By Jessica Travis
Always seeking to flex a verse to its limit, SUNY Cobleskill Assistant Professor of Composition and English for Speakers of Other Languages Leigh Ann Christain is proud to have recently had three of her poems published in Ryga: A Journal of Provocation. Ryga, a literary publication released twice a year through Okanagan College in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, showcases the poetry of both established and emerging writers who explore a variety of social issues. Christain’s poems illustrate the thrill of a writer who delights in synthesizing far out ideas to create a one-of-a-kind verbal collage.
Daring, challenging, risk taking, and personally rewarding; these are the elements of poetry which inspire Christain to craft poetic art which are imbued with historic and controversial events. Her poems, “Al Supercomputer as Black Magic Megaritual Amplifier: Sir Paul McCartney’s God Given Right,” “Magnetic Fields on the Road to Damascus, a May to December Marriage,” and “The CD Documenting Everything that I’m Saying that Mr. X Gave to Me Was Confiscated by the Police upon My Arrest and Sent Directly to the Ethics Department,” incorporate an alternative perspective or unique element to an actual event that took place. Drawing inspiration from almost everywhere and recreating it in an unexpected and thought-provoking way is distinctly reflected in Christain’s poetry. “Al Supercomputer…” combines Sir Paul McCartney’s account of watching the planes hit the twin towers during 9/11 with descriptions of the film Lucifer Rising by Kenneth Anger. “Magnetic Fields…” presents readers with a contradictory version of Yoko Ono’s adamant account that John Lennon was content being a househusband, while the final poem, “The CD Documenting..,” is inspired by an episode of Cold Case Files in which a criminal was unequivocally convinced he was the victim of a mass conspiracy.
Though readers are left to draw their own conclusions about a poem, Christain is continually pursuing an emotional reaction from her audience. “I leave it up to the reader to decide what’s going on in the poem, but I provide clues along the way to nudge the reader in a certain direction,” says Christain. “It’s my hope that the emotion in the poem can draw the reader back for multiple readings, which provides more chances for something concrete to emerge.” Striving to share with her students her personal love of poetry, Christain includes elements of poetry in her classes at SUNY Cobleskill. Students are exposed to some of Christain’s favorite contemporary poets including Dean Young, Tony Hoagland, Ander Monson and James Tate. Through this exposure and her own contagious enjoyment for poetry, Christain is undoubtedly inspiring students to create their own unique verbal collage – one pleasantly far out idea at a time.