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Kathleen Rooney Reviews Heather Christle’s New Collection

By Harriet Staff

Over at Coldfron, Kathleen Rooney is a bit weary in this review of Heather Christle’s What is Amazing. Although she draws attention to the poems’ “Zen-like quality,” Rooney walks away from the collection less enlightened and more “meh.” Rooney does have some praise for What is Amazing, but she’s quick to deflate this praise when she writes, “On the upside, this is a cohesive collection. Christle is obviously delivering the aforementioned consistency on purpose, but what that purpose is remains unclear. And if poems are—among many other things—a negotiation between repetition and variance, then this book overtaxes the former to the point of predictability.”

Towards the end she sums up her thoughts thus:

Part of why the purpose of Christle’s book feels so inscrutable—and why reading so many similar poems one after another feels empty—has to do with her tone, which is open and conversational: a sharing tone. Yet this register, which could be appealing, feels undercut by the presumptuous assertions the poems make as they seek to put themselves over not through idea or argument but through their apparent posture of naieveté and kindness. At the same time, because of the poems’ fragmentary syntax and lack of punctuation, the voice comes off as calculated and difficult to parse. It is hard to say if these poems are sincere or merely exploiting sincerity. More than that, Christle’s tone makes it tough to interpret how much contempt, if any, these poems have for the reader, let alone for themselves—as in “In Accordance” when she writes at one point, “nor do I need anything / certainly not poetry / but bread maybe and tea” and “I will come to you / having cast off these poems / which like me are an excess” at another.

There’s much more to consider in the review. Make the jump to read the rest.

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, July 27th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.