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About this poet

Born and raised in California, Eleni Sikélianòs, the great-grandaughter of the Nobel-nominated Greek poet Angelos Sikélianòs, received an MFA in Writing & Poetics from the Naropa Institute.

She is the author of The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead (forthcoming from Coffee House Press, 2013), Body Clock (2008), The Book of Jon (City Lights Publishers, 2004), The California Poem (Coffee House Press, 2004), The Monster Lives of Boys & Girls (Green Integer, 2003), Earliest Worlds (Coffee House Press, 2001), The Book of Tendons (Post-Apollo Press, 1997), and To Speak While Dreaming (Selva Editions, 1993).

She has received numerous honors and awards for her poetry, nonfiction, and translations, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, residencies at Princeton University as a Seeger Fellow, at La Maison des écrivains étrangers in Britanny, and at Yaddo, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award in Nonfiction Literature, the James D. Phelan Award, two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Writing, and the New York Council for the Arts Translation Award.

Her work has been translated into a dozen languages, and she has participated in a number of international poetry festivals, including the Centre National du Livre's Belles Etrangères reading tour of France, the Days of Poetry and Wine in Slovenia, the Barcelona Poetry Festival, and Metropole Bleu in Montreal.

For many years, Sikélianòs taught poetry for Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York, and California Poets in the Schools, working in public schools and with at-risk youth, as well as in homeless shelters and prisons. She now teaches in and directs the Creative Writing program at the University of Denver, and is on guest faculty for the Naropa Summer Writing Program. She lives in Boulder with her husband, the novelist Laird Hunt, and their daughter.

Thus, Speak the Chromograph

Eleni Sikélianòs
Saying: One night in a cloud chamber
I discovered a thing: that a thing (I used to have a crown 
of light) a thing could be more 
than True, and more again

than False, a thing 
could carry its name

with a ticket of lights 
called Possible: In a cloud chamber, particles are betrayed
by movement and water vapors

leave trails. Discovered: when matter and its antithesis come
together, a disappearing
flash of light: (our share of night to 
ear) (I mean what I say): In contempt 

of the Law of All 
Excluded Thirds: laws are not
symmetrical in the forward and the back 
(of time). On which side
are they stacked? and the sky also

(is what made Hart Crane 
so crazy in the heart) continued to pile up
clouds without account, a mass of gasses with nothing

scribbled under them; a song in the middle 

of the crystal 
cavatina. We hardly had any bones then. Did 
Hart Crane have bones? If so, which kind? And

how far down? It was written
in the boned hours, the Book of Weeds, a treatise on leaving

the house at dusk, when all buildings have already had time enough
to fit themselves back into shadows. As if there were only:

dusk-to-dusk, between dusk-and-dust
where no animals asserted themselves

as separate from the day, and the night
comes again, as it always                                                              




has done. The fact was that
I could not follow the map––because the Book

of Nature was written
in math’s un-
certain language, author of black
                                                                            
rains, why the naked
eye
unclothed
can see

between math’s limits
why 
a baby’s bones are soft
as pudding when first let out
of the water & take

a long time
to harden, you can flatten 
a newborn

’s skull by placing it
on a board, the death-hole
of the cranium takes

6 months to close

and then grow brittle

 
In describing the last
arc of the last 
circumferance: I miss(ed) that halo.

(How long it took to understand rivers

run toward the sea)

Copyright © 2001 Eleni Sikelianos. From Earliest Worlds, by Eleni Sikelianos. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press. All rights reserved.

Eleni Sikélianòs

Eleni Sikélianòs

Eleni Sikelianos was raised in California. She received an MFA in Writing

by this poet

poem

The snow falls, picks itself up, dusts itself off
a sparrow flying like a leaf back up to its tree
The future does a backbend toward you, it's
what you can almost see, scrimmed
in the clouds which crowd the sky, elbowing, laughing

After that I see space and its influence in a bucket

poem
A man called Dad walks by
then another one does. Dad, you say
and he turns, forever turning, forever
being called. Dad, he turns, and looks
at you, bewildered, his face a moving 
wreck of skin, a gravity-bound question 
mark, a fruit ripped in two, an animal 
that can't escape the field.