July 31, 2009

Elaine Equi

Elaine Equi [USA]
1953

Born in Oak Park, Illinois, Elaine Equi grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She received a B.A. and M.A. in English from Columbia College, and after graduating, went on to teach a poetry workshop there for several years. Along with her husband, poet Jerome Sala, she helped create a lively performance poetry scene. In 1988, they moved to New York City where she currently teaches creative writing in the M.F.A. programs at The New School and City College.

Equi’s early books are Federal Woman (1978), Shrewcrazy (1981), and The Corners of the Mouth (1986). In 1989, she published Surface Tension, the first of many books with Coffee House Press—firmly establishing herself as a poet of national reputation. It was followed by Decoy (1994), Voice-Over (1998) (chosen by Thom Gunn for the San Francisco State Poetry Award), and The Cloud of Knowable Things (2003). Ripple Effect: New & Selected Poems was published by Coffee House in 2007.

Equi’s work is often praised for its lucid simplicity. Wayne Koestenbaum characterizes it as “clean, clear, cool, quick,” adding that, “she is at once an entertainer and an oracle….” Of her own work she writes: “I like the fact that for the most part, my poems are pretty accessible. I don’t consciously aim for that, but I do know that my sense of audience is always a mix of literary and non-literary types. On the other hand, I like to keep things (especially in terms of language) interesting. Over the years, my work has been informed by a wide range of styles including surrealist, concrete, and classical Chinese poetry, so it’s not unsophisticated—just willfully direct in a minimalist sort of way.”

BOOKS OF POETRY

Federal Woman (Chicago: Danaides Press, 1978); Shrewcrazy (Los Angeles: Little Cesar Press, 1981); The Corners of the Mouth (Los Angeles: Iridescence Press, 1986); Accessories (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1988); Views without Rooms (New York: Hanuman Press, 1989); Surface Tension (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press); Decoy (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1994); Friendship with Things (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1998); Voice-Over (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1998); The Cloud of Knowable Things (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2003); Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2007)

╬Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
1993-1994

To the Unconscious

Grey cat in coffee shop
Head cocked over cup.

Caught in the act
(poised in the art)
of listening

Like when I say
I wasn’t thinking about us
and “us” comes out in
another voice, not mine.

An echo of she
whose presence we find
ourselves in

(already gone)

that was Eurydice.


______
Reprinted from The World. Copyright ©1993 by Elaine Equi



Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006



Bent Orbit

I wind my way across a black donut hole
and space that clunks.
Once I saw on a stage,
as if at the bottom of a mineshaft,
the precise footwork
of some mechanical ballet.
It was like looking into the brain
of a cuckoo clock and it carried
some part of me away forever.
No one knows when they first see a thing,
how long its after image will last.
Proust could stare at the symptom of a face
for years, while Frank O’Hara, like anyone with a job,
was always looking at his watch.
My favorite way of remembering is to forget.
Please start the record of the sea over again.
Call up a shadow below the pendulum of a gull’s wing.
In a city of eight million sundials, nobody has any idea
how long a minute really is.


_____
Reprinted from The Brooklyn Rail (January 2005). Copyright ©2005 by Elaine Equi.

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