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Earliest Worlds: Two Books by Eleni Sikelianos Paperback – April 1, 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 sceneas an item in Glamour once reported.

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Review

Sikelianos's mind is so alert, discriminating, and uncompromising that she restores integrity to the pursuit [of inclusion]. -- Boston Review

The breadth of tone, diction and subject matter rivals in diversity that of Ezra Pound's Cantos. -- The Cimarron Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press; 1st edition (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566891140
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566891141
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.4 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,830,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on April 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
Here are two big books, Blue Guide and Of Sun, Of History, Of Seeing, in one, from a poet that has up till now only put out a few very slender volumes. I didn't know Eleni Sikelianos could be so wantonly prolific, and I am very glad she is. It's good for these poems, which seem nearly weightless because they move so fast, to have a big heavy book to sit in; it makes me take them seriously, as they should be taken. Also, there's relief in the way the spaciously tensile poems can spread out. (I should note that the book, for its size, is a bargain-$14.95.)
These poems are unremorsefully gorgeous, and they joy in the gorgeous world. Sikelianos doesn't deny that tragedy exists in the world, but she's more interested in the world's structure and swift chaotic and patterned movements. I'm reminded of the seventeenth-century writer Thomas Browne's "quincunx", the 5-noded diamond-shaped figure he believed beautifully structured everything, tiny or interplanetary, in the world. Sikelianos doesn't seek a similarly unifying figure, but there is for her a lovely patterning that careeningly centers and decenters the physical and experiential world. Her version of Browne's quincunx morphs and moves, and her language manifests that phenomenology. She frequently invokes bendable parts of the human body-jaws, ankles, wrists-and similarly, any piece of a Sikelianos poem can become a syntactical joint where the structure of things morphs into something new and lovely to celebrate. Sentences will divert into a new course partway in: "We won't laugh/while you sleep like I like a book that fits through my sleeve/but what would have to do with the ocean?"
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