Interview with Clarisse Kim, Winner of the 2023 National Poetry Month Contest

July 23, 2023
Late this spring, Poetry Editor Díno interviewed Clarisse Kim, recipient of the first-place prize in our highly competitive 2023 National Poetry Month Contest, about writing and living. You can find Clarisse's poem, "december 25" in Issue 4.
Clarisse Kim (she/her) is a Korean-American student and aspiring writer living in California. Her writing has been recognized by the SFCAHT and the California PTA; some of her works have been displayed in the Marin Poetry Anthology and the State of California Reflection’s Art Gallery. She wants to use her poetry to give voice to the unsung stories and to show the beauty of the (seemingly) mundane. When she isn't writing, Clarisse can be found reading the latest sci-fi novel, eating her weight in MadeGood berry granola bars, or playing/losing crane games.
Díno is a 16 year old writer (they/their) who attends Manchester Memorial High School in New Hampshire. Díno's interests are art, books, games, music and drinking matcha. Díno became interested in creative writing from a poetry class and has won a writing scholarship.
Díno: When & what inspired you to start poetry?
     ↠ CK: I've always been enamored with poetry since elementary school! When I was younger, I loved to write poems for assignments; I'd often use made-up words or really dramatic language. (I always get a good laugh whenever I look back at my 5th grade poems.) I seriously got into writing poetry during my 9th grade poetry unit in English class. My teacher encouraged me to continue writing even after the unit was over—major props to her. My interest and appreciation for this art form grew as I joined poetry workshops and began to write/submit more.Now, I try to write as often as I can!
 Díno: Does "december 25" have any personal meaning for you or any people in your life?
     ↠ CK: This poem has a lot of personal meaning: it's based off of my own terrible Christmas experience. I tried to write the poem as if I was replaying the memory in my head, unreliable narration and all. I try to paint a picture of shaky remembrance, fragile relationships, and emotions blown way out of proportion to match my recollection of events.
 Díno: How'd you come up with the choice of words for your poem?
     ↠ CK: I really wanted my poem to feel as if it's rapidly rewinding itself, kind of like a memory. I reversed each verb—words would "unburn," baubles would"fall up." This all helped to create puzzling, movie-esque actions! I also liked to bend time in the poem to represent a distortion of memory, often by juxtaposing two opposite verbs or time phrases (eg. "negative second.")
     ↠Memories also hold a lot of weight no matter how short or small they actually are. I tried to highlight a sort of emotional intensity by turning each small element into something big and overwhelming. Breath becomes wind and waves. Small gifts become grenades. 
Díno: What inspires you?
     ↠ CK: I draw a lot of inspiration from the California coastline. I somehow always manage to sneak in some sort of reference to the ocean, no matter what type of poem. I'm also really inspired by the most mundane of things, like soda tabs left on bus seats, or a bowl of fried rice. Poetry seems to collect itself in tiny moments like these, and most of my works are inspired by these little glimpses of life.Finally, I'm inspired by my roots. I'm Korean and Chinese, and I love to pop in the casual cultural reference—wok hay, or wok hei—a Cantonese phrase that means "breath of the wok!" Each little nod to my culture makes my poems feel a little more like home.
 Díno: Who is your target audience? What do you hope your readers feel?
    ↠ CK: I don't have a specific target audience, though I hope my poems can connect to readers my age. As for what they feel, I hope that my readers are left with a sense of wonder and resolution after the last line! 

"Under the Madness lies literature" - Unknown
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A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!