Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Heather Christle, What is amazing


How like an island we are in love encouraging
moss & like an island we are barely moving Just
to exist takes much concentration & like an island
in love we have a house in our two imaginations &
they intersect It strengthens the house & our feelings
Unlike an island we wake up An island never sleeps
That is its duty & ours to remain in love barely moving
We do not want to disturb the house Do not want it
to fall into the ocean that is always so nearby It surrounds
us & is moving Like an island the ocean does not see us
or care why though we persist in loving it at one rate
or another & are waking close together in the dark
I’m fascinated by Northampton, Massachusetts poet Heather Christle’s third trade collection, What is amazing (Middletown CT: Wesleyan, 2012). A combination of a quick rush of breath and interruptions mid-line, the prose-poems in What is amazing celebrate the impossible, and stagger through her odd use of capitalizations to begin a new phrase, thought or sentence mid-stream. 

The author of two previous collections with American small press Octopus—the collections The Difficult Farm (2009) and The Trees The Trees (2011)—the poems in What is amazing radiate with boundless joy and celebration, rich in an enthusiasm that so much other poetry lacks. As much as poets complain that humour in poetry isn’t taken seriously (works by David McGimpsey, Jon Paul Fiorentino and Nathaniel G.Moore), an outright, articulate joy and optimism appears to have even less consideration, and even fewer examples.


As captain of the flowers I tell the flowers Look alive
and they listen They have evolved like an ear I have evolved
like a piano Once upon a time I was not that dynamic Now
I am metric and a good listener a necessary trait in a leader
according to certificates I have had printed with very real
looking gold leaf with which I have a lot in common as
I am very real myself and with a nice patina and home
These poems are wonderfully fresh, and the syntax startles in such strange ways, electrifying subtle musings against the absolutely fantastic and banal. Her poems know full well how to live in the moment, and capture same. The only other example I can think of, of a poet known for such joy, is the late Toronto poet bpNichol. This is, somehow, one of the very few elements that the multitudes influenced by his work, despite numerous appreciations for his enthusiasms, haven’t entirely embraced in their own writing. Most of the poems in What is amazing are small enough to fit on a single page, but there are the occasional others, including the title sequence, where the possibilities of her lines are boiled further down. Highlighting the smallest moments, she straightens her startling syntax into meditations, lines as sharp as knives. The fourth of the four-part sequence reads:
Do you know anything about
how to stop disaster?

If yes go home and save
what little you have.

All of this rain
and nowhere to keep it.

You need one dozen buckets
and an extra box of candles.

What is amazing is how
the animals won’t stop sleeping.

It’s like sleeping is where
they hide their goals.

One’s goal in life sounds like
a match put out in water.

You might not know you’ve done it
but for the sudden lack of light.

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