Joanna Klink

‘Spare’ appears in The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove. This poem describes an unfulfilled love affair of a speaker and her feelings concerning the relationship.


Joanna Klink

Nationality: American

Joanna Klink is a contemporary poet whose collections include Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy and Raptus.

Her work has been anthologized several times.

‘Spare’ is written by modern American poet Joanna Klink, famous for her poetry collections The Nightfields, Raptus, and Circadian. This piece explores an odd kind of relationship. It is not clear what the speaker tries to convey throughout the poem. Her spare use of words and quick movement of lines befool readers while they try to decode the meaning. The main idea of this piece concerns how a speaker’s feelings for a person are true but she cannot continue the relationship due to some untold reasons.


‘Spare’ by Joanna Klink describes a torrid love affair of a speaker who expresses her true feelings for the person she loves.

This piece begins with a welcoming approach. The speaker tells her partner not to waste any time and make the most of the moment. She assures him that she would call him back in the future. But, the probability of calling depends on some circumstance that she cannot reveal. However, all she wants is to enjoy the time they are having right now. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future. For this reason, they should delve into something meaningful. Finally, she informs her partner that her emotions for him are true.

You can read the full poem here.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-5

Shoulder me up. Drink careless down, for flinching


would care, could single you somehow, warm for floor-

The title of the poem ‘Spare’ hints at the nature of the relationship talked about in the poem. Klink features the mindset of a speaker according to whom their relationship is inadequate or incomplete. It can also be a reference to the lack of feelings for her partner. Whatsoever, the poem begins in a manner that it seems the speaker is in a turbulent state. She may be drunk or emotionally unstable. Someone has to shoulder her up.

If her partner asks for flinching, he should not wait. He has to start immediately. The poet uses the term “skimming” for referring to a quick movement. Her speaker urges her partner to seize the moment and make the most of the time they have. She assures her that she would call him back. By using the word “would”, she hints at the fact that she is not going to call him again.

In the next lines, Klink uses visual imagery to depict the speaker sitting in her room in front of her partner. She is sheeted in her clothes and wants to put them off as soon as possible. Here, the speaker insinuates making love with her partner.

Lines 6-10

weight own hurt to you, sinking. Though your arms hold:


here on me, nor the still sitting). For glass bowl bent over

The first part of the 6th line is enjambed with the previous line. In this line, the speaker talks about sinking into the arms of her partner. She refers to the warmth she feels in his embrace by the term “sun”. It is a metonym of warmth. Though she feels safe and cozy in his arms, she cannot bring him into her life.

For this reason, she tells him to make the most of the moment. She can feel him the way she feels when she squeezes the cushions within her arms. At the time of parting, she can spare her wrists in order to give him the last touch of her body.

This sudden pleasure cannot be described in words. According to her, when she looks at him before leaving, it increases the desire to return to him again. By using an aside, she tells her partner that she is not talking about the way she looks at him when they are together. This look is different than lying or sitting posture.

Lines 11-15

caring. Keeps clear to tasting but warm to me, singing.


reach. Does not know. But holds. But holds out, feeling.

Klink uses a metaphor of a glass bowl in order to portray how she feels for her partner. Her mind is like a bowl that is bent over. It means she does not want to express her true emotions to him. It helps her not to be entangled in the emotional rollercoaster of a relationship.

In the following line, she expresses her playfulness by the term “singing”. What is metaphorically served in her mental bowl, quickly slips from it as she tries to come out of the room. She uses another metaphor of an “orange” to describe her mind. It is like a “cold orange”, a reference to her mental coldness regarding the relationship, that she spares breaking.

The following line contains a repetition of the word “what” at the beginning of successive clauses. She goes on asking for the thing that could not be bent or be offered to a person. Besides, she thinks what fruit can be a suitable reference to describe her mental framework.

Klink uses alliteration of the “k” sound in “Though cold cancels can sit can/ reach.” Here, she talks about how her mental coldness cancels the desire of being with a person forever. She does not know who the person is with whom she can sit for the rest of her life. However, she is clear in her mind that she is holding out her true self to her partner.


‘Spare’ is a free-verse poem that does not have a specific rhyme scheme or meter. It consists of a total of 15 lines. Klink uses end-stopped lines in order to end a particular idea. She makes use of unconventional sentence structure that focuses more on the verbs or actions rather than on the persons present in the poem. Several incoherent ideas are juxtaposed within a line. Another unconventional feature of this piece is the use of short conversational-style sentences. To make this piece sound rhythmical, Klink makes use of several internal rhyming and repetitions.

Literary Devices

Klink uses the following literary devices in her poem ‘Spare’.

  • Enjambment: It occurs throughout the poem. Klink internally connects the lines by using this device. For example, the second part of the first line is enjambed with the next line.
  • Repetition: Klink uses repetition of words for the sake of emphasizing her ideas and creating internal rhyming. It occurs in “Would, wire back to you, would. Would wind you”.
  • Alliteration: It occurs in “ask, break“, “Would wind”, “tire to”, “bent back”, etc.
  • Asyndeton: This device is used in “ask, break, call skimming, be slight then, be soon.” The line does not contain conjunction (and).
  • Aside: It occurs in “not my legs/ here on me, nor the still sitting”. Here, the speaker utters this line in her mind or for the audience.

Historical Context

Joanna Klink’s poem ‘Spare’ was first published in The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry in 2011. The book was edited by the poet Rita Dove. Regarding her poetry, Klink once remarked:

I would like to place myself in a field of deep attention, and out of that attention come to feel and regard with more acute understanding what is there. I write to be less hopelessly myself, to sense something more expansive than where I speak from.

From this reference, it is clear that this poem centers on her poetic self exploring the nature of her mind as well as her feelings for another person. This piece contains several elements of postmodernism that are reflected in its line structure and diction.


What is the poem ‘Spare’ by Joanna Klink about?

Joanna Klink’s poem ‘Spare’ is about a speaker who is not committed to a particular person. She explores how she can make the most of the moment by not remaining in the same position with a particular person. It seems the speaker has some previous attachments for which she cannot be with her partner.

How does the speaker explore the complexity of a relationship?

In this poem, the speaker talks about how she feels when she is with her partner. The only problem is she cannot be with that person forever. For this reason, she is stuck in a complex kind of relationship that lasts for only a few encounters. She assures her partner about her return. But, the fact is she could not.

What is the theme of the poem?

This piece taps on the themes of love, denial, and complexity of relationships. The main theme of this poem is the temporary nature of a speaker’s love. She cannot commit herself fully to a particular person.

What type of poem is ‘Spare’?

This poem is written in free-verse. It is told from the perspective of a first-person speaker. So, it is also an example of a lyric poem.

What is the tone of this poem?

The tone of this poem is amorous, direct, and pessimistic. Throughout this piece, the speaker talks to her partner as if she badly wants to stay with him. But, she cannot stay with him forever. Her hopelessness is reflected in the tone.

Similar Poems

Readers who enjoyed reading Joanna Klink’s ‘Sapre’ can also read about her poem ‘Half Omen Half Hope’. They can also find the following poems interesting.

You can also read about these memorable unrequited love poems.

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Sudip Das Gupta Poetry Expert
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.

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