Poetry Guest Interview – Antonia Alexandra Klimenko-Writer/Poet in Residence for SpokenWord Paris.

Contemplating the Muse

No 15

Linda Ibbotson

“Paris opened like a book under my skin,
‘A Moveable Feast’ Hemingway once said….”


Opening line from my poem ‘Pastiche,’ one of a sequence of poems entitled
‘The Paris Sketchbook’ published in Levure Litteraire 13.  http://levurelitteraire.com/linda-ibbotson-2/

Ernest Hemingway described, so succinctly, Paris as ‘A Moveable Feast’ and spent much of his time in the vibrant bohemian Latin Quarter in the company of the Avant-Garde such as T S Eliot, F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Dali and Picasso, escaping momentarily the cold, often uncomfortable conditions in which they lived, to eat and write in the warmth of cafés such as La Closerie des Lilas, Les Deux Magots and Brasserie Lipp.

I followed in their footsteps, strolling the boulevards as a flaneur, frequenting the literary haunts, browsing the plethora of books in Shakespere and Company where I attended a poetry event Celebrating Fifty Years of Modern Poetry in Translation in August 2016.

Linda and Antonia
Antonia and myself at the Paris Ritz

It was wonderful meeting Antonia Alexandra Klimenko, my companion and guide on several occasions. An accomplished and charismatic poet, Antonia’s artistry juxtaposes her powerful voice with the tender and the raw as well as infusing the spiritual. I was fascinated by her personal experiences of Paris including meeting George Whitman and Salvadore Dali! We indulged in afternoon tea at the luxurious Paris Ritz Proust room and picnicked in Square René Viviani  sipping apple juice, overlooking Notre Dame before attending SpokenWord Paris’ open mic at Au Chat Noir. As Writer/Poet in Residence for SWP, Antonia books the special guest each week. It was exciting for me to revisit with our mutual friend Danielle Baraka in April 2017 who travelled to Paris to meet us.

Antonia. trained as an actress at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and a former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion has recently had the pleasure of reading with the multi-talented Helene Cardona;  poet, actress, (including ‘Chocolat’ and ‘Mumford’) and translator among her many accolades and poet and translator, John High, at the Tennessee Bar. ‘Poets Live’ is hosted by Malik Crumpler. 

Links to some of Antonia’s publications, regular poetry events and venues at the end of this article.



Orchids at the Paris Ritz

Antonia Alexandra Klimenko is widely published. Her work has appeared in  XXI Century World Literature (in which she represents France) The Poet”s Quest for God Anthology, CounterPunch, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, The Rumpus, Levure Litteraire, Big Bridge,Writing for Peace, Strangers in Paris, Occupy Poets’ Anthology (in which she is distinguished as an American Poet), Maintenant : Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She is the Writer/Poet in Residence for SpokenWord Paris.


What brought you to Paris, city of writers, artists and musicians?

My brother. I hadn’t seen him since I was 11 years old and, finally, I was 19 and old enough to travel. I was grateful that he had chosen Paris, as Paris had always been at the top of my short list of places that I had longed to visit, and for the usual reasons— the light, the architecture, the culture, the community of artists.  The notion that even if you made but a modest living, you might enjoy the abundance of beauty and spirit.  I like to think, also, that it was fate. 


Which is your favorite café/ Parisian haunt?

For outdoor haunts:  There’s a place at the river’s edge on the Isle Saint Louis that I am very fond of. Also, the Jardin du Luxembourg.  Indoor: The light tiled Moroccan patio of Salon de The de La Grande Mosquee on sunny days, the shaded room of La Palette on rainy.


What motivates you to write and your influences?

The desire to transcend. To share and/or reflect beauty. To heal, to process an experience that might have been less than wonderful and to create positive energy from it. To connect with self and with others, to share thoughts and ideals which make us most human.  Writing encourages empathy as we imagine what it must be like to be in someone else’s shoes. I also enjoy the art of expression, trying to find the better messenger to convey meaning.  Poetry, like music, opens a portal to the mystery of understanding without our fully comprehending.  It brings me closer to Spirit.

And, of course, you never know who you might meet along the way. For instance, I was invited to a rather surreal soiree here in Paris where I couldn’t help but notice a charismatic artist with jet-black hair {and an unreasonably wide but charming moustache) wearing a satin pirate shirt topped off by a small leashed monkey sitting on his shoulder. He spoke to me towards the end of the evening. Told me he had noticed me…that I shouldn’t smile too much…that a woman must be mysterious.  Our brief meeting inspired me—years later– to write ‘’One evening, stand on the sky and learn to paint your world without a wooden frame. Then, climb into the painting.’’


Writers you admire and who influence your own poetic style?

I admire Michael Rothenberg, of 100 Thousand Poets for Change as a Living Poem.  He reached out to me when he heard I was ill and suggested I apply for a grant to Poets in Need, which I gratefully received. He reminds us that communion, communication and community can effect change and transformation in the world. As for writing styleDostoyevsky, Rilke, e.e. cummings, Anne Sexton, James Wright.


What is your favorite line from one of your poems?

This is like Sophie’s Choice haha, as all of our creations are like our children.  Ok, if I must…

And, still the soul’s marrow

like my own bone’s thinning

moves through and beyond  

the fading bruise of my existence


Your goals and aspirations?


At the SpokenWord Paris, Au Chat Noir

To get my collections of poems published. To finish my play, which I’m afraid is all play and no work right now. I had an opportunity to be published by the legendary Tambimuttu of Poetry London.  I even made a recording for him under the Apple Record label as he had gone into business with The Beatles at the tail-end of the 70’s.  The magazine was then called Poetry London / Apple Magazine. However, I decided I wanted to delay the publication in order to offer, perhaps, more inspired work and when Tambi died the manuscript was orphaned.  I only began to submit my work to journals in the last 7 years.  Now, as I approach 70, I do sincerely wish to find good homes for my poetic offspring.  I suppose it might help, haha,  if I sent them out into the world.


Of Papa Who Sang in the Opera


We buried him in deep November
brown hat brown suit brown shoes
of sorrow of sepia of sienna
of a thousand burnt photographs
fading into their horizon

of the shit linoleum
I scrubbed with a toothbrush
the day I was forced
to dig my own grave

for the crimes I committed
like living
A hole much smaller
than the ones in Papa’s head
than the ones in our stories
than the hole in my heart

We buried him above ground
one year at a time
lowering him slowly
into forgiveness–
tulips blossoming
into Soviet red wounds
mouth opening
into Stalin’s tomb
Arias by Tchaikovsky
in operatic fury threatening
to swallow us whole

Lowering him slowly
into forgiveness–
Our father His Holiness
who dreamt of Byzantium-
clouds fluttering like butterflies
between claps of thunder
A pinch of late Autumn blown by the wind
God threw in a handful of stars
The sunflowers looked on
bowing their heads

Sometimes late at night
I lie in his grave
Papa wanders
barefoot there
like Jesus Christ in Summer
The Devil too
in his black fedora




Irish Whisky


                     whisky”- –of Gaelic and Old Irish descent meaning “water of life


It’s like the letter you were expecting

but had forgotten

the dream you almost recall

upon waking

One day you are writing to yourself

to prove that you exist

the next day you are talking to someone

who doesn’t


How to talk to oneself

is a language all its own—

a message behind distorted glass

with the swell of the crumbling cork–

the skewed tongue that no longer fits


I have tried

translating myself into a another language—

a new language that I might better understand

Translations are at best

like well-known paintings

rendered by unknown artists—

Impressionists– every one of them—

always the colors just a little off

always something missing


In the wee green hours of the marnin’

In the pale blue hours of the morning

I weave forth and back  back and forth

doing a poor imitation of me-self—

cutting a rug set in its own pattern

without a thread of light to add to my design


Today I received a letter in the mail—

no words  only a blank page in an envelope—

handwriting slurred

a crooked stamp in the corner—

those suspicious wavy lines


No problem

Pas de problem, I say—

reaching for the real thing—100 proof—

my words turning up like drunken sailors

stumbling off the tongue…


I always read my poems sober

I always write my poems drunk 


Originally published in The Bastille



The Travel Channel         


It took me forever to learn how to love–

to love wide open with the throat singing arias

with the arms waving like banners

with the heart bleeding flesh

with the entrails leaking

with that profound wound of womanhood

that waits for you like a bruised ripening hunger

that trembles for you like an unhinged moon

that weeps for you as you enter me without a sound


How to love openly is an art   I do it best in my head

without you  With the lights off and the television on–

stepping back into myself like your favorite rerun

Afraid that you will   see the silent movies in my eyes

Afraid that you will   study my veins like roadmaps

that stretch across the sagging accordion of my ribs

into the rolling hills  the deep divide of my conscious being

that you will mistake my matching carry-on luggage

for that cute set of accessories you will carry-off one day

to that land of used dreams without me


In your mind   I am merely a reflection of you–

a mirror with a memory that unfolds now in slow motion

only after you’ve pulled out of the tunnel

and already left the station  The voice that–

just before you switch the channel–

knows how to love you with its mouth wide-open

and screams faster than you can say fast forward:

I gave you my body…now I want it back!


Originally published in Iodine Journal



Tell us about SpokenWord Paris and other events/venues, particularly for English language speakers

In the words of David Barne’s its founder: SpokenWord Paris is one pole of a nomadic tribe of people who love poetry, writing and song. A home for creatives and lost anglophones. We do an open mic night called SpokenWord every Monday and an allied writers’ workshop at Shakespeare & Company (every Sunday.) We do a literary journal called The Bastille and Tightrope Books has published many of us in the book “Strangers in Paris.”




Venues with open mic and featured guest


SpokenWord Paris—Au Chat Noir, 76 Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Metro ligne 2 or

Metro ligne 3 Parmentier. Sign up is at 8 pm.


There are also two open mic ‘’offshoots’’ of SWP that now ‘’do their own thing’’

Paris Lit Up – Culture Rapide, 103 Julien Lacroix, Metro lingne 2, Belleville

Sign up begins at 8pm. (PLU also publishes a journal)  http://parislitup.com/

Open Secret — Le Bistrot des Artistes, 6 rue des Anglais, 5è. Métro Maubert-Mutualité (line 10) or Saint-Michel (line 4). 8pm sign up and begins at 8pm (continues night-long)


Venues with featured guests only and varying schedule


Poets Live—The longest running Anglophone reading series in Paris   https://poetslive.org/

Ivy Poets – The bi-lingual poetry series   http://ivywritersparis.blogspot.fr/

Berkeley Books— 8, rue Casimir Delavigne, Metro lines 4 and 10  Odeon


Angora Poets–Featured poets. Angora Bar, 3 boulevard richard Lenoir, Metro ligne 5, Bastille.


W H Smith periodic author events 248 rue de Rivoli  https://whsmith.fr/ 



Links to some of Antonia’s publications.


27. 8. 2017 Hélène Cardona, John High, and Antonia Alexandra Klimenko will read from their new poetry books. Reading will begin 19hr at The Tennessee Bar Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introd…



Art Isn’t Dead-It’s Still Dying “like Dali’s melting clocks


Reproduction to Jean-Baptiste Chantoiseau It was as if he had gone to sleep for the last time inside the painting, itself, as if he had pulled up the misshapen hills …


Medusa–from Greek; protectress; guardian The owl and the pussycat went out to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat –Edward Lear 1. How I drowned in my mother’s tears …


Levure littéraire, Magazine international d’information et d’éducation culturelle – International Magazine for information and cultural education …



So with great inspiration, and of course Love, I am honored to introduce to Paris, and to the world, SquareRoot of Love: Valentine’s Day in Paris – A John Sims …



I’ve come from a family of tears –Salvatore Ala Seen under …


Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary Tambimuttu of Poetry London–-publisher of T.S. Eliot, Henry …


Help us build the most popular collection of engaged poetry online. ubscribe to Occupy Poetry & Stay tuned!





Antonia reading her poem ‘Untitled’ — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzu2w2kj1mA

This was an exhilarating and informative interview and I thank Antonia immensely for her interesting, thoughtful responses and her skillful poetic virtuosity. Thank you all for taking the time to read it.

I now ruminate as to whether writers were born with ink in their veins! 

Photo Credits 

SpokenWord – Sabine Dundure

Antonia on the train – Maximillian Scheuer

Antonia at the Ritz and SpokenWord – My photo’s  


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17 Responses to Poetry Guest Interview – Antonia Alexandra Klimenko-Writer/Poet in Residence for SpokenWord Paris.

  1. Donald Hagelberg says:

    Thank you. Merci! I am so proud of you.

  2. Linda Ibbotson great job – I’m always at home when an article starts with friends like “T S Eliot, F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Dalí and Picasso” – and Antonia of course! Love the poetry at the end. There are some good tips hidden in the article for budding poets and Francophiles !!!

    • Thank you so much, Lindsay ! I was very much at home with dear Linda and with her questions and grateful for the opportunity to express myself. And, so glad you like my poetry–so very gratifying to any poet –and that you thought my answers worthwhile. It was a good idea; also, that Linda had in sharing information on the various venues here in Paris, and i was only too happy to do so, as i have enjoyed them all immensely and am sure others will, as well!

    • Thanks Lindsay so much for your support and kind comments! Yes, delighted you feel at home in Paris particularly among artistic, imaginative souls, past and present, Paris,as ever the eternal magnet! Great information indeed regarding the poetry venues / open mic etc! Many thanks to Antonia and it was a pleasure to share her poetry and experiences!

  3. A wonderfully refreshing interview dear, Antonia!
    And I must say; my favorite part of the interview was when you shared those three extraordinary poems of yours. You must share your catalogue of word wizardry with the world!!

    -Prince A.McNally

  4. My dearest, Antonia!
    What a wonderfully refreshing interview filled with charming anecdotes of your many years in Paris, the city of lights.
    Though I have to admit, the best part of the interview for me was reading those three extraordinary poems you’ve so graciously shared with us. I long for the day you’ll be so kind as to bless the world with a collection of your brilliant scribes.

    -Prince A.McNally.

  5. What a wonderful interview. Congratulations to Linda for writing this and to Antonia – well for being Antonia. Great job. And wonderful, extraordinary poems. I love the story of this precious artist life!

    • Ahhh, thank you, Jude ! Yes, it was a collaborative effort and i feel that we worked so well together as real friends do. And i love that you love..Thank you for being you. And grateful that you like my offspring and the source from which they spring haha.

    • Thanks a million Jude for your kind comments! So timely as you are at the SpokenWord Paris tomorrow 18th September! Have a wonderful time and enjoy the rest of your stay there! I too enjoy learning about the artistic life and experiences! Yes, a wonderful collaboration with Antonia! Much appreciation for all her excellent informative replies poetry and personal experiences.

  6. Pingback: SUNDAY ANNOUNCEMENTS: Calls for Submissions, Contests, Events and Other Information and News | THE POET BY DAY

  7. Many thanks to Julian Raine for this encouraging comment “This is a well crafted, engaging interview by Ms. Ibbotson celebrating the stunning career of Antonia Alexandra Klimenko. The recognition is well deserved. Antonia is an exceptional artist and complete human being. I’ve felt that way about her enduring character and her work as a writer from the moment I met her. -Julian Raine”

    • Yes, thank you so very much, Julian, for your kind and generous comment. I was very grateful that Linda asked me for the interview to begin with and doubly grateful for her kind attention and welcoming embrace of spirit and space in which to unfold. I am truly humbled by your compliments–so very gratifying– and hope i may measure up to them one day soon! May i say, also, that i feel very much the same about you–an exceptional artist and a complete human being.

  8. Pingback: Poetry Guest Interview – Antonia Alexandra Klimenko-Writer/Poet in Residence for SpokenWord Paris. | linda ibbotson

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