A Moment with Christine Rhein
I first met Christine Rhein--it must have been--in the early Nineties at the Third Coast Writers' Conference at Western Michigan University. Year after year I would see her there. Every time I read and heard her work, it was apparent that she was rapidly progressing as a poet. And then her poems began to appear in the big journals; places like the Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, and the Michigan Quarterly Review. These were poems of genuine wonder and accomplishment. Then I heard that her full-length manuscript, Wild Flight had won the Walt MacDonald First-Book Series in Poetry, and would be published by Texas Tech University Press.
I bought a copy in February at the AWP Conference in Chicago. Wild Flight is an amazing book, full of great poems and hard-won truths. Robert A. Fink, judge of the Walt MacDonald contest wrote, in a perfect introduction to Christine's book:
"You've heard this before: 'I started reading and couldn't put it down.' With Chris Rhein's manuscript, not only could I not put it down, I feared turning each page, almost certain the pilot could not sustain such blood-rushing combinations, such patterns and deviations, and return whole to earth, touch down, roar into another poem. When the ride ended, I got in line to go again."
Christine Rhein worked as a mechanical engineer in the automotive industry. She now lives in Brighton, Michigan, just Northwest of Detroit.
Here's one of my favorites from Christine Rhein's Wild Flight (Texas Tech University Press, 2008):
EXERCISING TO POETRY VIDEOS
So now it's come to this--Sharon Olds
in black suit and pearls, reading
to me and a full auditorium
about the topography of her
and her husband's bodies together
in bed while I pant alone
in my basement in an old T-shirt
and shorts, stepping up one
plastic stair only to step right
back down before climbing up again,
getting nowhere, like the pet mouse
Olds wrote of, its burial
after all that wheel turning.
My whirring mind sweats as I listen
and wonder if Sharon, in her tallness,
ever exercises or feels she should,
and what she would think of me,
the sound of my breath and footfalls
mingling with her words.
Sharon, I've watched your tape
at least a dozen times, your cadence,
though not the beat of rock, urging
me to move, to push heavy weights
over my head and out from my heart,
to consider all the people who
would choose any music over poetry,
who have never heard of you
or Galway Kinnell and the taste
of his icy, black blackberries,
who live life without struggling
to write about it, until I don't know
who's the wiser--them or me
forming a poem as I crunch through sit-ups,
listening now to Czeslaw Milosz
whose muscles never tired of the strain--
"Reality, what can we do with it?"