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ISBN: 978-1-62557-972-0
Categories Poetry

My Sister’s Father

Publication Date: October 2017


My Sister’s Father is an American Gothic. In a world of plenty and waste, these poems go behind the closed doors of an affluent, suburban household to expose its foundation in unspeakable violence. My Sister’s Father tries to find a language to capture the crisis as it breaks and the walls come closing in.


The surreal horror of this family constellation (the father is seen stitching “a match-book car-bomb into my sister’s intestines”) becomes a kind of trampoline for Gardiner’s amazing leaps: “my feet were set in concrete,/ and I turned so slowly from one problem/ to the other that I was frozen solid/ at their center, and the whole world/ came into an indolent orbit around me.”

These leaps of language and imagination take us to “another country” where “time comes and goes without a ticket.” Here, in this freedom, “time is the infinitive.” Hence, with the logic of grammar, the infinite-and even humor becomes possible: “And you sense the swollen heart/ first plummet, then rise/ to the still, scarred surface of being,/ where impermeable and quivering,/ inexplicable as the seraph,/ it quacks and buoys like a duck.”

An amazing and delightful book.

-Rosmarie Waldrop

Christine Gardiner writes, “The telling of the seeing broke the crisis.” Here is a book that illumines (and through the alchemy of writing, becomes) the ways the disaster exceeds every limit, even as it simultaneously, constantly arrives. And when the crisis breaks? Language becomes a listening (a sounding veil) where we might, as Gardiner suggests, listen without knowing what for. My Sister’s Father-lamentation as a field composed of whispers, an underworld dirge, a primer for how to walk through the dark corridor in the empty house during the longest night. The only thing to do now is to read this book again. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror: I hold onto this book the same way I clutch the Psalter from the abandoned church I found after the storm.

-Selah Saterstrom

These nearly weaponized poems manifest what it’s like to be caught in a trap where family, money, and world have turned against each other, and no one, not even the reader, can touch a single object “without touching the consequence.” These are poems of singular shipwreck in the wake of a collective crisis that pulls every piece of personal debris into its maelstrom. How do we grieve the gap between the true and the false signatories? Gardiner shows, bravely, deeply, that poetry is how we, is what survives.

-Eleni Sikelianos

About the Author

© Emily Dryden

Christine Gardiner

Christine Gardiner holds a BA and MFA from Brown University and a PhD from the University of Denver. She lives in Brooklyn and is Assistant Professor of the Liberal Arts at the College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources, where she is edified by her students and their stories.

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