Always wry and often startling and whimsical, this first selected from Equi (Surface Tension) gathers poems from more than two decades. Fascinated with popular culture and gender—from glossy women's magazines to New York streetscapes—and with the bare bones of ordinary language, Equi's short, usually short-lined, poems navigate territory framed by Robert Creeley, Rae Armantrout and Emily Dickinson. "I make decisions/ or my body/ makes them for me," Equi concludes. Alongside such lapidary self-portraits come pithy claims about perception, attraction and bias: "The beautiful/ and the hideous// often conspire/ in an empire/ of appearance." There are also sets of epigrams; poems arranged as terse outlines and lists; and moments of bitter humor, often at the expense of previous art. In "Pre-Raphaelite Pinups," "The wallpaper is the real center of attention,/ the figures mostly background music." Forty-seven new poems only rarely match the best of Equi's '90s work, though any disappointment should be slight: "At some point/ while still living/ here/ I had already/ moved away." (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poemsby Elaine Equi
“Elaine Equi’s narrow lines are like the rungs of a ladder that one ascends while one is descending them. It’s a motion like that in Wang Wei’s lines, ‘Stars / float up / toward dawn,’ which she quotes in her cento, ‘Wang Wei’s Moon.’ Or, as she beautifully puts it, ‘Discreetly a breeze enters the
“Elaine Equi’s narrow lines are like the rungs of a ladder that one ascends while one is descending them. It’s a motion like that in Wang Wei’s lines, ‘Stars / float up / toward dawn,’ which she quotes in her cento, ‘Wang Wei’s Moon.’ Or, as she beautifully puts it, ‘Discreetly a breeze enters the room.’”—John Ashbery
Ripple Effect showcases thirty years of Elaine Equi’s investigations into our cultural obsessions. Vivid, savvy, and accessible, her poems can transform almost anything—a list, a diary entry, advertising speak—into sophisticated, germane elixirs of pop culture and high art. Widely published, these poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and numerous volumes of The Best American Poetry.
This omnibus includes poems from Equi's earlier collections (e.g., The Cloud of Knowable Things) and a manuscript-length gathering of new work. More winnowing would have made a stronger volume. The author's strengths include a unique worldview, a strong sense of the cultural moment, a delightfully off-kilter sense of humor, and a real interest in play: "Remove all the words from a poem; keep only the punctuation." But too many poems seem rushed, not chiseled enough, and trite phrases appear too often: "To you I'll crawl/ from the shipwreck of one moment/ to the next." In addition, Equi occasionally settles on an inexact or illogical word. But in many poems, she takes a simple object and looks at it lyrically from new and involving angles. In "Almonds," she writes, "They're/ like a carrying case for tears that have dried but are still/ salty. When I'm gone, shed no almonds for me." In "A Banquet of Objects," she makes readers really see a building in a new way: "Here is a factory made fresh by broken windows." In "Mono-Polytheism," a clever poem full of puns and language play, she manages to write a 32-line poem using variations of only 13 words. Her best writing reminds us, "How like/ an ear/ the earth/ listens." Recommended for larger and regional public libraries and all university collections.
- Coffee House Press
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- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Meet the Author
Equi's succinct, witty, and innovative work has been widely published, appearing in the The New Yorker, Norton's Postmodern American Poetry, and four recent volumes of The Best American Poetry. A central figure in Chicago's poetics scene during the 70s and 80s, she now lives in New York where she teaches at City College, New School and NYU.
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