By Greg Bem
There are so many pockets I can place myself in.
(from “That split off World You Must Destroy and Live in Too,” pg. 60)
Annie Christain’s second book, The Vanguards of Holography, is a mixing and mashing of voice, experience, and identity. These are poems that bear the striking resemblance of 21st century collage, but are lifted and accelerated through the poet’s careful constructions. The barrage effects of lists and refractive imagery is otherwise personal and drawn out. The poet lifts phrases and images as if by machine or performance, and the resulting poetry feels like an assortment of important components to an energizing system of the self.
Every compass points to me; be content with the iron
as we tell you all the things about yourself
you don’t know.
(from “The Vanguards of Holography,” pg. 12)
What is holography? What are holographs? The book is concerned with the blurring of perception, the bands or spectrum of words and worlds. Through nearly every poem, the reader enters a funnel or vortex, and is pulled along through the ecstatic center: Christain’s own experiences heightened by an infinitude of influences and attached ideas.
Like Jack Spicer’s own psychic probing and openness to the chromatic void, Christain’s work contains a world of its own, not exclusively of itself, but alongside itself. Curiously, this poetics connects with other major collage artists and social media poets of this chapter, most notably Kim Vodicka, though Christain’s work strays away from inundations of the Internet’s subdued hyperactive textures.
I see her at the coffee shop,
and my spirit becomes encased in a glass box
with what else exits my body.
(from “Heaven is a Soundstage Built to Make Drugged Soldiers More Fearless,” pg. 2)
In zeroing in on holography, the poet’s work connects more with meaning behind how influences create us, how people create people, how one new glance can completely shake up (and further authenticate) one’s life. This queering of expression directly leads to the queering of the poetry as a text to be read and beautifully challenges how a reading experience should feel, how it should look, how the text should handle or carry poetic truths.
Christain’s approaches break apart standards and otherwise safe, expected engagements and asks us all how we might, as a collective, shift. These shifts are at times subtle but are striking, particularly as a collection. Personally, I felt my own sense of entitlement as a reader of poetry drift away as I listened to the images and felt guidance to move through each.
When someone runs from one of my neurons to the another
pinning down the perimeter of my day,
The same as the murder sites on a map
in a Memphis police station,
I know she’s here.
(from “The Matrix IV,” pg. 72)
The poems have forms that sprawl. They cannot be read only once. Long titles like “We’ll Always Have Terracotta Warriors Ousted in Han Purple, Never Looking Behind” and “Another Boy Who Needs Two Women’s Laps He Can Make Right” describe acute circumstances that form the core or the beginning of each poem; and yet Christain’s poems move in many directions in succession or at once. Each line spins and dances, rotates and flips. Progressing down the page is a radical opportunity for revision and review. Many of the poems follow conventional enjambment and line breaks, but many vibrate with subtle projections.
If you remember your first viewing of a holographic image, you may remember a similar effect as the neck twisted and the eyes searched for movement, evolution, emergence. The poet’s writing achieves a similar awe, and the result is a puzzling and inducing beckoning—to join and to stay with this world, which we never fully know, but expand our knowing of with each intentional bend.
Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at www.gregbem.com