The Believer Poetry Award
The Second Annual—Hereby Presented To
The Trees The Trees
by Heather Christle
“Here is the hand / here is the hand / on my face / it’s not my hand / it’s a beautiful day,” writes Heather Christle at the start of The Trees The Trees, her casually incandescent second collection. Christle writes with the minimalist diction and bare-bones sentence structure popular with today’s youngest generation of poets, and yet she is one of the most gifted at transcending these limitations to create powerful, living experiences—poems that echo everywhere with the skittery pulse of contemporary life.
Christle’s favorite themes and motifs include babies, windows, nature, touching, clouds, mortality, and cell phones. Her poems are at once intimate and distanced, plainspoken and enigmatic (“compared to smoke / the bench is real life”)—and tend toward the playfully, almost flirtatiously surreal. Christle immersed herself in linguistics and cognitive poetics while writing The Trees The Trees, and the outcome is a poetry of atomized thoughts, feelings, perceptions—sixty paratactic prose poems that crackle at the edge of consciousness: “indoors / in the music video / in America… when you move / your / hair flashes / like a commercial for itself.”
Behind each of Christle’s poems is the question of what it means to be human today, in this strange-getting-stranger world. Identities flash like mirages across the speaker of these poems—here she is as a bear “with a head full of / hazard and light”; here she is as a levitating, two-day-old cat; as a handbag; as a “half-hedgehog / half-man” with a face of glass, conversing with a tree (thus so, gloriously)—a million guises, all of them real, for the moment. In the end, though, the impression is not so much of a fragmented speaker as of an unusually sensitive young woman moving through a fragmented—a dauntingly, majestically, at times kaleidoscopically fragmented—world.
“My Enemy,” A poem from The Trees The Trees
I have a new enemy he is so good-looking here is a photograph of him in the snow he is in the snow and so is the photo I put it there because I hate him and because it is always snowing in the photograph my enemy is acting like there are no neighbors but there are always neighbors they just might be far away he is 100% evil and good-looking he looks good in his parka in the snow if you asked he would call it a helmet all he ever does is lie he does not breathe or move or glow he is not that kind of man it is not that kind of snow
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