EARLIEST WORLDS

Eleni Sikelianos, Author . Coffee House $14.95 (219p) ISBN 978-1-56689-114-1

Consistently wedding innovative technique with time-honored poetic tropes of light and dark, individual and cosmos, and self and other, this ambitious debut takes in a lot of influences but emerges singularly and beautifully. The first of two full-length projects included here, Blue Guide, presents heavily enjambed or open-field free-verse poems intercalated with charged and sometimes surreal prose. Scientific particulars of the physical world jostle for position among the inner and bodily realities: "They took ether from us/ because they discovered light// was both particle & wave, fructi-/ fying itself, traveling/ solo, & today in the metro was the thumbprint of a shadow just above// or just below the clavicle/ of a woman." The "essay" poems of the volume's second book, Of Sun, of History, of Seeing, continue the first book's scientific motifs, but the visionary grandeur often associated with Robert Duncan, Anne Waldman or Alice Notley is complicated by the kind of gleeful parataxis found in Ted Berrigan's or Ron Padgett's work: "I am every effort of the self/ to describe the self you are falling// deaf on deaf ears, but everyone's watching (TV). This is no/ attempt to insist that flux/ can know flux but you/ flex your muscle and mine!" Mutable and deft, Sikelianos's debut yokes an aggressively modern style to an almost metaphysical sense of wonder in the world, giving the poems a distinct voice that doesn't forsake art for art's sake. (Apr.)

Forecast: Sikelianos is the great-granddaughter of the revered Greek poet Angelos Sikelianos (1884–1951) and a well-known contemporary of Lee Ann Brown (who has a book forthcoming from Wesleyan) and Lisa Jarnot (Forecasts, Jan. 1) on the New York poetry scene—as an item in Glamour once reported.

Reviewed on: 04/23/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Poetry
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