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?
In this quietly penetrating, rewarding new work, Kondrich sees us not as isolate beings but as defined (and ever changed) by our interaction with the world and especially others, and he's particularly interested in how we arrive at our values and negotiate them. The result is a stunning poetry of ideas with a one-of-a-kind feel.
asks that its readers-as ethical, spiritual beings-attend to this world and to our choices, and offers us a gleaming array of scenarios, descriptions, meditations, and fables from which to begin. Let the choice be love, Kondrich's poems entreat.
—Hannah VanderHart, AGNI
Kondrich's poems have the curious gift of being gently abstract-not vague, but broad, perhaps even kenotic ... This outward sense makes many of Kondrich's poems feel like hymns released into the sky. Valuing
is a refreshingly sincere and skilled book about the ineffable: 'Friend, if you are there, / come to meet me. I am drifting devoured. / I am ready to say goodnight. / Come meet me so I can release it.'
—Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
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, author of If You Have to Go
'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, author of The New Testament
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, author of 3 Sections
A stunning work with a one-of-a-kind feel, this reflection on the major issues of self and others demands time and thought, but it delivers. Highly recommended.
—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal, starred review
Christopher Kondrich's second collection of poetry invites the reader to explore what it means to be human.
—Ali Hintz, The Arkansas International