cover image Field Guide to Autobiography

Field Guide to Autobiography

Melissa Eleftherion. H_ngm_n, $15.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-0-9984322-1-2

Influenced by nature guidebooks, Eleftherion’s debut collection chronicles the creation of a self through the interconnected textures, vibrations, and characteristics that make up life in the natural world—what she dubs “the muscle of metamorphosis.” The book’s sections develop a sort of self-portrait, with each organism and animal recorded (among them abalone, tern, and the orthoptera order of insects) becoming a fragment or facet of a whole self. Playful portmanteaus such as bioluminadolescence are representative of Eleftherion’s relationship with the scientific jargon that permeates the book; in the context of her ample employment of an unusual lexicon, even quotidian language begins to feel alien and unusual: “the [sea] [led]/ [sea]led off in its float/ the sea led the sea/ compartmentalized.” Immature insects appear throughout the text, alluding to both transformation and destruction: “hot dust denoting glands/ fatty larvae relating at the funeral.” And to complicate notions of change and origin, Eleftherion opens her third and final section by writing, “natives of all seas// when home disintegrates/ we belong everywhere.” The self of Eleftherion’s text is reluctant to emerge at first, but there is a “subatomic music” to the language that gives it life. (May)