Heather Christle is reading poems from her collection The Trees the Trees.
Heather Christle is reading poems from her collection The Trees the Trees.

Heather Christle's literature is just a phone call away



It feels just a little weird - make that really weird - to be calling up a poet out of the blue and asking her to read one of her compositions down the phone. But this is exactly how Heather Christle is encouraging readers to experience her new collection, The Trees the Trees. Rather than hope people might come across her book in a shop, online, or at a literature festival, she recently published her US phone number on her website, as well as a list of poems to choose from. "Call me and I will read to you," it says. It's that simple. You don't have to be a journalist or a poetry expert. You just have to dial the number and listen.

And so it comes to pass that I interrupt Christle doing the dishes one morning in Atlanta, Georgia, hoping that she'll read me the intriguingly titled Poem Consisting Entirely Of Advice. She doesn't appear to mind. "I wish you'd called a bit later, though," she giggles. "I'm going to the hardware store in a bit and reading a poem next to the nails might have been quite fun."

The poem in question, she warns, is short. There is an awkward silence when it abruptly ends, although that might be because the line "what if he asks you/what are you looking at" is slightly unnerving. But what do you do in these circumstances? Clap? Make delighted whooping noises? There is, it seems, no etiquette to express appreciation for a solo poetry performance taking place in a kitchen thousands of miles away.

Sensing my slight unease, perhaps, Christle breezily says "that's it!" and starts laughing. But then, she's already had plenty of practice at disarming her listeners: she's just read a poem to somebody in Australia ("it was past midnight, their time!" she exclaims) and has fielded calls from Canada, the UK, and nearer to home, in the US.

"People do get anxious about calling me," she says, which is reassuring. "But it's a great experience both for them and me. I get these little glimpses of lives, people calling on their breaks at work, or from the beach. It's really cool.

"Writing these poems I had this 'you' that I kept addressing, without specifically knowing who that was. And I feel that every person who calls makes that 'you' grow in my mind just a little bit more. That is tremendously exciting."

Speaking to Christle, it's clear that even though she can't quite believe the "insane" response to her project, it isn't just a gimmick picked up via the internet and just as quickly spat out again. The poems are sharp meditations on modern life and the book, she tells me, is full of little nods to phones and phone calls. So it made sense to complete the circle by reading them through the same technology. "I didn't put the phone number on the site and invite calls because I was cynically dreaming up some cool new way to promote it," she says. "I was just genuinely intrigued to see what might happen if I did."

What happened is that Christle is finding herself on the phone more and more as word gets around. It's interesting that her project has been so popular. As she admits herself it's not an original idea - the New York poets Frank O'Hara and John Giorno were attempting something similar in the 1950s and 1960s. The difference in 2011 is that we're so used to living our lives digitally and virtually, actually speaking to a poet on the end of a line rather than engaging with them via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter is something of a novelty.

"I find it refreshing, definitely," she says. "It's invaluable to hear a poet read their work. I mean, it can be transformative, can't it? I wouldn't say what I'm doing is replacing the act of sitting and reading quietly, though, which can also be wonderful - and of course I also believe in text because I'm a poet, so I value those ways of communicating. But I've been most surprised with how generous people are when they listen to me. Not that I expect them to tell me that a poem I've just read them is amazing. But what I love, really love, is the notion that people want to call at all. If you step back and think about it, it's pretty unbelievable."

And with that, Christle says goodbye and gets ready for her trip to the hardware store. Poetry book - and phone - firmly in hand.

Heather Christle is reading from The Trees the Trees until Thursday. Call 00 1 (413) 570 3077 or visit www.thetreesthetrees.tumblr.com

Meg 2: The Trench

Director: Ben Wheatley
Stars: Jason Statham, Jing Wu, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Cliff Curtis, Melissanthi Mahut and Shuya Sophia Cai
Rating: 2/5

Indika

Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5

Rafael Nadal's record at the MWTC

2009 Finalist

2010 Champion

Jan 2011 Champion

Dec 2011 Semi-finalist

Dec 2012 Did not play

Dec 2013 Semi-finalist

2015 Semi-finalist

Jan 2016 Champion

Dec 2016 Champion

2017 Did not play

 

The specs

Powertrain: Single electric motor
Power: 201hp
Torque: 310Nm
Transmission: Single-speed auto
Battery: 53kWh lithium-ion battery pack (GS base model); 70kWh battery pack (GF)
Touring range: 350km (GS); 480km (GF)
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The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

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Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

PRO BASH

Thursday’s fixtures

6pm: Hyderabad Nawabs v Pakhtoon Warriors

10pm: Lahore Sikandars v Pakhtoon Blasters

Teams

Chennai Knights, Lahore Sikandars, Pakhtoon Blasters, Abu Dhabi Stars, Abu Dhabi Dragons, Pakhtoon Warriors and Hyderabad Nawabs.

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Tournament rules

The matches are of 25 over-a-side with an 8-over power play in which only two fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle. Teams play in a single round robin league followed by the semi-finals and final. The league toppers will feature in the semi-final eliminator.

Bridgerton season three - part one

Directors: Various

Starring: Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton, Jonathan Bailey

Rating: 3/5

THE SPECS

Jaguar F-Pace SVR

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TO ALL THE BOYS: ALWAYS AND FOREVER

Directed by: Michael Fimognari

Starring: Lana Condor and Noah Centineo

Two stars

General Classification

1. Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) Trek-Segafredo
2. Gaia Realini (ITA) Trek-Segafredo 7 secs
3. Silvia Persico (ITA) UAE Team ADQ 1 min 18 secs


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