The California Poem

Overview

California, hedonistically beautiful and increasingly endangered, is the star of this book-length poem that flies through time, memory, science, history, and imagination, mirroring the topography of the Golden State’s landscape and the history of its diverse cultures. Alternating between grand, Whitmanic tone and scope, Dickinsonian minute detail, Beat rhythms, New York School wit and Objectivist sensibility, this epic poem engages traditional lyricism with a breathtaking ...

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Overview

California, hedonistically beautiful and increasingly endangered, is the star of this book-length poem that flies through time, memory, science, history, and imagination, mirroring the topography of the Golden State’s landscape and the history of its diverse cultures. Alternating between grand, Whitmanic tone and scope, Dickinsonian minute detail, Beat rhythms, New York School wit and Objectivist sensibility, this epic poem engages traditional lyricism with a breathtaking contemporary style and graceful urgency.

A native of California, Eleni Sikelianos has lived in New York City, Paris and Athens. She is the author of the poetry collection, Earliest Worlds, the memoir, Book of Jon (forthcoming from City Lights), and the National Poetry Series award-winning collection The Monster Lives of Boys and Girls.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sprawling and exuberant, distractingly hip and yet easy to follow, happily whimsical yet sternly attentive to ethics and to ecology, Sikelianos's fifth book looks like her major achievement so far. Despite an upbringing in Southern California, Sikelianos (The Monster Lives of Boys and Girls) spent much of the past decade in New York. This ambitious long poem explains at once what she has missed about the West Coast, how she understands the Golden State's eventful history (from pre-Columbian tribal to Hollywood, surf culture and freeways) and how she reimagines California's animals, plants, beaches and landscapes. "These/ are the researches of Eleni," she exclaims, and they include lists of butterflies, interpolated photographs, charts, diagrammatic passages of American Sign Language and "my friends// ...being punished by off-duty fathers in tract houses they are not allowed to leave after dark." Sikelianos's California starts somewhere south of San Jose, and its organization is chaotic, but it has been put together with ingenuity and enthusiasm, making for a rapid and expansive work. (Oct.) Forecast: Sikelianos's great-grandfather Angelos Sikelianos was one of the best-known poets of modern Greece, and her prose memoir of her father, The Book of Jon, appears from City Lights this month. This book should mark her breakthrough to further name recognition and corresponding sales. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Excessive, Whitmanesque, full of sense and nonsense, this epic poem attempts to capture the qualities of Sikelianos's home state, both actual and dreamlike. One has to admire the sheer exuberance and chutzpa of a poet who can say, "The dental imprint of California/ is gravelly, perverse, epileptic, deformed spasm/ of a sea-borne bungled broken Coastal Range"-language that could describe this disjointed paean itself. As it should, the sea figures prominently in Sikelianos's tribute; indeed, she often defines its role in her writing: "then I/ could say that I was swimming/ through the shadow of water to invent a language, dark engine/ to cut down address." But the poem digresses not just into Pacific minutiae and Californian prehistory but also into totally unrelated astronomy ("in the aerial/ and orbital annals of the rotations of earth & moon") and pure fantasy ("Come all ye Visigoths of Alaric/ Huns of Attila, of the/ Ostrogoths & Lombards"). One wants to nudge the poet gently on theme. The final result is so discursive that it's hardly worth the effort. If only the author had followed her own advice, "Strip it/ to its animal/ vegetable/ mineral husk." Recommended for regional libraries where demand warrants; Sikelianos's The Monster Lives of Boys and Girls was a winner in the 2002 National Poetry Series.-Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566891622
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2004
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 1,352,919
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Praised by The Washington Post for her ability to capture "the subtlest shades of the emotional palette," Eleni Sikelianos is the author of a memoir and three previous poetry collections, including The California Poem, a Barnes & Noble Best of the Year. A California native, longtime New Yorker, and world-traveler, Sikelianos lives in Boulder and teaches at Denver University.

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