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Allison Funk

About the Poet

Allison Funk is the author of four books of poems: The Tumbling Box (2009), The Knot Garden, Living at the Epicenter, and Forms of Conversion. Her work is collected in numerous anthologies, including: When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women and The Best American Poetry.

Her second book of poems, Living at the Epicenter, received the national Samuel French Morse Prize given by Northeastern University Press and the Society of Midland Authors Award.

Her poetry has also been published in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad, among them: Poetry, The Paris Review, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, The Cincinnati Review, and Poetry Review (U.K.). She has been a resident at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, the Hawthornden Castle International Writers Retreat in Scotland, and The Dora Maar House in France.

Funk grew up in Delaware and has been the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts; awards from the Poetry Society of America and Poetry, and honored with a literary award from the Illinois Arts Council and funding from the Delaware Arts Council. Since 1990 she has taught creative writing at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. For more information go to

Spring 2014 »

The Divers of Cheju

At dawn the rocks are black with divers.
Under the sun’s dull coin, in mussel-dark rubber
and masks, the women of Cheju plunge tankless
into the unlit rooms of the sea, drawn by the siren
of necessity to gather urchins, octopus and abalone.
The one my age hurts everywhere,
nearly deaf from the depths. Fifty years
she’s entered the cold peril, felt the when,
when of her lungs to which the waves have no answer
of air. Her face contorted, oxygen-poor
after four, five, six minutes under,
the old one, surfacing, holds no treasure
in her hands larger than a man’s and barnacle-raw.
Just the seafood she must clean before dark.
Can she recall the pacific water where she swam once,
sweet oblivion, or imagine the volcanic birth of her island,
the contractions bearing lava, steam wall-high
where fire met water, how the molten rock cooled,
how it hardened? Grown, the woman does not cry.
Nautilus pompilius
When I think of it descending
  along cliffs of coral,
    I sink, subtracting years
the nautilus, unlike us,
  would have put behind,
    sealing each chamber up
when outgrown
  to create another
    more spacious one,
an opalescence of fractals
  mysterious to me as the Golden Mean
    or Sacred Geometry,
this cephalopod (feet where it’s headed,
  pinholes for eyes)
    that won’t go looking
for trouble and knows enough
  when it’s there
    to shut the door.


My brother’s driving me to the airport
  when I ask him to do his cricket imitations.
    Close your eyes, he says,
but I still can’t tell second violins from first.
  Think of each as a soloist,
    wings like a bow and strings,
he insists. Maybe
  it will help to pretend
    he’s guiding me through stands
of cattails along the Chesapeake,
  whispering tinnulenta,
  his names for the slow, faster,
    and fastest new species he’s found,
or, gaining speed on the interstate,
  remember him as a boy
    listening for crickets
from inside his room,
  lights out, windows wide open
    on sticky summer nights.
Now he’s saying it’s natural
  to lose some high notes
    with aging—
soon, he worries,
  he’ll have trouble himself
    telling the crickets apart.
For the time being, though,
  my brother is trilling beside me,
    the wind’s blowing in
as it does across Still Pond Creek
  where his crickets thrive,
    and on a warm day in autumn
I want to slow it down, way down,
  this, our time
    between arrival and farewell.

Allison Funk ~

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