Loads of Learned Lumber

Friday, July 9, 2010

Heather Christle, _The Difficult Farm_

"PEOPLE LIKE SURPRISES," the poet declares in the first line of "Television," and if you like surprises, as I do, you will delight in The Difficult Farm, as I did. Hardly a sentence, a strophe, or a poem resolves in the way one's half-formed expectations thought it was likely to:

Because my head is a magnet for bullets
I am spending the day indoors. First

I admired the topiary for several hours
and when my eyes began to ache I rang

for lunch. Lunch arrived with injunctions.
I considered my feet. I did not consider

my altitude.

That is the beginning of "One of Several Talking Men," and a few of the poem do seem to be in covert dialogue with various male writers of fiction: Hemingway (wounded and in the hospital) in that poem and in "Wilderness with Two Men," Donald Bartheleme (the fourth of the "Five Poems for America"), Ben Marcus ("Stroking my Head with my Deception Stick"). Certain Presidents also get called in for a brief talking-to: "Come in, Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Adams, / Mr. Didn't-Feel-Obligated-to-Wear-Any-Pants. / Where are your bustling wives?" (That is, Eleanor, Abigail, and, erm, Hilary?).

A few busy, accomplished women enter the picture as well: Florence Nightingale, "the infamous Sarah Morgan, who moved / to town one summer, but never arrived / at school, despite the exquisite sharpness / of the pencils we had readied in hopes / of dazzling our unfamiliar friend," Mother Nature ("Dear nasty pregnant forest. / You are so hot! / You are environmentally significant. / Men love to hang themselves / from your standard old growth trees"), and the poet's mother, despite the difficulty of writing about her ("It is difficult, a good poetry concerning my mother").

If the Delphic oracle ever started doing stand-up, she might sound like Heather Christle.

Keep up the good work, Octopus Books.

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