Astronauts, Ants and Bears . . . Oh my! Heather Christle’s Poetry Reading
Believer Poetry Award-winner Heather Christle writes about snow, nature, personal growth, crying and astronauts in space.
Christle, a Yellow Springs resident, is joining Wittenberg’s English Department this spring semester through the Kent and Mimi Dixon Professorship, teaching Intro to Creative Writing (ENG 240), as well as Advanced Poetry Writing (ENG 341). The New Hampshire native earned her Bachelor of Arts from Tufts University, and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Christle’s published works of poetry include “The Difficult Tree” (2009), “The Trees The Trees” (2011), “What Is Amazing” (2012) and “Heliopause” (2014). At the reading, Christle shared with the audience her newest work, “On Crying,” written in prose style that she explained began “imagining, what if I had a map of every place I’ve ever cried, what would that look like; and then, what would it look like if I asked everyone I knew for their maps, and how could we overlay them with one another; and then what if we could do all of humanity.”
Last week in Ness Auditorium, Christle delighted faculty, students and community members with her poetry. Her whimsical and profound topics held the audience’s close attention as she moved through her poems, which contained complex emotion and intense clarity. Her demeanor made the audience noticeably comfortable as the words rolled off her tongue, whether it were her poems or her crowd interaction between each. Christle read poems from each of her collective works, sharing thoughts of concepts such as how long one has to live, death, personal growth and judging books by their covers through the use of nature and allusions.
Several of Christle’s poems speak directly or indirectly about space, stars and planets, Christle later stating that she attended Space Camp once as a child and never recovered; one of the most notable is her assemblage of snips of the transcript between mission control, Armstrong and Aldrin during the Apollo 11 moon landing. Christle’s selection of words spoke volumes of the importance of this event in history in so few words.
Christle touched on sensitive topics during the Q-and-A portion of the reading as she spoke of the love and loss of her mentor Deborah Digges, as well as her resentment for the act of her taking her own life and romanticizing depression in addition to other poets in history who have done so. When asked how it is that she comes up with the words that she writes, she spoke an exercise of poetry improvisation: writing one single word at a time, never knowing exactly where she would be going, which she describes an endless array of branches that she could go out on. A skill that now seems to come so naturally, she assures, came with lots of time and effort. Christle’s advice was this: “You are not only a writer only when you’re sitting down to write; you are a writer in the world, all the time,” emphasizing the importance of making yourself available to images that appear to you.