As April is National Poetry Month, I thought I’d give my blog readers some relief from the theological heavy lifting, and share some excerpts and reviews of the poets I’ve enjoyed lately.
I picked up Heather Christle’s The Difficult Farm at the Octopus Books table at AWP 2011 because of the haunted-looking one-eared rabbit peering out from its acid-yellow cover. He’s an apt mascot for these poems, whose randomness can be both sinister and humorous.
…Dear nasty pregnant forest.
You are so hot!
You are environmentally significant.
Men love to hang themselves
from your standard old growth trees.
Don’t look at me.
(“Acorn Duly Crushed”)
The book’s title made me think of “the funny farm”, slang for an asylum, the place where persons deemed “difficult” are shut away, laughed at for the nonsense they speak. But is it nonsense? Christle’s poems are held together by tone rather than logic. They have the cadence and momentum of building an argument, but are composed of non sequiturs. But the individual observations within that stream of consciousness often ring so true that you may find yourself nodding along: Q.E.D.
…I am remembering how yesterday
a falcon landed on the telephone pole
and we stepped out of the car, amazed.
It was the color of somebody’s carpet.
In somebody’s carpet there is a falcon-
(“It Is Raining in Here”)
I had to ask myself whether I perceived the book’s speaker as female because of the author’s name, or whether “she” did indeed sound like the quirky nerd-girl character from indie romantic comedies, who naturally thinks in words like “paraphrasic” and “over-cathected” but acts hapless and adorable in social situations. Whatever the reason, it made her more likeable than John Ashbery, whose technique is similar but never appealed to me. This book displayed an eagerness for connection through talk, while recognizing that we mostly use language for social glue rather than sincere information exchange. So why not serve up a “radiant salad” of words?
Heather has kindly allowed me to reprint the two poems below. Visit her blog to find out about her latest books. Some of my other favorites from The Difficult Farm, including “The Avalanche Club” and “The Handsome Man“, are available elsewhere online. Or you could just buy the book, and help the bunny pay for his plastic surgery.
I do not have a farm do you have
a farm? on my farm are horses
cows pigeons chickens a dungeon
they tend to themselves it’s so easy!
I do not feel well do you feel
well? my throat’s on fire I mean
missing something crucial let’s say
the filament say filament! everyone
feels really good especially the horses
riding around like a bunch of stupid
chickens those are some foxy
beasts! I think beauty rises from
the dead do you think beauty rises?
like the great retarded sun? like
here comes beauty with its slow
dumb light and it’s touching stuff
& now I’m scattering feed I ordered
from mother nature’s catalog
which everyone knows has the best
pictures that’s why it’s all cut up
& the seed is falling out the holes &
the chickens are falling out
the holes & everyone gets papercuts!
goodbye chickens have a nice
time exploding in oblivion!
Stroking My Head With My Deception Stick
Someone shut down the local shimmer
but not the police who thought
it was Sunday and so spent hours
arranging their long and pliant hair.
Constable Jacques is the best man I know
but even he won’t converse with the dead.
The dead are so vain and hungry–
they will straddle your mirrors and swallow
your oak trees with their huge elastic lips.
And then you hear the screaming, not to be found
within the dead, but rather in the tiny
black pot which holds the greater part
of our mass and the difficult
farm where all the hens are black
and black are the wheatfields through which
runs a black and silent wind. Thin teachers
explain to our children: if the farm is a burgeoning
snowglobe, then the screaming’s a legend, like glass.