The Jack of Diamonds is a Hard Card to Play - September 2015
Fall is a lonely time, with space
at the end of the bench for strangers.
The streets are empty; I seldom
hear a car after six p.m.
I wish there were more seasons
than the four that age us.
There ought to be some epilogue
to summer, some rhyming speech
about the goals of love, the purpose
of a beating heart, a panting
pair of lips eager to be kissed again.
But we close the book, and someone
lights a fire that will burn
all night, and then we wake up cold.
from "Cascades of Autumn"
The Human Condition: New Poems - September 2011
From the Chihuahuan deserts of Mexico to the cellars of the Pentagon and the flaming ruins of Iraq, this poetry compilation merges the personal with the political. While retaining an intimate and unembellished tone, it confronts topical issues—notably the United States' wars abroad—and explores various universal themes, including aging, coping honestly with regret, dealing with fear, and desiring forgiveness. Powerful and lyric, these poems cut to the heart of the often painful, difficult, and deceptive human condition.
Strangers in Paradise: A Memoir of Provence - May 2008
Weaving a fascinating dialogue between the Old World as represented by Provence and the New World of the postmodern American university, this memoir describes in finely wrought detail a poet and critic of literary postmodernism moving his family to France and experiencing village life. Stories of amazing adjustments to a wildly different world are etched in beautiful prose, reading like a quest novel, a precise travelogue, an intense discourse on the visionary arts, and a rediscovery—if not reinvention—of the self as this contemporary American intellectual finds enlightenment in exile.
Hard Country – January 2005
Poems about the dry land world of west Texas, its deserts, craggy mountainscapes, the parched arroyos, bitter creeks. History is exposed on the surface of this ancient theater of evolution, with trilobites sharing the baked earth with the femurs of dinosaurs, the ghost towns turning ever more brown under the scolding sun. The poems are an expression of the poet's wanderings through this biblical landscape, with all the attendant emotions of fear, courage, thoughts of mortality, extreme peaks of both elation and despair. The opening poems are a kind of sentmental education of the poet young, and the rest of the book moves through the torments and upendings of growing into adulthood and experiencing the emotions of a man aging and wandering a world that seems fragile and passing.
Falling From Grace in Texas: A Literary Response to the Demise of Paradise – October 2004
Featuring more than 30 Texas writers, this collection of essays, fiction, and poetry discusses environmental degradation from the panhandle to the gulf, and from the Piney Woods to Big Bend.
West of the American Dream: An Encounter with Texas - June 2001
Like many a pioneer exiting the eastern forests, Paul Christensen felt the strangeness of an alien landscape when he first arrived in Texas in 1974. Schooled in the cool colors of life and poetry in the urban East, he approached his new career in the Southwest with missionary zeal and purpose: to discover the land and the kind of people and poetry it produced.
West of the American Dream is a multifaceted account of that search. Christensen shares his feelings of culture shock in eastcentral Texas as he meets the cowboy version of the bluecollar Texan and his Mexican American neighbors. He introduces readers to the convoluted history of poetry in Texas, a tradition, started by women, that shifted from a focus on the land to the quotidian habits of urban living. Using a unique dissection of the public ritual of a poetry reading, Christensen assesses the origins of modern poetry, the value of imagination in modernist and postmodernist verse, and what Texas poets achieved and how their work evolved after World War II.
Blue Alleys – October 1, 2001
For readers of fine prose and poetry. These 39 prose poems are an insightful journey into adolescence and beyond. With powerful and thought-provoking images, Christensen exposes to the nerve his encounters with puberty, love, loss and spiritual awakening. An amazing gift from one of the most talented poets of our time.
Minding the Underworld: Clayton Eshleman and Late Postmodernism – June 1, 1991
In this, the first full-length study of Clayton Eshleman's poetry, poet and scholar Paul Christensen descends into the torch-lit underworld, the cave of the soul, that Eshleman has been exploring in his work for more than three decades. "In the caves of Dordogne," Christensen writes, "Eshleman discovered an underworld in actuality, a labyrinth in which Paleolithic humanity daubed and slashed their marks, their primordial psychic images." He also found a controlling metaphor for all his mature poetry: "For Eshleman, these markings were a first language, and they represent the primal separation between sleep and waking," between the darkness of pre-consciousness and the light of self-awareness, between the amoral animal (which simply "is") and the guilty man (who is tortured by the realization "I am").
Charles Olson: Call Him Ishmael – May 1979
Charles Olson was an important force behind the raucous, explicit, jaunty style of much of twentieth-century poetry in America. This study makes a major contribution to our understanding of his life and work.
Paul Christensen draws upon a wide variety of source materials—from letters, unpublished essays, and fragments and sketches from the Olson Archives to the full range of Olson's published prose and poetry. Under Christensen's critical examination, Olson emerges as a stunning theorist and poet, whose erratic and often unfinished writings obscured his provocative intellect and the coherence of his perspective on the arts.
In Seven Poets, ed. Greg Kuzma. Crete, NE: Best Cellar Press, 1977
Old and Lost Rivers. Bryan, TX: Cedarshouse Press, 1977
The Vecctory. Bryan, TX: Cedarshouse Press, 1981
Signs of the Whelming. Ft. Worth, TX: Latitudes Press, 1983.
Weights & Measures: Selected Poems. Huntington, WVA: University Editions, 1985.
Where Three Roads Meet, with John Campion and John Herndon. Bryan and Austin, TX: Cedarshouse and Open Theater, 1996.
Blue Alleys: Prose Poems. Houston, TX: Stone River Press, 2001. Winner of the “Violet Crown Award,” Writers’ League of Texas, 2002.
The Mottled Air. The Woodlands, TX: Panther Creek Press, 2003.
Hard Country. Austin, TX: Thorp Springs Press, 2005. Winner of the “Violet Crown Award,” Writers’ League of Texas, 2006.
Charles Olson: Call Him Ishmael. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1979.
Poetry: A Writer’s Manual. Bryan, TX: Cedarshouse Press, 1987.
12 Lyric Strategies for the Advanced Poet. Bryan, TX: Cedarshouse Press, 1988.
In Love, In Sorrow: The Complete Correspondence of Charles Olson and Edward Dahlberg. NY: Paragon House, 1989.
Minding the Underworld: Clayton Eshleman and Late Postmodernism. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1990.
West of the American Dream: An Encounter with Texas. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2001. “Violet Crown Award” finalist, 2001.
Falling from Grace in Texas: The Literary Demise of Paradise, co-edited with Rick Bass. San Antonio, TX: Wings Press, 2005.
Strangers in Paradise: A Memoir of Provence. San Antonio, TX: Wings Press, 2008.