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About this poet

Elaine Equi was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1953. She received a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Columbia College, where she taught a poetry workshop for several years after graduating. Along with her husband, Jerome Sala, she was active in Chicago’s performance poetry scene.

Equi’s first book, Federal Woman, was published in 1978 by Danaides press. She has written over ten books of poetry including, Voice-Over (Coffee House Press, 1999), chosen by Thom Gunn for the San Francisco State Poetry Award, The Cloud of Knowable Things (Coffee House Press, 2003), Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2007), which was shortlisted for the 2008 International Griffin Poetry Prize, and Click and Clone (Coffee House Press, 2011).

About her work, Equi has said:

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.

Equi lives in New York City and teaches in the Master of Fine Arts program at The New School.

Bent Orbit

Elaine Equi
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.

From Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems by Elaine Equi. Copyright © 2007 by Elaine Equi. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

From Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems by Elaine Equi. Copyright © 2007 by Elaine Equi. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

Elaine Equi

Elaine Equi

Elaine Equi is the author of numerous poetry books including, Click and Clone (Coffee House Press, 2011).

by this poet

poem

The sky is melting. Me too.
Who hasn’t seen it this way?

Pink between the castlework
of buildings.

Pensive syrup
drizzled over clouds.

It is almost catastrophic how heavenly.

A million poets, at least,
have stood in this very spot,
groceries in

poem
When a poem
speaks by itself,
it has a spark

and can be considered
part of a divine
conversation.

Sometimes the poem weaves
like a basket around
two loaves of yellow bread.

"Break off a piece
of this April with its
raisin nipples," it says. 

"And chew them slowly
under your pillow.
You belong in bed with me
poem
despite books kindled in electronic flames.

The locket of bookish love
still opens and shuts.

But its words have migrated
to a luminous elsewhere.

Neither completely oral nor written —
a somewhere in between.

Then will oak, willow,
birch, and olive poets return
to their digital tribes —

trees wander back to