Books - Poets Heather Christle and Chris DeWeese return to Atlanta

Two poets talk married life, writing habits, and recent works

Friday January 25, 2013 04:00 am EST

Careful inspection reveals traces of Christopher DeWeese and Heather Christle in one another's work. Their poems are lush and thriving forests overflowing with recurring imagery of bears, birds, and skies. These allusions do not compromise the couple's autonomy as poets. Where Christle experiments with grammar and form, DeWeese practices restraint, maintaining his focus on voice and narrative.

After moving from Atlanta to Northampton, Mass., in 2011, they've racked up a considerable number of accomplishments. Their books What Is Amazing (Christle) and The Black Forest (DeWeese) were published within a month of one another. Later in 2012, Christle's previous collection, The Trees the Trees, received the Believer Poetry Award and her poem "BASIC" was selected for 2012's Best American Poetry. We caught up with them to discuss life as married poets, writing processes, and returning to Atlanta.

Have you fallen into similar writing habits or do you leave one another to your own devices?

Heather Christle: I usually write in the morning.

Chris DeWeese: I also write in the morning, but am open to writing throughout the day.

HC: You didn't really write in the morning when we first met.

CD: Yes. I think that seeing Heather's consistency with her writing process inspired me to begin with my own morning writing regimen.

HC: Plus, I wake you up sometimes. I am noisy.

CD: I feel like it's important, when we're writing, that we can't see each other.

HC: Or hear each other eating cereal.

CD: And when you finish a poem you read it out loud very quietly to yourself, thinking that I can't hear you.

HC: But you can hear me. And then I come and show it to you anyway. So I guess we are not that great at leaving each other to our own devices.

What was it like going through the publication process at the same time? Tell me a bit about each collection.

CD: Since we're publishing on different presses the process didn't overlap too much. Heather had to be finished with all her edits and cover and layout decisions long before I did. Watching her pick out a cover and blurbs and jacket copy was great preparation for when I had to do these things.

HC: Yeah, I think the writing of the two collections was much more synced up than the work around publishing them.

CD: The Black Forest is my first book and it explores possibilities of narrative. While writing it I was reading Italo Calvino's reworkings of Italian folktales and I was excited to experiment in my poems with the sorts of quick shifts and sudden temporal changes I saw at play in traditional folktales.

HC: What Is Amazing begins somewhat exuberantly, moves through domesticity and desire, and ends up with something like acceptance of the world as it is. It is occasionally very funny. It is made out of letters and is my third book.

What influence do you have over one another's work?

HC: Well, because we share a library we end up sharing what we're reading a fair amount, which ends up then shaping the work we make ourselves. Joseph Ceravolo's The Green Lake Is Awake has been spending time with both of us lately. Also, especially with these two collections, we are active editors of each other's manuscripts.

CD: Being around Heather's practice of poetry — living with somebody who every day is reading and writing and challenging herself to go beyond what she has already done and known — has been terrific for my own attitude toward writing.

HC: And Chris' patience with his own work has taught me to slow down a bit, to let things sit and then return to them.

Your reading at Emory will be the first time you've returned to Atlanta since your move to Northampton. What have you missed about Atlanta's writing community?

CD: We miss the way everybody comes out for a reading in Atlanta.

HC: I am very excited to see everyone again! I want to watch Blake Butler eat nachos all night.

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