Tag Archives: Octopus Books

Best Thing I’ve Heard/Read This Week: Heather Christle

14 Feb

christle_trees-500x699Yesterday evening, the poet Heather Christle drove to Cleveland from Yellow Spring, OH to read and discuss her poems at Case Western Reserve University for the Poets of Ohio reading series. Below is an excerpt of the introduction I gave for the event.

In “That Air of Ruthlessness in Spring,” the opening poem of The Trees The Trees (Octopus Books, 2011), Christle writes: “I want to show you something       I don’t care what       I want you to look where I say” (3). While thinking about how to access her book and the poems therein, I read this passage as a directive.

And where does Christle want us to look? Well, she tells us twice in the title: to the trees, of course.

In looking toward the trees, then, I first revisited some of my favorite tree poems in order to remind myself of what they can offer us as readers. For instance, in “Some Trees,” the poet John Ashbery informs us that:

                      you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

Yes, the trees can function as an analog for ideal human relationships, wherein “their merely being there” teaches us how to “touch” and “love.”

Conversely, in Philip Larkin’s poem “The Trees,” our arboreal counterparts remind us of our own mortality, such that “Their greenness is a kind of grief” when we realize that, unlike the trees in spring, our bodies do not regenerate with the seasons; rather, they simply decay.

Or, apropos of the weather this winter, Wallace Stevens considers the “pine-trees crusted with snow” and the “junipers shagged with ice” in his poem “The Snow Man,” so as to arrive at a zen-like “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”

Armed with these mediations on trees, I returned to Chirstle’s book with one basic question: “How does the poet show us trees and their mere being?” What I gathered is that showing us trees is a bit of a conjuring act, in that, yes, there are “trees…all around us,” but they “move themselves across the planet in wide invisible lines” (46); to see them, then, is to see something that is invisible, ethereal: the “nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” It is the poet’s duty, perhaps, to show us that nothing; to feel that nothing; to experience that nothing; to be that nothing.

Luckily for us, the invisible nothing of trees finds fertile ground “to in live” in each little “rectangle” (18), which are the prose poems of Christle’s book. And as the trees grow within these rectangles, the speakers of the poems “hang upside down” (56) from them, “fall back up into” (51) them, and are the “noisy” singers who remind us that, yes, the trees do indeed love us (59); because, without the voice of the poet telling us otherwise, we might not know this to be true.

Christle’s collection of poems welcomes us into “a tree-based society” where “women and…men all live in trees” (42), appreciating the “greenness” not as grief, but as a place to “Begin,” as Larkin wrote, “afresh, afresh, afresh.” And although Larkin was correct in acknowledging that we cannot repair our bodies, Christle comforts us in the knowledge that, in this freshness, we can repair our “ruined” souls (57) as we “move faster” through our lives “toward that tree which does not care” (55) because it simply exists in its mere being.

Here is a video clip of Christle reading her poem “Je M’Appelle Ivan” from The Trees The Trees during the event:

The next Poets of Ohio event will take place on Tuesday, 18 March with Dave Lucas, followed by a 27 March event with Tyrone Williams. This semester’s series will conclude with a 10 April reading and discussion by Larissa Szpourluk.

Best Thing I’ve Heard Next Week: Heather Christle Revives Her Phone Poetry Campaign!

28 Jun

To celebrate the 100,000th person following her blog Heather Christle will be reading poems on July 3rd from 9am-12pm and 1pm-5pm Est! You may recall the splash her first phone-call campaign made (almost exactly two years ago!)  when she celebrated the release of her second collection The Trees, The Trees. You can find all of the necessary details for a phone call at her blog.

To give you an idea of what you may hear, here’s her reading Je m’appelle Ivan:

Poor Claudia has a Crush on Sasha Fletcher and DAMMIT so do I.

14 Jan

Right around the time I decided to launch a Vouched table here in Atlanta, Christopher gave me a copy of Sasha Fletcher‘s When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets and We Will Not Hear Them Because We Are Upstairs In the CloudsJust typing out the title makes my threading pulse speed up. Now, just a year or two later, the spine of the book is cracked and white- a callus only my most loved titles can claim.

Then this morning- be still my heart!- I discovered Poor Claudia announced its latest Crush on Sasha. These five poems will win you over! Check out this excerpt from the chap’s first poem this is the year where astonishing things try to kill us (sidenote- Sasha rules with titles):

There are days I feel like waking up and discovering
I am pretty enough to be strapped
to the prow of a ship. If you’ve ever dreamed
of being pretty enough to be strapped to the prow of a ship
raise your hands. Otherwise proceed to the bank.

Further in you’ll find that love is real!!!!!!!!

We are standing on the pier trying to watch the sunset
but it’s not there. instead there are ships
wrecking themselves all over the place. We applaud

Read the rest! 




SSR #11 of 15: People Are Tiny In Paintings of China

13 Jul

People are Tiny in Paintings of China
By Cynthia Arrieu-King
Octopus Books
88 pgs; $12

A view-master full of wonders of light, color, and circumstance- these poems uproot you and force you to see.

The Difficult Farm by Heather Christle

25 Dec

Christle Cover

I just finished this book, why I didn’t read it sooner is beyond me, and I wanted to say, “I think it’s really good,” but that’s a bad single-sentence review.

The busyness of the poems, of the speaker’s mind, remind me of right now, it’s Christmas, and weird things are happening, and I’m thinking things, and people are playing professional sports, and other people are getting fatter, and a bird outside is flying because it wants to.

Yeah, I just admitted I wish I had read it sooner, but maybe the only other time I wish I’d read it was during Christmas time last year, the only time hectic in this place, by place I mean my house and my head, that collide with, or perhaps compliment, these poems so well.

In their strangeness, these poems can chatter with the best of them, that meaningful chatter making me want to interact, to get up and trot around, to find a nice ear or hole in the world and talk into it.


Here’s a little bit of my favorite poem that might make this post a little more “together,” since it’s the holidays and all, since we’re supposed to be together:

It Is Raining In Here

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-

shaped hole. The trees here by the airport

stand leafless and wet, full of hidden coils

and a light that battles the asphalt. I love

the asphalt and everyone’s terrible behavior.

And I quoted more of that than I planned, but read the whole glorious thing at Sixth Finch. Or buy the book from Octopus Books. Or from Laura at the VouchedATL table if you’re so lucky to be near that goodness.


SSR: Where We Think It Should Go

8 Nov

Where We Think It Should Go
Claire Becker
Octopus Books, 75pgs, $12

Claire Becker saunters into the spaces of the mind we only go to in solitude, the corners where there is still plenty of space for impulse and instinct.

After We Drive

I wait for the phone
Thing on the bed
To ring by my face on the pillow
My cheek winces
The plants fall away
I wait for the phone to say
When you’re silent
I think of you here on Tuesday
We put our cheeks together
You collapse yourself
I run my finger
Down the spine
I hear my neighbor’s car
Up stairs in the shower
We announce with motors
Go around like speed
Like the day
In South Dakota
Beyond where we think it should go

Available from:
Octopus Books | Powell’s | Amazon

SSR #15 of 15: The Trees The Trees

22 Jul

Shew! We finally made it to the end of the countdown. Thanks for all of the encouragement and support over the past couple of weeks. It’s been a really great run. The reading is only two days away! Don’t forget. (Not that you could, I’ve been hammering you in the side of the head about it.) To cap off the series of single-sentence reviews I bring you Heather Christle‘s The Trees The Trees from Octopus books.  Also, this upcoming spring you should keep an eye out for her next book What Is Amazing which will be released by Wesleyan University Press.

These poems are little baby labyrinths on the page and I triple-dog-dare you to not get lost in them… instead,  weave in and out and about them without a thread to find your way back – you don’t want to go back there, it is better inside.

SSR #8 of 15: Correct Animal

15 Jul

Octopus Books deserves a lot of love. They publish great works. Have you read Rebecca Farivar‘s Correct Animal?

Because I’m feeling saucy I will also give you an excerpt today:

On Finding a Bird Skull

If she wants

To say bird

not finch

not starling

not snipe

let her

They all have

rough tongues

hollow bones


made mostly

of eye

Don’t underestimate these words – they are tiny, unthreatening poems dusted across the pages, you will look at them and think, ‘oh, this is something I can handle’ but read them, pick yourself up from the floor and re-read them, these small words pack a heavy punch and have a broad wingspan, they take off and pay you no mind.

Awful Interview: Heather Christle

15 Jul

Heather Christle is not a cowboy. She is many other things. For instance, she  recently proved to be very good at answering your telephone call. Some of her other talents include: wearing bold head-wear, wearing nothing on her head, and most importantly, writing poetry. I am so very glad that she will be reading at Vouched Atlanta’s launch reading. You should be too.

To help promote your poetry collection, The Trees The Trees, you released your phone number on the interwebs so that people could call you hear you read them a poem. So here’s my question: did you ever consider reading them with a foreign accent or an impersonation of some sort? Like, if I called you right now could you read me one as Sam Elliot?

I’m not a very good cowboy. Once at a party in Portland where I only knew a couple people, I pretended to be Russian. It pretty much worked. I don’t think I will try it again.

What inspired you to pretend to be Russian? Have you ever been to Russia? I like the fuzzy hats they wear, you know- Ushankas.

I was inspired by a dress I was wearing, a then-recent purchase from an antique shop. I’ve not been to Russia, though I would love to go. Never enough money. I too love those hats. I’m looking forward to moving back to Massachusetts, where I will once again have the opportunity to wear notable winter hats. My sister has been the custodian of a really excellent one during my tenure in the south. It is the kind of hat that makes people talk to its wearer. We’ve been collecting conversations and comments it has caused:

Comments & Questions

  • You look like a dandelion!  From the back!  A dandelion!
  • You look like an animal walking away from here.
  • What is it made out of?
  • That must keep you warm.
  • You must be sweating when it is 10 degrees outside.
  • That is a great hat by the way.
  • That is a great hat.
  • That is a great hat by the way.
  • I thought you were a snow bear.
  • You look like a macaroon.
  • It’s not that cold out.
  • I used to have a hat like that.
  • We all used to wear hats like that.


  • (a woman seated in a crowed and posh restaurant grabs a pom pom and paws at it like a balloon in the air)


  • A: Nice hat.
  • B: Thanks.
  • A: Can I borrow it tomorrow night?
  • B: No.
  • A: If I give you a free coffee will you give me that hat?
  • B: No.
  • A: Can I touch your hat?
  • B: Ok.
  • A: I have been wanting to do this all night.

Wow, that sounds like it is most certainly a conversation starter. I like the part where the lady pawed the pom-pom at the restaurant. Do wear a thinking-cap while you write your poetry? If you don’t, would you be opposed to wearing one? Would it help?

I like for there to be nothing on my head when I am writing. I even have to pull back my hair. If I am too aware of my head I find it difficult to concentrate.

So what happens in your head when there’s nothing on your head? Where does your inspiration come from?

It depends. I go through phases. When I was writing The Difficult Farm I was inspired by a process of thinking of only one word at a time, getting to constantly surprise myself. With The Trees The Trees it was prepositions that got me going, and some questions about the line. Lately it’s been color and light. My reading is always waking me up to new possibilities, whether I’m reading poetry (Inger Christenson’s Alphabet is very much with me right now), or something else (Richard Dawkins, for instance).

Is there anything you would like to say to the people who are considering coming to the reading on the 24th?

It’s going to be fun. Not indoor-fireworks kind of fun, but still pretty great.

Heather Christle Will Read You a Poem

13 Jul

To celebrate the release of her new collection of poetry, The Trees The Trees, Heather Christle is reading poems by phone to anyone who calls 413-570-3077.

Tomorrow is the last day.

I just called myself over my lunch break. I didn’t know whether it was going to be reminiscent of my childhood public library’s Dial-a-Story, where you could call 448-1222, and listen to a recording of a librarian reading a children’s story.

It is not that. Heather herself answers, her voice alight like bubbles. You can choose a poem or not. She will read to you. It will be good. She read to me “The Plan,” and it was good. It made smiles on my face.

It could be this poem that was recently published at Everyday Genius.


Because we are mammals
we illuminate glasses of milk

We make wine and play the triangle
whose corners ring through us to the night

Read the rest of the poem at Everyday Genius.