Monday, August 29, 2011

The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle

Octopus Books, 2011. A rivet is a mechanical fastener, and it is permanent, so when I tell you that The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle will rivet you, I mean forever, and even more so, I mean it will connect things that never expected to be connected, and it will connect them for good. What better way to unite A with B than in prose poems that have a cellular structure all their own? If not a cross-section of xylem, then a bright repurposing of the caesura, a series of hidden rooms, a brief pulsation of non-text.

This is a book of reversals and variations. Think back to when your mother told you not to get on that pirate ship ride at the carnival, the one where a metal bar was all that kept you from being flung onto the horizon, and no matter how cool you were, you just had to scream a little as the giant boat made its swing. It was natural. And that’s the swing Christle recreates again and again in these poems. I’m not talking about paddle boating along a traditional narrative arc or lunge, but something so new that we feel immediately at home in it. Each of the poems in The Trees The Trees is a thriller. Who knew so much was going on inside the world, and why?

Everyday objects inhabit Christle’s poems with such urgency that we may become more suspicious of our surroundings, or perhaps even enchanted by them. In “The Actual Future,” “I am a handbag ____I am the kind of handbag nobody weeps into____except for when I went to the ten-year reunion____then everyone wanted to weep into me.” (Dear reader, please note that the lines in these quotes are meant to be spaces, not lines). Or in “Condo,” “microwave doubles as a nightlight____this is that other song____the one that likes to sing itself.”

In a collection that marries death with rebirth, while maintaining simultaneous and separate preoccupations with both, it’s the helmets and scissors and owls and cats that remain steadfast. The Trees The Trees is a haunting, rapturous tribute to both the known and unknown, and what happens when the two collide.

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