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Recognized as Best Literary Journal for 2005 by Public Radio's - "The Poet and the Poem's" Tenth Annual Award for Excellence in Print




Our Autumn 2017 IssueEnlarged view of image

Christien Gholson grew up in the Navy, a so-called Navy Brat where his initial education spread all over the United States, Italy and Belgium. The world seen as a traveler, as a stranger, has had a tremendous influence on his writing. Not to mention his work at such various venues as a hospital, on landscape crews, in factories and bookstores (he was one of the original organizers for the union movement in Border's during the mid-nineties — a small portion of that time can be seen in Michael Moore's film "The Big One"), a university dining hall, a public library, a museum, along with canvassing for Planned Parenthood, selling magazines door to door, putting solar panels on roofs, and being self-employed as a writer (ghost-writing and copy-editing). Gholson has commented: "Some of these jobs have been a huge influence on my art — especially the people I've worked with.These jobs are considered marginal in the middle-class world, especially service jobs, even though a quarter of Americans do this work. Long ago, I came to identify with this world — not as some noble sentiment or part of any ideology — but because I've been in that world for so long."

His publications include a chapbook of poetry, The Sixth Sense (Lilliput Review Chapbook Series, 2005); a book of linked prose poems, On the Side of the Crow (Hanging Loose Press, 2006; re-published in the UK by Parthian Books, 2011); a prose poem chapbook, How the World Was Made (2River View Online Chapbook Series, 2009); a novel given a starred review from Booklist and nominated for Wales Book of the Year, entitled A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind (Parthian Books, 2011); and the winner of the 2015 Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award (BOPLOPA) for his book of poetry, All the Beautiful Dead. His complete manuscript, Tidal Flats, appears online as the entire 63rd issue of Mudlark (2017). He currently resides in Santa Fe.

The following is an excerpt from Christien Gholson's interview with TBO's editor:

The Bitter Oleander: Could you tell us a bit about your writing process; what conditions you might seek in order to write; any special things you like to have around you or in place to facilitate your creative urges?

Christien Gholson: I usually carry a small notebook around with me. The initial writing of almost every poem takes place outside. There's something about the moment telling me this is the place, this is the time, and I start describing what I see, smell, hear, feel, thoughts in the moment. Sometimes a poem will appear right then and there, but that's rare. It's usually a jumble, chaos, at first.

The point is to start with the body — the senses as extension of the body of the earth — and then, afterwards, allow the brain to start working the material. Quite often, what I've described, what I've chosen to focus on, how I wrote it down, points me in the direction the poem wants me to go. I think of the poem as a spiritual journey (The New Age movement and various institutional religions have helped destroy and demean the word "spiritual," but I haven't come up with another satisfying word so far), and so, I'm frequently moving in the dark, and it takes me a while to catch up with the language, with the imagery, from that initial moment when I first put pen to page.

It's as if I'm growing into the poem. The process of poetry is a bit like going through St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul — the path is unknowable — I don't know where I'm going at first, and, frequently, I don't know where I'm going until I arrive at the end (I remember John Berger once saying something like: "We don't really don't know another's story until it's over, until they are dead." And so it goes…)

Our Autumn 2017 Issue Features Christien Gholson
Photograph by Michaela Kahn


from The Place of Stones


Night seeps from the ground, a spring
of shadows fills low brush, leaps from

living branches to dead. Slash piles,
a rusted truck, humps of dry grass,

are now what they are when we sleep -
capable of entering any dream. A fox

will soon leap through these stones,
exchange my body for his. And I will

descend through the hole at the base
of a dead trunk, into a room scattered

with antler-velvet rags and gnawed mouse
bones. I hear the fox's sisters, waiting,

hungry. How thread my death through
such a tiny hole? Eyes are useless.

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