Christopher Shipman’s first book is strikingly unpretentious. In spite of its somewhat cold title, the poems are as warm as they come. Not afraid to elegize his dead grandmother who loved double-cheeseburgers or to remind us that humans urinate and “shit,” he writes calmly and beautifully about what reads like actual life, the speaker fluctuating seamlessly between the facts of imagination and those of the earth, recalling the childhood lusts that haunt the adult like a shameless ghost. And in spite of the subtitles that invoke the theatre, the poems in each section sound private, unadorned, free of exaggeration. If Shipman insists on a troupe, then it is made of ghosts, and his stage is fluid, not wooden. Ghosts do the oaring in most of these poems, ferrying us through the realm of “middle tone,” stirring the depths where love and death embrace. “Growing a tongue felt like dying,” he says in the poem “Death Writes Home” which echoes an earlier statement that naming is a form of killing. And yet, the poet uses rhetoric to escape the restricted view; the line goes on: “…by the way, but when I lean in to kiss/ my beautiful bride she’s full of light.” Not only do these poems risk sentimentality, they risk stylistic honesty. The mode of delivery is not an eye-catching machine, but a mouth— once human, now spectral, now both.
—Larissa Szporluk, author of Isolato, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize
In “the steady ache of language” a picaresque (askew and bemused) I seeks ways of enlarging awareness and acceptance. How do I rise to life’s ongoing occasion? How do I see the other fully? How can I find my way to the largest vision? Human Carrying Flight Technology offers a rich, complicated, original and vivid collection of responses to these questions— open-ended and exciting poems. Inviting us to come with him on a necessary and strange trip, mapping the unsteady space of memory and desire with unusual intensity, Shipman’s work switches on the “whisper burner” to lift us up where the heart’s exquisite unreliability makes other worlds shimmer over and within our own.
—Laura Mullen, author of Dark Archive
Christopher Shipman’s debut collection of poetry is edgy, quirky, sharply observed, and evocative. With language simultaneously plain and artful, poem after poem draws us into a landscape familiar but odd, a world that pleasures and troubles. Shipman’s is one of the most exciting voices I’ve heard in ages.
—Rick Lott, author of The Apple Picker’s Children
Shipman foxes with sly grins. In addition to figurines of animals, lovers, and family, Shipman whittles monsters, the board squeaking under you, the entire porch, the (mad) house, the neighborhood, the mills of a deity theater, the woods where urges axe through time. These poems have palms and splinters that petrify in our skin. No tweezers required. At the collection's end, “the only magic I can do / is feel.”
—Vincent A. Cellucci, author of An Easy Place / To Die
There is a deep sadness in Christopher Shipman that needs poems the way a carnivore needs meat. He makes poems to feed his sadness, to appease insistent hunger. He's become a skilled cook of these soul-meals.
—Andrei Codrescu, author of Whatever Gets You through the Night: a Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments
Chris Shipman’s poems escape alive out of reverie, between the jagged memory of “last night’s dream” and tomorrow’s nighttime prophecy, while gazing at today’s loose dirt and rusty merry-go-rounds. His poems have extra heart in their human evolution, stories told before the charred ruins of the city’s dark and its distant traffic and celebrations of love, joy, terror and beauty in all their disorder. This Human-Carrying Flight Technology soars far above the usual first book, into the imaginal free-space that needs no wings.
—Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Very Rich Hours and The History of Last Night’s Dream
Shipman peoples the woods of Human-Carrying Flight Technology with the bizarre mythological creatures of our lives: half-naked cousins, a neighbor named T-Loke, a vampire-loving grandmother, a guy in a snow man sweater vest, and we find ourselves spying on them as “the young neighbor / who sees what he likes and something he shouldn’t / and knows there is nothing in between.” For Shipman, getting the forbidden joy without the inevitable and irrevocable horror is not an option; with each glimpse of the “mysterious pink circle of a nipple,” we also catch the “stake / before it plunge[s] through the heart of a vampire.” The fantasy and the nightmare. It is in these moments where he reveals “something small about the dream of the world” and, therefore, something large about its reality. A combination of, among others, Bruce Springstein and Frank Stanford, Christopher Shipman is a storyteller whose language enables us to make the lyric leap “from the porch into the sun.”
—Chris Tonelli, author of The Trees Around
Christopher Shipman lives in Baton Rouge, LA with his wife Sarah, his dog George, and his two cats, Jack and Adele. He received a MFA in poetry from Louisiana State University in 2009. His poems have appeared in literary journals such as Cimarron Review, Exquisite Corpse, The Offending Adam, Pedestal, and Salt Hill, among many others. Shipman is poetry editor for DIG Magazine of Baton Rouge and teaches at Baton Rouge Community College.