Tall As You Are Tall Between Them
by Annie Christain
A criminal released from death row hints he was guilty of murder all along, a special needs man raised on nothing but sermons attempts to explain COINTELPRO in black protests, a woman abducted and forced to raise her half-alien children remembers everything, Chinese–looking agents hired by the U.S. to overthrow China, kill Chinese soldiers outside Tiananmen Square.Tall As You Are Tall Between Them is an exercise in possibility. Where many reporters shock and numb their audiences with a relentless stream of violence and insanity while skipping or inadequately addressing inconvenient questions, Christain starts with these questions, zooms in, hovers, and rewinds. The bizarre, disturbing, and uncomfortable scenarios presented in her poems are written with an earnestness that possesses just the right degree of plausibility to leave the reader asking time and time again, “What if?” At first glance, Tall As You Are Tall Between Them is otherworldly sci-fi horror. In the end, the book is too familiar. In fact, it is our very own—the underbelly and in-between of a shifting and sliding world where much meaning is found through context and brain chemistry. All the while, Christain teaches us to peel back the layers, to be fearless—“to jump towards the atom blast if [we’re] going to be forced to fall back anyway,” and to enjoy the ride.
A fierce and frightening intelligence animates Annie Christain’s Tall As You Are Tall Between Them, a book of teeming references and unsettling implications. Whether they’ve sprung from biblical figures, pop stars, or serial killers, these wild, wide-ranging monologues can sound like depositions or fever dreams or both, testing the limits of our empathy as they haunt and beguile: “I’ll be eating packs of Kool-Aid, / waiting in your bushes so we can lock eyes.” This boldly singular book feels like it has devoured whole cultures and spat them back at us in the form of poems that provoke us to recognize in them the darker, weirder parts of ourselves.
–Mark Bibbins, author of They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full
“I know this is a bad way to speak,” announces Annie Christain in her extraordinary debut collection Tall As You Are Tall Between Them, “but I’m doing it on purpose.” Assimilating the marginalized speech patterns of cult members, non-native speakers, abuse survivors, and the countless everyday victims of modernity, Christain forges a wildly inclusive lyric voice—one that can “pull out the sword from the inside” of collective life. “Truth be told, there are actual horses, and then there are the destroyers who sometimes inhabit the horses.” This poet is one of the destroyers.
–Srikanth Reddy, author of Facts for Visitors
Like a radio transmission from aliens in outer space, like a medium channeling a feral spirit in a séance, like the paranoid depositions of a hallucinating conspiracy theorist, these uncanny transcriptions from and of the margins in Annie Christain’s remarkable debut volume, Tall As You Are Tall Between Them, ricochet wildly between tabloid headline and shamanic, schizophrenic and visionary, deeply disturbing and wildly sublime. The frenetic linguistics of these haunting and utterly original tour-de-force poems twist and turn and stun like an extraterrestrial roller coaster ride—leaving the reader shaken yet deeply mesmerized, and always—always—wanting another go.
–Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of Dandarians
In her debut collection, Annie Christain finds her lyric voice in the margins, bringing those margins together in the lines of poetry that want to contain multitudes, as Whitman told us we must. Christain, a poet whose voice constantly poses her between polarities, between humor and terror, between fantasy and clarity, the silenced, the not yet spoken. This is a poet whose aim is to say, with Whitman, yes, that Nothing human is alien to me, and then to go on and embody it in dramatic, invented, mad, brave lines such as: “But Lord help me, / as soon as my knife entered his chest, I saw him /… I thought, ‘No one deserves to die in shock from the knife of a farmer / who thinks you are a snake,’ / even though I stabbed him nine more times.” So, who is this poet, readers? What does she see? Annie Christain looks into the darkness that surrounds us and hears a chorus. And sees—what?—ourselves, of course, the darkness of our own making.
–Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing in Odessa
Annie Christain opens herself up as a medium, taking Spicerian dictation from Martians whose voices are as urgent as they are untrustworthy, competing with each other for dominance but constantly falling back into a pit of undifferentiated vertigo. Humor and horror flicker back and forth, superimposing and whiting out, creating dim afterimages that sometimes fade too rapidly to register. The sense of surrendered control that drives this dense, uncomfortable, and eerie work is balanced by a verbal dexterity that announces itself as excessive, rhetorical, pseudo-magisterial—but then dissolves into the blankness beyond irony, where poetry always writhes into life.
–K. Silem Mohammad, author of The Front