Thursday, December 01, 2011

Heather Christle - The Difficult Farm

“I’ve been reading a lot of poetry lately.”  I wish I would be walking down the street and overhear that sentence, and have it sound common.  Oh well and anyway, we’re moving this month, from one side of town to the other.  This is going to be a good thing, we know, but right now, it’s mostly just daunting. 

So I’ve been reading a lot of poetry lately.  New (to me) things that I bought but didn’t get to or finish.  Old things I’m finding again as I clean off my shelves . . .

A prize was finding my copy of WCW’s Spring & All right after it was mentioned in the comments on a post on this blog.  It was great sitting with it awhile.  If you haven’t seen it, and your version of WCW is just from anthologies or his selected poems, reading Spring & All will be a revelation (or maybe a disambiguation). 

The most depressing thing I found by far was The Achievement of Richard Eberhart.  I had not thought of him in years.  And here was a book on his achievement.  A salute to the dust bin to which we are all destined, I thought, which was quickly reinforced by the numerous volumes of poetry I came across from poets I really liked and of whom I’ve not heard again.  Where do they all go?  (Where we all go.) 

Yikes, and all that.  But it’s a good project, going back through one’s bookshelves.  It’s a lot like going through one’s High School yearbook.  But it’s better than that, mostly, as I was pleased to open some of these books at random and find good things there once again. 

One of the books I read this week is Heather Christle’s The Difficult Farm.  Being enjoyable and likeable was one of the goals of The New York School poets, in my reading of the way they used the voice, the speaker, to move the reader through the poem.  It was not a Poetry of Wisdom they were interested in, though there was plenty of wisdom and intelligence, but a poetry of friendliness.  That means a lot to me now as it did when I first came across Ashbery and then O’Hara, and later, the rest (and then the second generation of Ron Padgett, et al). 

Heather Christle uses that chatty, friendly voice, that charming voice, but often (or even usually) connected to more problematic content.  Hers is a poetry of constant, unrelenting cleverness, wit piled on wit.  It makes for an exhilarating ride, which at times, feels devastatingly satirical.  Her poems accelerate, so just picking one or two to read is not going to give one the experience that is the best way (to my reading) of encountering her work.  Just as every sentence is a turn, every poem is also. 


Can-can dancing just won’t stop
hurting its women.  France
is full of stories and women.
Once in Calais three women
lost their money and had
lunch later.  Dancing the can-can
shows resilience more clearly
than ever because women have
less money and less strength.
This sounds ugly but my legs
don’t want much, except
for clean pants and stuff.

No way is that cowpoke
bringing me home.  He wants
someone to fix his religion.
Believe me, I love religion
but he’s too quiet when
he’s praying.  Look, he left
and the bar left and the jukebox
fixed everything.  I love this
music and I love this land,
so empty of real trees and hymnals.

Charge! I said, but nobody
heard me, because they were all
listening to their mother, the iPod.
Their mother said a lot of stuff
I didn’t hear.  Magnificence comes
in a small car, but we all fit.

Democracy stinks.  My classmates
elected the hamster.  Teacher
doesn’t vote and can’t change
anything.  Hamsters die all the time
for good reasons.  Once I was
a hamster who loved waterparks
but nobody ever knew.  Secrets
are also for presidents.
Teacher knows very little.

Northern states.  Eastern states.
Where are the armies?
One soldier means trouble.
Five soldiers make a party.
War never means much.
Let’s bring the soldiers
somewhere they might like.
Let’s go to Pizzeria Uno
and not eat anything.


At 12/01/2011 2:57 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I saw her read last month and she was hilarious. These poems confirm this.


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