cover image The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead

The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead

Eleni Sikelianos. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (124p) ISBN 978-1-56689-324-4

This eighth collection from Sikelianos (Body Clock) continues her experimentation with form and collage, conjuring the relationship of the body to its environment. Here, as in her previous works, the line’s acrobatics on the page mimic the darting mind as it tackles its subjects—amongst these, the female evolutionary mythos that Sikelianos creates: “Woman was made in the image of a nest/ then the bones began to congeal/ like toothpicks seeking/ the mother tree.” Fragments and dashes give the poems a breathless quality that suggests the underlying themes of witness and action before time runs out: “Soon so many persons made so many person-things/ till it seemed all that was left of the world was human,” and elsewhere, “Go on: Adapt yourself now/ Reader, grow new time.” As in The California Poem (2004), this collection proves acutely aware of environmental change and destruction, but the poems’ shape-shifting and lyricism keeps them from seeming driven by an agenda. Her long poems are some of the most powerful, using recurring motifs that call to mind The Waste Land: “the corpse of an hour, it asks us: what happened here?” Sikelianos’s gift for blending the devotional and secular, the physical and cognitive, makes her one of the most exciting and original writers today. (July)