The Creative Writing Program hosted Sandra Lim for the program’s first reading of 2018 on Jan. 11. Lim is the author of her most recent collection called “The Wilderness” (W.W. Norton, 2014) which was selected by Louise Glück for the 2013 Barnard Women Poets Prize. She earned a BA at Stanford University, an MFA at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a doctorate in English at UC Berkeley.
Born in Seoul, Korea but raised in California, Lim’s poetry addresses the internal spaces of an individual’s consciousness with great sensitivities,– the celestial, the social, the romantic and the private. Her sparse compositions often veered into the darker, less frequently inhabited places in our minds: “In the way that stars keep their distance/ Love, uninvited, hangs in the blood/ In an anticipation crossed with absence/ Taking on an aspect of the Orient.”
Held in a Sturm lecture hall, the event drew a sizeable crowd for a Thursday night. Lim’s presence was unassuming, and after mentioning that she was testing out some new poems, she was bashful and modest behind the podium. The majority of what she read was taken from “The Wilderness,” including the poem “Amor Fati,” Latin for “the love of fate.”
Lim has a knack for surprise. A poem would often begin with light, naturalist imagery only to be disrupted with the “enormous humor of a human skull.” As a writer, she understands the necessity for the strange and grotesque aspects and the ways to tap into the reader’s unknown, internal reservoirs of emotional energy. She masterfully glides through the normal into the forsaken without batting an eye.
Lim’s reading voice is placid, like a filled, waiting bathtub. Her words wash over and envelop her listeners, not only beautiful in meaning, but in sound, space and tide-like rhythm.
Lim hosted a workshop on Jan. 12 during which she gave a talk about her writing process, and gave attendees exercises and prompts to help during their writing process.