May 2012

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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