Contributor Spotlight: J.I. Kleinberg

J.I. Kleinberg on Found Poem/Collages

Drawn from an ongoing series of more than 1600 pieces, my found-word collages exploit the accidents of magazine design—the places where, by happenstance, unrelated words stack upon one another or cast unintended meaning across the boundaries of sentence, paragraph, and column break. Each poem/collage is made up of two to eight text fragments, each fragment the approximate equivalent of a poetic line. The text includes no attributable phrases and the lines that make up each poem are sourced from different magazines.

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The words are harvested from my near-obsessive perusal of magazines and set aside until I overhear some resonance between them. I am drawn to the music in the words, the iambic lilt, the assonance and alliteration, the potential and potent meaning contained within each fragment of text. It’s a visual and auditory process, somewhere between Dada and Twitter, between ransom note and haiku.

The words are more than language; they are physical objects, paper-color-font, sliced from magazine pages with an X-Acto knife, edges torn, words separated from prefixes, suffixes or punctuation to suggest new meaning, and arrayed across the work table that is my palette. From sense I excise nonsense, turning words back into raw material, then recombining them to disclose this new syntax. What propels me is the surprise, the accident, the noticing that allows me to recycle the unintended into this curious, evolving, personal, visual-verbal form. The pieces do not adhere to a recognized poetic structure; if they resemble a known form, that too is accidental.

This process grew out of a years-long parallel course of writing and art, including collage. Collage emphasizes both the new and accidental meaning of each line and the subtle shaping of breath as we read a poem. While the words could be transcribed into more conventional form, the language and the shapes are, for me, inextricably linked.

While the series addresses various topics, this collection reflects on how we function in the world, how (or whether) we change and what we’re made of: rocks, water, light, time—the elements that that are both the substance and the surroundings of our bodies (actually or metaphorically).

Contributor Spotlight: Robert Root

Robert Root on "Time and Terrain"

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me—they should be, shouldn’t they?—I’ve long been absorbed in writing about place. I compiled an anthology in which I reprinted writing about place by essayists, memoirists, and nature writers and asked each of them to comment on what drew them to write those works. My own writing often centers on place, usually places that other writers have already written about in nonfiction. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve reread Walden but each time I do I dog-ear more pages, finding something new each time. Of course, I’ve also written about Walden Pond.

I’ve written about place often. I once wrote short weekly audio essays for public radio in central Michigan and in many of them I simply went off on a walk somewhere and reacted to whatever I encountered. I once headed off for woodland my university preserved, stopped in a local restaurant on the way, and was so taken with the restaurant that I wrote a script about it. I continued on to the woodland, strolled frantically around it searching for a script, and just as I gave up found a sign I’d overlooked telling hikers to walk slowly and look carefully. So I found a place to sit down and ended up with a second script on the same day. The trick is to pay attention wherever you are and then figure out why what you’ve seen sticks in your memory.

After decades in Great Lakes states, I felt a gnawing sense of dislocation when my wife and I moved to Colorado. I had to go out into the Front Range to find a way to connect to where I was. It took a while but it worked. Then we moved to Wisconsin, back to a Great Lake state. Initially I wasn’t much interested in being on what I thought was familiar ground, until I began to realize it wasn’t familiar ground at all and set out to find a way to live in the place we’d settled rather than simply on it. That led me to write Walking Home Ground, my most recent book, and to feel myself solidly connected to where I live.

Time and Terrain” grows out of that pursuit. At some point I learned that I was living close to a site where I might find outcroppings of the Niagara Escarpment, the geological formation that underlies not only Niagara Falls but also the town to the east of it where I was born in western New York. I realized that my beginning and likely ending were at opposite ends of the Niagara Escarpment and began to visit escarpment sites in Wisconsin, like the prominent one at High Cliff State Park where this essay is set. For five years now I’ve visited sites in three states and one province. This essay is a start on understanding how I feel about doing that and why I need to. 

Contributor Spotlight: Maria Terrone

MARIA TERRONE on "Muzak in Paradise"


As a poet and, in recent years, a writer of creative nonfiction, my constant challenge is to remain alert. It’s easy in daily life to see-but-not-see, hear-but-not-hear, and so it goes for all the senses, so that we can end up moving through life like robots. As an antidote to this sad possibility,  I keep a very small notebook in my handbag at all times so that I can record whatever strikes me, no matter how small the detail. This is a way of allowing my life apart from the non-writing time to feed my creative spirit because inspiration comes when I allow myself to be in a state of readiness. It takes a conscious effort for me to take off my blinders and experience the quotidian in a fresh way. But this is something that I must do to be creative and through my creativity, to feel fully alive.

Regardless of what genre I’m writing in—and sometimes I combine both—my work is rooted in the senses. I may jot down a scrap of surreal-sounding conversation overheard, describe an unusual homemade jacket of many colors worn by a passing stranger, perhaps a flash of birdwing—or was that a plane?—against a mauve sky. I’m also a voracious consumer of the news. Sometimes my observations about my surroundings combine in interesting ways with what I’ve recently read. For example, before I composed the poem, “In the Still Jade Water of Noyac Bay” that appears in my first poetry collection, I’d come upon an article about a Chinese emperor buried with the “protection” of 6,000 life-size terracotta soldiers. That story sparked my imagination and influenced the poem throughout, beginning with its first image of the bay’s inky-green seaweed “mysterious and complex to me as a word of Asian text.”

And sometimes I find myself amused by what seems quirky and askew in modern life—such as a supermarket cashier screaming “Void!” over and over to get the attention of a manager who was nowhere in sight, which led to a poem that meditated on Samuel Beckett’s existential play Waiting for Godot.  My poem in Split Rock Review, “Muzak in Paradise,” which I took such delight in writing, is another example of a poem happy to explore the absurd and offbeat. It also illustrates the high inspiration potential of travel. For me, leaving my usual environment, even if just to visit a museum or nearby park, often leads to pages of notes. When I explore even farther afield, such as “Muzak’s” setting in Costa Rica, my antennae are all the way up, probing, sensing.

The resulting observations, often jotted on the fly, may remain dormant in my notebooks for years, or soon become the kernels of new work. Having some words to begin invariably takes away the terror of facing a blank page. 

Great Lakes Poetry Anthology

Split Rock Review invites poetry submissions for Waters Deep: A Great Lakes Poetry Anthology, to be published in winter 2018. Submissions will be accepted May 1 - June 30, 2018.

SRR seeks poems that celebrate and emphasize the beauty, uniqueness, diversity, history, ecology, geological wonders, and importance of the Great Lakes and the communities surrounding them.

Do you have poems that explore the history of transportation, migration, shipping and trade of the Great Lakes? Poems about the native or non-native species that inhabit the mysterious waters? Poems that capture the awe-inspiring storms born from the lakes? If so, send your best poems inspired by the Great Lakes to Split Rock Review!

Contributors will receive a complimentary copy of the anthology upon publication. All poems submitted must be previously unpublished. Simultaneous submissions allowed. No submission fee! For more information and submission guidelines, visit:

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Chequamegon Bay Arts Council and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin. 

Winner of 2017 Poetry Chapbook Contest

Many thanks to everyone who submitted to the 2017 Poetry Chapbook Contest! We received a large number of manuscripts this year, and it was a very difficult decision due to the high quality of submissions. 

We are thrilled to announce that Rosemarie Dombrowski's manuscript The Cleavage Planes of Southwest Minerals [A Love Story] is Split Rock Review's 2017 Poetry Chapbook Contest winner!

Rosemarie Dombrowski is the founder of rinky dink press, an editor at Four Chambers Press, and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix, AZ. She is the recipient of four Pushcart nominations, an Arts Hero Award, and a fellowship from the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics. Her collections include The Book of Emergencies, which was the recipient of a 2016 Human Relations Indie Book Award, and The Philosophy of Unclean Things. She teaches courses on poetics, women’s literature, and ethnography at Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

Additionally, we would like to recognize the strong collections submitted by the finalists (in alphabetical order): "Humming at the Dinner Table" by Joanne Esser; "After the Drought" by Jeff Ewing; "Love’s Test" by Jed Myers; "The Sadness of Old Fences" by Robert Okaji; "Homework" by LeRoy Sorenson.

Thanks again for all your interest and support in Split Rock Review