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Absence ◆  Presence

by Christien Gholson

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Influenced by T’ang Era Classical poets (including Han Shan, Du Fu, Li Bai, and Wang Wei), the poems in Christien Gholson’s Absence ◆ Presence explore our collapsing world with the Daoist understanding that everything in the cosmos (Presence) appears out of and returns to an unknowable mysterious origin (Absence); and that we are continually shifting in and out of Absence and Presence—day to day, month to month, year to year, moment to moment. Alternatively playful and dark (and sometimes playfully dark), these accessible poems move through the cycle of the seasons, including death, work, dragons, war, coyotes, loss, mass shootings, ghost deer, love, drought, fever dreams and joy, all with a stunned and quiet awe at the beauty hidden everywhere in plain sight. Along the way, we come into contact with a character named No One, resembling the illusive monk-poet Han Shan, seeking answers in the midst of our collapsing civilization, trying to move toward a larger experience of the self, a self that includes community, the natural world, and even the night cosmos, cultivating, like the Classical Chinese poets, a broader and deeper experience of the self.

POETRY / General

ISBN: 978-1-956056-69-3 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2022951747

Copyright: 2023; Released 1-17-2023

108 pages

Author Biography

Christien Gholson is the author of several books of poetry, including On the Side of the Crow (Hanging Loose Press) and All the Beautiful Dead (Bitter Oleander Press); along with a novel: A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind (Parthian Books). His chapbooks include The No One Poems (Thirty West Publishing) and The Sixth Sense (Modest Proposal Chapbook series). Several of his chapbooks can be found online, including Tidal Flats (Mudlark) and How the World was Made (2River View). He has been many shapes before attaining congenial form: factory worker, cashier, crow feather resting on snow, bookseller, editor, crab leg tangled in seaweed, teacher, farmhand, ochre handprint on a cave wall, union organizer and wanderer. He attended Naropa University; University of California, Davis; and Southwestern College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His work has appeared in Ecotone, Permafrost, Another Chicago Magazine, Banyan Review, The Shore, Hotel Amerika, Alaska Quarterly Review, Tiger Moth Review, and The Sun, among many other literary journals. He spent many years living in northcentral New Mexico where the poems in Absence  Presence were written. He now works as a somatic-oriented therapist in Oregon.



“Christien Gholson's ability to use language to surprise and enthrall me on every page gives me the calming knowledge that poetry will always be important. When a writer is able to bring the mundane world of working behind the cash register at a small country store to life in ten pages, I know that there will be poets among us till the sun implodes. Gholson tackles all the important themes in new ways: life, love, nature, house fires, seasons, grief, death. ‘All the different worlds inside us never really leave us . . . ’”
r soos, poet

Absence ◆ Presence offers a window into how all things are connected across space and time; the view from Christien Gholson’s window is disturbingly clear, and the view stretches beyond every horizon. Gholson’s metaphysical craft rewards readers in ways that linger long after his poems leave their lips. Gholson works where the fabric between worlds is thin and translucent; his vivid imagery, and distinctly New Mexican voice, work in tandem to tenderly and unflinchingly shine the light of darkness into all our hearts.”
Sky Island Journal

“Absence ◆ Presence reads like a gorgeous koan, fitting because many of the poems are inspired by or written after Zen and Daoist master poets: Li Bai, Du Fu, Han Shan. Gholson’s voice is almost painfully aware and full of heart. These poems attempt to make sense of our modern world as seen through the eyes of an ancient soul. Despite all odds, the soul finds redemption by witnessing, naming, and appreciating those aspects of the world that still have meaning, are lasting, and can’t be bought and sold.”
Lissa Kiernan, author, Two Faint Lines in the Violet, Glass Needles & Goose Quills, and forthcoming, The Whispering Wall

Articles and Reviews


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