What Is Amazing

What Is Amazing

by Heather Christle

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Inspired by a voracious curiosity about humans and other subjects, the poems in Heather Christle's What Is Amazing describe and invent worlds in an attempt to understand through participation. The book draws upon the wisdom of foolishness and the logic of glee, while simultaneously exploring the suffering inherent to embodied consciousness. Speakers play out moments of bravado and fear, love and mortality, disappointment and desire. They socialize incorrigibly with lakes, lovers, fire, and readers, reasoning their way to unreasonable conclusions. These poems try to understand how it is that we come to recognize and differentiate objects and beings, how wholly each is attached to its name, and which space reveals them. What Is Amazing delights in fully inhabiting its varied forms and voices, singing worlds that often coincide with our own.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

For her third full-length collection, Christle expands her formal palette while retaining the inquisitiveness and playfulness that have made her poems so intoxicating to her growing number of fans. The tight lineation and white-space experiments of her previous work remain, but here she uses shorter lines in poems that mix a sense of childlike naïveté with grown-up investigations of the troubles of romantic entanglement as well as more ephemeral topics and unfamiliar mental spaces: “and your body is a long silk bag/ full of lightweight batteries/ arranged on the floor.” Yet Christle threads existential darkness and black humor throughout these poems, as in the title piece in which “That man thinks he is a man/ but he is a candle.// Who will tell him?/ He will be destroyed// and his wife will be on fire./ Life is tough for that man especially.” Hip and almost self-consciously contemporary, but also alive to the often overwhelming excitements of the Internet age, Christle’s new poems will beckon more readers her way. (Feb.)

From the Publisher

"...look out for Heather Christle's What is Amazing; Christle has been generating lots of buzz in poetry circles for her jumpy poems about, among other things, love."—Craig Morgan Teicher, Publishers Weekly

"What Is Amazing instills a sense of discovery that recalls a child lifting a stone in their garden to uncover a colony of ants. Christle presents us with a glimpse into the tiny husbandry of the world we pass over, incrementally, from day to day. The poems in this collections make their way, as the reader does, through a series of intuitive leaps, led by a ferocious desire to view their surroundings as if for the first time."—Chris Emslie, The Edinborough Review

"A book that will awaken you to wonders all around you—including the listening ears of flowers, the secret messages of trees and the 'taste of saltwater and baseball.'"—Deborah Landau, Oprah.com "Books that will Boost Your Mood Instantly"

"Christle writes from an intelligent, fierce, vulnerable place where she searches for whatever truths—and here I mean fictional truths as much as factual truths—it can find. This search, which is divided into three parts, ranges through the chaos of loss to the relative comforts of encroaching order. The progression of the subject matter is mirrored in the way in which Christle uses—or abandons—form and punctuationAnyone who is interested in contemporary American poetry should read this book and be stunned by the various places that it is possible to visit and return from; wounded, deeper, unscathed and enriched.", ,"—Alyson Hallett, Poetry Salzburg Review

"(T)he poems in What is Amazing radiate with boundless joy and celebration, rich in an enthusiasm that so much other poetry lacks. These poems are wonderfully fresh, and the sytax startles in such strange ways, electrifying subtle musing against the absolutely fantastic and banal. Her poems know full well how to live in the moment, and capture the same."—Rob McLennan

"My sincere thanks to Heather Christle"—Jackson Sabbagh, The Faster Times

"look out for Heather Christle's What is Amazing; Christle has been generating lots of buzz in poetry circles for her jumpy poems about, among other things, love."—Craig Morgan Teicher, Publishers Weekly

"Christle's third collection can be offhandedly dark and spikily funny ("Was that a gunshot or / was it a look of temerity"). Swans are murderers, some husbands so small one must lie down to chat. Then come the epiphanies."—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819572776
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 02/14/2012
Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt



This is a wall of great intensity and furious it kind of hums yellow and hums green and never shall it hum purple Captain when will you relieve me The wall I love at night is huge and warms me like a caterpillar or bag but do I also have a family Captain or is the wall the only shelter I have known and furious why and humming brightly why Why is all the beauty in the wall and not in me Captain and in you Captain you are studded lines of buttons That is some finery! Whereas my outfit is it like a prison with the dimmer switch turned low No my outfit is nothing the dimmer switch to nothing But I can tell you things I'm not a piece of foam


They asked me if I was on fire and I said No no no no no no no I did not want to make trouble I was lying I was on fire on my legs and on my hands I was ashamed I tried to hide my legs by kneeling I set the grass on fire The colors were a brilliant green and orange combination I liked it and smoke I was not in pain or on pain I was on fire and lying why to the people Obviously they loved me were warm and pink and vocal on a promising spring day with electric buds Electrifying I mean I mean bright bright bright like a likeness of me I wanted to gnaw and to gnaw on an extra large slice of my likeness


They were projecting a hologram onto my snowsuit A hologram of nature A snowsuit of white Nature was not moving but I was moving and that was most of the plot We got good ratings They were going to release nature in Los Angeles Houston and Maine but I was never going to be released anywhere They were going to give me snacks and send me into the tundra and evaluate how long I survived It was our greatest collaboration I thought Only they were the ones with ideas and I contributed two things My body and the suggestion that we should maybe try to write it down When I died it would be a polar bear that got me I predicted and tried to practice relaxing b/c I wanted my last feeling to be relaxation but they said that wouldn't fit in with the show


This tree has a small LED display It is glowing and it can show you words and it can show you pictures and it can melt from one choice to another and you are looking at it and it wants you to share the message but it can't see that you are the only one around and that everyone else is hibernating which you love You are so happy and alone with the red and yellow lights It's a nice day to be in nature and to read up on the very bland ideas this tree has about how to live This tree says
grow stronger and this tree says fireworks effect
This tree is the saddest prophet in history but you don't tell it that You are trying to show it respect which gets tiresome but then it flashes a snake at you It's a kind of LED tree hybrid joke and you could just kiss it for trying For failing But it can't see you and it starts to cry


People love to clean their ears and I love people very much They are everywhere! Every single thing I love I love for windows only and if one window reflects another then friends for me it's all over And in the windows are trees and in the windows are people What are they even doing with their hunger and in their new shirts They are taking care of themselves and they are taking each other out for lunch Oh even the rain has to love them People are just too attractive! and the rain places itself on the window in order to be closer to the people the ones who are eating The ones who are busting out vigor Oh people You have to love people They are so much like ourselves


It isn't dark yet though it should be dark The grass is bright You can still see it and warm and you can smell it and elsewhere two people hold one another close in a darkness they have created They can feel their insides turning to olive oil and late late afternoon light It's hard not to be them to be like a fallen off piece of the mountain to have traveled so far and still without darkness to see the whole system The houses pulling up from the soil and to want the stars out now To want the stars out now like a linen bag over the head


Lying down among the daffodils I am composed but not the daffodils because I crushed them! Not as an act in itself It was auxiliary Were my next attempt to stand myself erect upon my feet I would leave behind devastation in the organized shape of my body This is also how I move myself through space Everywhere these holes I don't look back to When I return as a giraffe the holes will have to change They will say no god would plan on such a shape And if then I lie down again on these yellow flowers they will teach me that my goldenness is dim


In the field there was a disembodied whistle Disembodied by night which disembodies me too I was in the field also I was in hearing distance Hence I am telling you A whistle is often just bad but this one I liked in part for its dislocation It was in the field with me but did not begin there whereas I began there In the daytime I was a hole but at night I could be nothing if I wanted A wakeful part of nothing with an ear


There is a quilt and he is beneath it and some light comes down through stitches He can see that it's man-made Can see his knees and hands and belly and by the light he knows the night lies in the future just as he lies on the floor The quilt holding him together like skin and warm and also with a soft all-natural light He thinks from above probably he appears a rough organic form Kind of casual like a canoe that's been attached to boulders or casual like an island Like he is rising from the floor and someone will maybe discover him soon Give him a name and go away and tell a soul or two about it How he was there and the quilt was there Empty young and quiet like a prison yard when breaks the afternoon


How like an island we are in love encouraging moss & like an island we are barely moving Just to exist takes much concentration & like an island in love we have a house in our two imaginations &
they intersect It strengthens the house & our feelings Unlike an island we wake up An island never sleeps That is its duty & ours to remain in love barely moving We do not want to disturb the house Do not want it to fall into the ocean that is always so nearby It surrounds us & is moving Like an island the ocean does not see us or care why though we persist in loving it at one rate or another & are waking close together in the dark


As a child X is too small for the furniture The furniture causes his legs to dangle over other junk such as the floor and X feels woe X feels like dying or purchasing specially made child furniture Small chair Small divan When X grows to full size the feeling remains He is out of whack with the world and it is like a crab who walks out of its shell and that is not a metaphor for X's emotional life His feelings are verified true The trouble is when X is small X is very very very very small and when normal X is very very very very normal and in this extremity nothing will fit


There is only one thing in life that matters It has to keep growing and it doesn't need me Those are not clues Those are laws The thing is the sky It is blinking I think also I must be blinking as if to say Sky you are not the only one outdoors with autonomy and the sky stays very quiet It keeps blinking like it is stupid People think when something doesn't talk it is interesting I am always talking and never interesting like a pile of rocks Is that interesting or moss wrapped up over the branch but nature why don't you say something It scares people when there's dead air


Then was an animal I could not identify and that also I lived with In performing our daily headcount I noticed Then's skull was shaped like a tiny cloud and yet I said nothing I fed Then some hay and we were feeling wretched in the blue pantry and at night we could not dream There was a war on but still I got dressed beneath the towering stars and no moon According to the chore wheel I should have been sweeping According to science we should have been dead I knocked on Then's teeth and they were not hollow like the sun was and I wrote it on my list We enjoyed the taste of saltwater and baseball we enjoyed on the radio in daylight in a blue room that grew off the hallway We were happy and wretched and cloudy and setting fire to everything for warmth


for & after Emily Toder

But how does it work I said Are there women No women said the star I think it was talking But if there are no women I said then who were you surrounding No surrounding said the star The star wasn't helping You should be trying to help me I said and I wrapped my coat around me tighter It was a cold morning but the star wandered off It was hungry and the grass needed trimming It was pointy but if there are no women I thought who will help me I said it out loud and the water was banding together on the leaves they were unionizing Star I said Star but it seemed to me now there was no star It was painful I thought I would be surrounded I thought I had thought


I want it to be winter and I want to change the color of this room This room should be a blue room and it should be freezing but ventilated and I in my medium snowsuit irresistible I know because everything I do I do to get more beautiful so you will want to love me in the cold and indoor morning


A swan makes a bad pet It is a murderer but very beautiful just like a woman If you see a woman moving in the water you must run away very fast to a mountain It happened to me once and there are no swans on a mountain This made it lonely and natural so I was very safe but I forgot how to talk and when I came home people could not see I was a woman although I made a lot of statues to explain and I live by myself in a cottage and the water is no longer working It won't make me beautiful just wet and the same


As captain of the flowers I tell the flowers Look alive and they listen They have evolved like an ear I have evolved like a piano Once upon a time I was not that dynamic Now I am metric and a good listener a necessary trait in a leader according to certificates I have had printed with very real looking gold leaf with which I have a lot in common as I am very real myself and with a nice patina and home


What is that thing that can happen A garden is that thing You are walking around and sudden Oh no dahlias You know that feeling like also a family Oh no dahlias and you are giant with offspring sudden all tethered in the world like zinnias dahlias unabashed and blooming like another thing that can happen love That is just an example Love is this thing An example of love is the wind moves the warm air square along a face and then love I love you tethered like a rose sudden Oh no love and all alive in the garden



On the telephone there was a new message It could have been anyone It was the shark The shark was calling to express his feelings on his ugliness and his mortality The two seemed related but the message was choppy Where was he calling from The shark said to call back He was dying He regretted that he would die soon I did not want the message to happen but it was too late I'd already heard it There was a right action How could I take it Perhaps I could go rent a boat He sounded sad on the phone with the dying He was calling maybe from a boat


If you want to talk to your husband and your husband is very small you lie down on the floor and the floor is cold but you warm it and you look at the wall where it meets the floor You are five to eight inches from the wall and there are no other noises Traffic everywhere has stopped for the holiday but the parade does not come by for another couple of hours and you are neither hungry nor too full and your body is a long silk bag full of lightweight batteries arranged on the floor so it touches the floor in the maximum number of places and math has real-world value it turns out which is not all that surprising and there are weekends and desires gestating in your throat pink and hairless like mammals and you close your eyes and say things to your husband but he is small no make him even smaller


The woman is telling me what is the most ordinary part of a room and I agree with her yes it is corners and I would like to move myself into one but the woman has other ideas or at any rate she does not have that one and I open my ordinary mouth as if to speak but find there is no voice there and the woman has a voice that's like California in the rain which is another thing I will not say out loud and I think also I love this woman as if I were a cloud and she an airplane that is to say though I do not speak it that I love her in the ordinary way


Journeying through our apartment I saw ants working They just had no idea You called them single-minded and I thought yes I thought what does that look like in my brain I was having a lightshow Outside everything was falling off the trees who like to draw In that way and in others they are elephants So enormous! Halfway underground The day was a crown we were all wearing the trees and you the single-minded ants We worked and showered and rested by decree We could see our domain Our domain glowing a lavender glow I did not mind


You are everywhere in our home The little stickers with your name and our address pictures of fruit or birds and just now I was reading and stopped and used your checkbook to mark my place It is the nature of things to be used in some other way When today I leave the house I hope someone will see me and use me as an example of a person not thinking about what is utmost in his own mind and without my knowing it
"the not-thinking person"
will be what I primarily am and the world will go on lightly turning with its millions of small adjustments that make space for us that let us get through


It's no good trying to talk to a roof A roof already knows everything It will only turn away Better to stand on it and yell facts at the stars as if you were a real rocket I'm tired of my constant apologies All the sorrows I've whispered to leaves who do nothing who tremble who will not be appeased I will be a leaf myself resolved against sunlight untouchable and hopeless on fire in order to set fire to the sky I am not sorry I am not sorry I brag to the planets Who among you has the courage to stay up with the dead not to sit up afraid but to lie down with them And the speechless rocks go on spinning and thus do I scorn them and thus do I lay myself down Lay myself ferocious and in nothing's debt


I am so angry I am a faun I don't know why I am angry Go home to your mother I tell the bag and the lamp shines in a bright indignant way Go home to your mother I tell the lamp Everyone has one I bitch-slap the house and my head falls apart It's made of rain This always happens I am so angry This African violet approaches me It would like to calm me down but it is standing in my puddle It feels like I am being stabbed Not repeatedly Just one long stab for several years I wreck the violet I trample all over it with my two hooves I collide with the mailbox and we become one This always happens I am so angry I am exhausted This always happens There is no reasoning with me There go my reasons You are a tyrant I try to tell gravity But my mouth is made of rain like I'm a faun This always happens I am so angry All around me angels hum their wretched hum


I come to you with knots in my hair and the world in my mouth I must kiss you I come to you Though the sun never visits me and others break off my toes because they are enlarging Vladimir Mayakovsky —
Fine! I tell them Fine! only don't undress me I come to you and you undress me with sand in my hair and tea in my belly I love you whenever a truck crashes into the low bridge downtown and I come to you when trees have the sense they've just landed I am an excess —
my genes hardly need me nor do I need anything certainly not poetry but bread maybe and tea when I come to you with my love in my chest and my voice in my spine When I am dead I will come to you having cast off these poems which like me are an excess Nothing makes sense to me least of all movement How is it you are in the next room when I am so hungry and I come to you Is this the land and air we spoke of with our two mouths with our little spasms I don't know anything only your front side when you are with me and your back side marching away With my fists I object to the stones With my stones I object to the feelings In my sleep I will eat anything and I come to you with bark in my throat and crime on my sleeve and I come to you full of my bones


The spider he is confused b/c I am not killing him only moving him outdoors When I die I do not want to feel confused No I would rather feel clarity like I am a pool and death a chlorine tablet I want it to feel not like I am dying but am being transferred to the outside

And I hope I do not drown as I have seen happen to hundreds of spiders b/c I love to swim and to drown would wreck swimming for a long time But death is like none of this I know that death is a tower standing in the middle of the town And the tower receives many visits And there's no one but spiders inside


Excerpted from "What is Amazing"
by .
Copyright © 2012 Heather Christle.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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