Heather Christle grew up in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. She is the author of The Difficult Farm, a collection of poetry available from Octopus Books. She lives in Atlanta.
"Read and love [Christle's] seemingly spontaneous utterances spun from her rapt attention to daily life, nature, solitude, romance, to her own reeling and enchanting imagination."
"Christle's gift for welding surreal visions to living speech rhythms keeps unlocking new surprises, page after page. At least once per poem, you feel like the triple-bars just lined up in the slot-machine window, and you laugh or cry out."
Last month, Julieanne Smolinksi wrote a sardonic essay about the fight against whimsy, urging women to avoid men who “confuse dating with an opportunity to showcase a series of highly cultivated quirks.” Too often, it seems like people are confusing personality, artistry, and talent with the ability to cultivate and strategize the right quirks. For this same reason, I find it difficult to recommend small press poetry to my friends outside of the small press publishing world. It’s hard to say, “this is beautiful and unpretentious and the quirks are ENCHANTING and not INCREDIBLY ANNOYING.”
I only write this here because I would earnestly call Heather Christle’s poetry “enchanting” (Cathy Park Hong says the same thing in her blurb and I’ve got to say, it’s been too long since I was enchanted by poetry). The whimsy and the quirks are there — a lot of strange visions and circumstances — but they never feel like forced posturing. You start to imagine that Heather Christle is the girl you really want to be friends with because she’s just so damn cool. And pretty.
That’s another thing. Christle’s writing is pretty — really pretty — and the images are surreal and often sweet, but they are also so vivid and genuine that you almost wish you could be in them. Take, “When the sun went down they kept growing,” below:
Christle dedicated the poem to the poet Amanda Nadelberg, and after I read it I kept thinking how badly I wanted to be friends with both of them. Also note Christle’s spacing and formatting on these poems. The entire book is like that. One building block after another.
Naturally (pun!), trees are mentioned in many of the poems, and throughout the entire collection there’s an undercurrent of physicality and growth — reacting to it, getting there, wanting not to be there. Perhaps this is why these blocks can be both surreal and real — she uses those images (sometimes taking you into trees, above them, through their branches) to get down to some accessible experience.
Many of the poems are also funny, when it comes right down to it — because while they’re pretty they’re also self-aware and sharp, making them feel like a nice dose of real talk. Which, again, makes them completely accessible. Christle never confuses artistry with whimsy. She just makes beautiful things happen. This is the kind of book I would give to my best friend from high school and my new friend who just got a raise at her job.
When’s the last time you found a book of poetry you could say that about?