The Trees The Trees is a wrecking ball covered in flowers. These poems by Heather Christle make me feel, often simultaneously, all of the following things: that I am riding a fucked-up carousal in the middle of the woods, that I am an animal pulling out my own wires, that my skin is a new kind of candy, that my brain and my heart are in a tree and that, somewhere up in that tree, they are kissing, calling each other the wrong names.
The poems look like prose blocks with holes punched in them. If you unfocus your eyes while you read it looks like pieces are missing. Like a puzzle from the thrift store. But what’s missing is what makes these poems right. Consider the line “my friend the golden onslaught married stuff in bloom” from the poem “Happy Birthday To Me.” Nearly each word in this line pushes against the emotional quality of the word next to it, as if the line is trying to break out of its semantic skin. The word “onslaught,” made physical because it is “golden,” sits there in the middle of the line wreaking all kinds of contradictory havoc. The ambiguously casual “stuff” makes the line colloquially wobbly. Then “bloom” comes in with a tender, exuberant punch in the heart, not to mention filling out the line’s weird music. Good parts in a good machine.
Reading The Trees The Trees is akin to the logical disturbance one feels while watching YouTube videos of the late Macho Man. Indeed, the ever-quotable, sequined Savage bewilders and entertains in a surprisingly articulate brand of Dada-esque madness. In an article at espn.com, Bill Simmons sums up Savage’s influence on his sport, noting that “Wrestling moved pretty slowly back then [the mid-80s]: lots of headlocks and clotheslines, lots of rolling around, lots of killed time, lots of fat rolls and labored breathing. Savage murdered that era almost overnight.” Simmons describes Savage as “phenomenally bizarre and undeniably entertaining,” saying that, “You needed a translator even if he was speaking in English.”
The Trees The Trees has this same kind of radical elegance and unpredictability. Direct statements in simple linguistic patterns are bent and blown up with the absurd. Paradox reigns. It’s a contradictory party, and all of your emotions are invited. The way Macho Man constantly moved around neglecting the camera and answered questions with barely discernible, repetitive non-sequiturs contributes to a kind of over-the-top sincerity. Like The Trees The Trees, he made rules and he followed them. “[R]ight now I have a feeling / like I am some very good embroidery” Christle writes in “A Handle On It,” and it’s lines like that, and there’s at least one in every poem, that make me feel like I’m not alone in all this weirdness.
What’s most clear throughout The Trees The Trees is an exuberant hope and belief in the tenderness of human error. For instance, from “The Plan”: “fuck it / let’s become caterpillars / or uncontrollable blazes / let’s go set ourselves alight.” And from “Trying to Make a Difference”: “let’s swim around until by chance / we dance the same maneuvers.” Some in the poetry community have questioned the sincerity of moments like these, arguing that there is more irony and toying at work then real sentiment. Obviously, if you think Lil B isn’t being sincere when he says, “What? Cause I wear yellow pants you don’t believe me?” then this isn’t your ride. But that’s too bad, because no one else is having this much fun. Lil B drinks orange juice on a rooftop and rides a bike with tinfoil rims in the music video for “Feel like a Martian.” He samples Celine Dion’s “The Heart Will Go On” for an entire song. Christle, like Lil B, is taking back sentimentality and going over the top with it. It’s a hybrid kind of awesomeness. One that’s not interested in making its parts cohere. From “Outnumbered”: “I will have created a little impossibility / that’s all I need / a way in / and then to unfold / like a bat.”
The poems are speed and flashes of light. There isn’t time to think. It’s like being in the ring with Macho Man for the first time. It’s not about thinking. It’s about turning up the volume and listening to what happens between the first move and the last move. And it’s going to happen fast. There’s no time for “lots of rolling around, lots of killed time.” These poems make noise with words. Your heart, wearing a gold grill, will translate these words. Sometimes these poems will hit you with a diving elbow drop and it will look fake but it will be real, or vice versa. Sometimes these poems will make you drink orange juice on the roof and say things without thinking. Either way, it will be incredibly fun, and Heather Christle, or a Heather Christle-shaped animal, is to thank for this. “I’d like to jet-ski straight out of this life,” she writes in “This Is Not The Body I Asked For,” and “out of this life” means straight into one another. A huge, monstrous tenderness awaits you in this book. Get on your jet-ski.
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Nick Sturm is a student in the NEOMFA: Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts. Poems can or will be found in Dinosaur Bees, Forklift, Ohio, Hayden’s Ferry, and Red Lightbulbs. He curates THE BIG BIG MESS READING SERIES in Akron, OH.