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Call Heather Christle!

By Harriet Staff

Heather Christle’s new collection, The Trees The Trees, available from Octopus Books, just dropped, and while it’s still hot you can call her, and she will read you a poem from said collection!

According to an article in The Guardian:

The American author, whose poems have appeared in the New Yorker, has just published her second collection, The Trees The Trees, and rather than relying on the usual publicity tour, has decided instead to list her phone number on her website. At set times every day until 14 July she will read a poem to anyone who calls her.

“The book itself is full of references to phones and phone calls, and the speaker often seems to mistake the technology of the page for that of the telephone, imagining that the reader is right there in the moment,” said Christle. “My father is a merchant mariner, and when my sister and I were small we would record messages to him on cassette tapes. I’d often ask questions and then pause for his response. There’s something so lovely and sad about the hope that another actual person is on the other end of any technology. So I thought it would be interesting to bring that dynamic forward, to read these poems (which frequently address a ‘you’) directly to another person, across the intimate distance a telephone creates.”

So far she has received around 60 calls, from a multitude of different readers, from a couple from Toronto looking for a love poem to a class in western Massachusetts. “I’ve been amazed at how variously people respond. Some callers state quickly that they’re calling for a poem, listen, say thank you, and then promptly hang up. Others want to chat a little bit about the project. I love it when people tell me where they’re calling from. One man called on his break from work, which made me glow. If people seem chatty I’ll often tell them where I am as well, because I think it’s exciting to know that the poem they just heard was read in the middle of the shampoo aisle at the supermarket,” Christle said.

“I didn’t feel particularly anxious ahead of time. I trust poetry to make good things happen, and so far that’s been the case. When I was writing these poems I so often had this mysterious ‘you’ just in front of me, just behind the page. When people call it’s as if that imagined figure has suddenly come to life.”

“This isn’t the most terribly original idea,” said Christle. “Another antecedent I should mention is the ‘Dial-a-Poem’ project, started by John Giorno in the late 60s, though that featured recordings, rather than live readings.”

Speaking of John Giorno, let’s get all intertextual up in this piece.

Are you scared to call her? Then you can at least hear her read here, but it probably won’t be as fun.

Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.