply to the poet's luminous, Imagistic voice. Whittemore has the artist's eye for detail (rain falls on a flower’s 'red sailed parachute' , a paper wasp ' builds her fluted chambers, a symmetry of shadows',) coupled with the musician's ear. In Flash Back a couple remember how they once 'stood on the brink'. Now they 'stand inside the echo'. As does the reader for whom these poems reverberate, and chime long after reading. Anna Saunders, Director, Cheltenham Poetry Festival.
Sudden Arabesque was reviewed in Orbis #181 by Lynne Taylor, who said: Christine Whittemore transcends the ordinary by studying it. Through the intensity of her observation, she finds wonder, and each line is a marvel of thought and sensory articulation.....She takes us 'inside the echo' of these experiences: into the time, the place, and the impact on the senses. For her, and for us, the commonplace is astonishing.
Recent awards and publications:
"The Paper-Wasp" appears in Ink Sweat and Tears on July 19th 2016 (reprinted with permission from Red Hen Press). Read it here
"Painting of a Woman's Head and Shoulders" appears in Envoi, Issue 173, June 2016.
"Pollen" was Highly Commended in the 2014 Yeovil Literary Awards.
"At the Conference" was short-listed in the 2015 Bridport Prize and then was Commended in the Cannon Poets' Sonnet or Not competition, and is published in the journal The Cannon's Mouth, Issue 58, December 2015. It appeared as "Writing Conference" in Ink Sweat and Tears on October 17th; read it here
SOME ANTHOLOGIES IN WHICH A LUCKY POEM OF MINE IS IN GREAT COMPANY:-
Adlestrop Remembered: a Poetry Anthology from the Centenary Competition, edited by Victoria Huxley, Windrush 2014.
This competition was in honour of Edward Thomas's poem "Adlestrop" and was judged by the late P.J. Kavanagh. Many lovely poems, celebrating "Adlestrop" in different ways.
My poem here is "Cheltenham Railway Station".
Irresistible Sonnets, ed. M. Meriam, Headmistress Press 2014, is a collection of sonnets by contemporary poets. I am so proud to have a poem alongside work by the likes of Anne Stevenson, R.S. Gwynn, A.E.Stallings, Ann Drysdale, Rhina Espaillat, Willis Barnstone, Marilyn Hacker, and more. This is a delightful miscellany of many different modes of interpreting the sonnet form: lyrical, witty, elegiac, satirical, to name just a few. They illustrate, as editor Mary Meriam says in her introduction, "an intimate dance between poet and form."
My poem here is "Kneeling."
Letters to the World, ed. M. Richards, R. Starace, L. Wheeler, is an anthology of poetry by members of Wom-po, a women's poetry online forum. This is a marvellous collection of poems from a wide variety of voices, the voices of women from many different places, walks of life, and of varying ages. It's a rich smorgasbord of contemporary poetry.
My poem here is a sonnet, "The Paper-Wasp," which previously appeared in the journal Hunger Mountain when it gained Honourable Mention in the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize.
Here's my "poetry bio" :
Christine's poetry has appeared in many American and British journals including Plains Poetry Review, American Scholar, Hunger Mountain, The Lyric, Blue Unicorn, Piedmont Literary Review, Poetry Digest, The Christian Century, Orbis, Outposts, Antiphon, Envoi, and more.
Anthology publications include Remembered Place (a Housman Society anthology 1996), Prisms of the Soul (Morehouse, 1996), The Coventry Prize Anthology 1999, Poetry 2000: New Poems from the Literary Review (Robson Books, 2000), The Peterloo Poets Competition Anthology 2002, Letters to the World (Red Hen, 2008), Irresistible Sonnets (Headmistress Press, 2014), and Adlestrop Remembered: a Poetry Anthology from the Centenary Competition, 2014.
In 1998 the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts awarded Christine a Fellowship in Literature (Poetry) for a portfolio of poems. This significant fellowship was given to a few individual artists every year and included a monetary award to support their work. It led to readings and other opportunities. Christine was honoured to be a recipient.
Christine has led poetry workshops in schools, community colleges, and at writing conferences. She has given poetry readings as the featured poet at various venues, bookshops, universities, libraries and arts centres in the US and UK.
Every year since 2014 she has been invited to participate in the Cheltenham Poetry Festival. In 2014, she appeared in a group reading, and also in a session with poet Ross Cogan where she and Ross presented sonnets, classic favourites and some of their own examples of the form. They appeared at the Wantage Literary festival 2014 with a similar programme. In the 2015 Festival, she read her own poems (alongside Sue Johnson). In 2016, in a Chapter and Verse event pairing a poet and a fiction writer, she read from her novel Inscription, alongside poet Sarah Hesketh. In 2017, she read launched her debut collection Sudden Arabesque (Oversteps Books, 2107) reading alongside Geraldine Monk..
In September 2017, she gave a talk about the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (the inaugural event in a Cheltenham Poetry Festival series of talks by poets sharing their enthusiasm for other poets).
"His Hands at Communion" won a first prize in the Rhyme International 1997 competition and was printed in Orbis No 107 with the other winners. It gained the Readers' Award for that issue. The poem appeared again in Orbis No 115 when editor Mike Shields chose it as one of his top 30 poems published in the magazine over its 30 years, alongside work by poets like Christopher Fry, Seamus Heaney, and Marge Piercy.
His Hands at Communion
Along the altar rail,
beyond our children's hands aligned between us,
I see his hands lit up like candles, caught
in brightness: colours from the sunfired Easter window fall,
splash amber, rose. Long fingers traced in light,
his hands are held alert, attentive, hollowed
to make a glowing bowl;
held as I saw them cupped
when I first knew him, watched him cook: he'd curve
his palm, and in the hollow slowly pour
a little mound of salt. Then, steady-handed, deft, he tipped
the salt into the pot: brushed a few more
reluctant granules from the plam-crease, fingers
angled as they swept.
His fingers have the skill,
with flattened tips and slender joints, to trace
disease's tracks and pathways: tap and knock
and listen for the answer: probe the swellings, read the braille
of sickness on the body's cryptic book.
These hands (pellucid in this pulse of light)
have also learned to spell
the language of my skin.
These palms have warmed my back and flanks, have held
me steady, cradled me to deep content.
These fingers brush and feather, kindle flame, again,
when we enact our private sacrament.
Now is the time of the ritual breaking of bread,
The pouring out of the wine.
His cupped hands, caught
in a trick of light, are still mere flesh and blood.
And yet this brightness consecrates his thumbs,
illuminates his knuckles from the bone on out
as if they are made new, anoints his palms
and floods the creases. At the altar rail,
his hands, transparent, wait.