"Pretty" and "Enchanting" Poetry & Heather Christle

by on Sep.21, 2011

Tim Jones-Yelvington’s review of my book, which I posted about here yesterday, is from the web site Lit Pub. It’s full of reviews of contemporary, small-press books so I read through a bunch of the reviews.

Of particular note for Montevidayo might be Elizabeth Taddonio’s review of Heather Christle’s The Trees The Trees (Octopus Books). I don’t have this book, but I have read some chapbooks by Christle and I like them. Anyway, I think the rhetoric of this review is interesting. Taddonio argues that Christle’s books are “pretty” and “enchanting” and that, though these terms have become insults in modern poetry, she likes that and in fact wants to be “in” the poems:

That’s another thing. Christle’s writing is pretty — really pretty — and the images are surreal and often sweet, but they are also so vivid and genuine that you almost wish you could be in them.

I thought this was interesting because it’s similar to the argument I’ve been making: How the “hard” and “authentic” rhetoric of people from way back to Pound, who wanted to rid poetry of the “corpse language” of pretty/gothic Victorian poetry, up to Silliman’s rejection of “soft surrealism” and Tony Hoagland’s rejection of “manneristic” and “skittery” poetry “of the moment.” Further, it’s so “enchanting” that the reviewer loses track of her “critical distance” and wants to enter into the poem, become friends with the author.

I love the word “enchanting.”

4 comments for this entry:
  1. alex c

    completely agree that Christle’s poetry is enchanting and it’s difficult to keep any distance. her first book was like that, too, though not necessarily in the same manner. she dances all over yr face.

  2. Elizabeth

    Thanks for reading! I’m glad someone else sees it not as an insult but very much as a compliment to use those adjectives for Christle’s writing (and yes she TOTALLY dances all over yr face, and you love every minute of it!). I hope we never lose pretty poetry.

  3. adam strauss

    Hip-hip to this: “I hope we never lose pretty poetry.”

  4. Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    Moral Sex: Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    I’m so with you here Johannes. And I’m not an easy lay. We’re watching a game-changer. Eno wrote pop music doesn’t work on a fine arts model where inspired individual genius presents masterworks to a passive public. Significant shifts in the pop world are created by little scenes of people blindly conspiring with their circumstances to invent something cool that they can’t understand. I have Chrystle’s What is Amazing and have read it many times, cover to cover, then again. It’s probably flawless. Experiential proof: every instinct in me resists her with raw fury! (Maybe it’s that headshot). She’s not my drug of choice. Preference, predilection, prejudice fight her fang and claw. O! I’m just made that way. But I read for quality, not star power in an absence of sway, idiot-ology, poets who write like me (these are “schools”: plankton swim in schools) or Sales Reps “It’s not the product, it’s the story about the product.” I’m such a mental terror I wanna call her Gristle, yet she wins me over ceaselessly.

    If you smoke weed amongst yo homeys plus adore their work: hooey. Phooey. Moo cow poo. Mayhumps, I wouldn’t get caught dead grazing Heather’s bookish tookus. But, push come to shove, I eat her poems up with great big spoons. “She’s my sister and my daughter!’ (Chinatown) While predisposed to loathe her by that demon in us all, still I’m transfixed whopping stunned by her lilt . . . and steely gaze. Like the snake charmer’s cobra, she has me utterly enthralled.

    Don’t meet the poets. Last month I viewed Tan Lin’s films about footnotes. I’d consumed his books, sat readied to be wowed. Wotta deal-breaker! You can have him now. Hoagland makes me hurl. Two new copies of Silliman’s The Alphabet, big as Cocoa Puffs, sagged & lagged on shelves at 1/2 price in the Strand for months. Ten thousand customers per day, if that don’t say enuff. I once wrote, “I’d tell Silliman to grow up but he already is an old maid.” My editors cut that. Now I’m gonna die, I’m free of their Cordelia Complex.

    I currently undergo treatment for possibly incurable life threatening advanced liver disease, Cirrhosis and Hepatitis C. The same thing killed Ted Berrigan. I take 10 pills daily and give myself two shots per week. For a year. This freights clarity, spontaneity, style, stamina, mood. Caveat: mine is a real rough draft. Alcohol is the primary cause of Cirrhosis, though it aggravates with Hep C. We get Hep C swapping needles. I did heaps of both. And while I stopped 18 years ago, it could still kill me. Alice Notley has stated in print she got Hep C shooting Speed. About Ted, you must draw your own conclusions. (I say so in part to expand an inadequate figure on cause of death I employed in an article on the New York School several years ago.) Beware the roots that clutch.

    G C-H