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Elaine Equi

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Elaine Equi
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Elaine Equi was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1953. She received a BA and an MA 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 Sentences and Rain (Coffee House Press, 2015); Click and Clone (Coffee House Press, 2011); Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2007), which was shortlisted for the 2008 International Griffin Poetry Prize; The Cloud of Knowable Things (Coffee House Press, 2003); and Voice-Over (Coffee House Press, 1999), chosen by Thom Gunn for the San Francisco State Poetry Award.

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.

Selected Bibliography

Sentences and Rain (Coffee House Press, 2015)
Click and Clone (Coffee House Press, 2011)
Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2007)
The Cloud of Knowable Things (Coffee House Press, 2003)
Voice-Over (Coffee House Press, 1999)
Federal Woman (Danaides Press, 1978)

by this poet

When a poem
speaks by itself,
it has a spark

and can be considered
part of a divine

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
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

Although it no longer has a body
to cover out of a sense of decorum,

the ghost must still consider fashion—

must clothe its invisibility in something
if it is to “appear” in public.

Some traditional specters favor
the simple shroud—

a toga of ectoplasm
worn Isadora-Duncan