Books

 


Valuing

University of Georgia Press, 2019
Winner of the National Poetry Series, Selected by Jericho Brown

In his second collection, Christopher Kondrich navigates the link between what we see as our inner value and the external world that supplies it. Valuing’s deeply personal poems explore faith, love, ethics, and mortality from a variety of angles and through a variety of poetic forms as a means of questioning the origination of one’s own value system. Does it come from the belief in a god, from the love one gives or receives, or from the diminution of the self and its desires? If “you cannot sneak through your life,” as the speaker of one of Valuing’s poems proclaims, then how might one ensure that the noise a life inevitably makes is an echo of the values one holds dear? 

Praise for Valuing:

“I choose to love / as asylum from that which presses me / to hate,” says the opening poem of Valuing, a rich and vital book by Christopher Kondrich. Lines like these are quite apropos in such a philosophical work of art in which Kondrich questions and embraces both God and pessimism, all the while trying to establish a self—a being worth more than what late capitalism can allow—by chanting what seems like spells born before anyone was born: “Also, I must capture you in song. I must find music to set to this / aging and follow the river to my death.” There is not space enough for me to write all I love about this book and its potential for influence on poetry and on any mind made vulnerable to poetry. — Jericho Brown

It is one thing to know there are limits to human knowledge, boundaries to how much we can accurately say about our labyrinthine selves, the objects we touch, and, more vastly, the mystery in which we spin. It is another thing entirely for a poet to articulate this so keenly that suddenly our limits become our bounty. What is of value in us? “To live amongst walls and proclaim those walls a home,” Kondrich writes. Valuing instructs us through disappointment and joy in a rare and trustworthy measure. The poems are entire philosophies, but they must try again and again with each turn of the page, as such is our lot. And although we move within the limits of knowledge and language, “Do not worry. The other side / will lift you and change you / if how you were standing / doesn’t make it across.” I, for one, need this book. — Katie Ford

In Valuing Christopher Kondrich fashions startling, arresting images and fabulous metaphors that are all the more startling, arresting, and fabulous because they’re so functional to the overflowing reality and profundity of his poems. He has an excellent mind accompanied by an exuberant imagination. — Vijay Seshadri

Selections from Valuing:

Boston Review
Conjunctions
Typo


Contrapuntal

Free Verse Editions, 2013
A New Measure Poetry Prize finalist

The poems in Christopher Kondrich’s first collection allude to contrapuntal composition by sustaining two voices and two distinct, but overlapping narratives. As described by Mark Strand in Boston Review, the first is allegorical, in which a piano-playing guru, a pharmaceutical cure-all, and the laboratory where it’s produced are all elements in the formation of a self-seeking unity. The other concerns two versions of a self—past and present—who merge in the voice of the poet. As it dismantles the wholeness of life to create the wholeness of art, Contrapuntal presents readers with a unique, challenging experience. 

Praise for Contrapuntal:

In Contrapuntal, an enormously ambitious and masterful debut, Christopher Kondrich has shaped this material into a work of such inventiveness, wit, wisdom, bravura, tenderness and beauty, it leaves me in awe. Or rather, it brings me back to a level of awe I had forgotten I had access to, restoring to their original size my hopes for what a book of poetry might accomplish. I am inordinately grateful for this book. — Timothy Donnelly

Before the book begins, the book begins, with contrapuntal movement: “So I take  my hand, / and even though I know my hand, / I know I know it, / it feels like your hand.” Throughout the remaining books of this book, a singular duality continues to play, and it is a play of the body, of hands—“I can feel the sounds / between my hands / as I clasp them to play.” In this latter poem, the play on “play” and “pray” is especially apt and emotionally wrought, and—caught up as it is with music, with playing of sounds into emotional sense—such play is both profound and continually delightful. This is a book that needs to be known.  — Bin Ramke

Christopher Kondrich’s Contrapuntal is an eerie world of dysymphony and desire, in which the actors have lost their way among objects and senses.  Scraps of sound and thought float free, unmoored from belief, and suggest we find a way to bring weight back to the human world. This is a strangely comforting dystopia, pleasing to linger in, a place made of mood and novelistic smoke, the characters in it so clearly our own.  — Eleni Sikelianos

Reviews of Contrapuntal:

The brilliance of Contrapuntal is realized through the relation that the poems bear to one another; within each of the book’s four sections, the succession of poems serves to deepen and enhance the overall thematization. Unlike a more loosely joined collection of poems, in which a topic is frequently viewed from a number of disassociated angles, Kondrich delves deeper and deeper from one poem to the next; his poems seem to burrow within mental obsession and neurosis, rather than providing a series of surface-level snapshots. — The Rumpus

Music has the uncanny ability to change our center of kinetic consciousness and Kondrich’s live performance recorded on the page harmonizes real time (experience as it occurs) with memorized time (experience as it is reproduced). It is our luck to be able to return to these lyrics over and over again. — Jerry Magazine

Contrapuntal isn’t easy-listening poetry but perhaps, as Christopher Kondrich writes in one of his sophisticated poems, “a tenuous grasp is / enough.” If our future “is full of music,” we have time yet to tighten our grip, but also to recognize that the search is our sound—the melody that makes an already inspired collection sing. — Heavy Feather Review

Contrapuntal is not a book about diametrics, bipolarity, or extremes, but rather a sonic and sonorous exploration of the way music, sound, time, and relationships exist throughout the body, mind, and self. Such a read is what contemporary poetry is poised to accomplish, and Kondrich has a measured and meticulous style that winds well around the musical and interpersonal ideas he’s presenting here. — The the Poetry Blog

Selections from Contrapuntal: 

Boston Review
Witness
Verse Daily