Sunday, May 12, 2019

Eleni Sikelianos, What I Knew

In this house, everything is said.
The plastic animals are arranged in conference on the wooden stool near the toilet seat.
They have been curated to speak.


The latest from Providence, Rhode Island poet Eleni Sikelianos is the book-length meditation What I Knew (Brooklyn NY: Nightboat Books, 2019). Her ninth poetry title to date [see my review of her previous poetry title here; another here and her memoir here], What I Knew composes a collage counter to the isolation that emerges from a wealth of data, but little in the way of knowledge, instead composing a wealth of knowledge that comes from an engaged curiosity and open attention. “Now I tell everything / I heard & knew,” she writes, early on, setting the scene for the purpose of the collection. What I Knew is a poem that has returned home, wishing to impart the wisdoms gathered along the way, as Sikelianos writes a body, a house, a poem and a perspective that is engaged with the world, one that refuses to isolate for any of the short-sighted arguments that might be presented. Sikelianos offers her What I Knew as a counter to the current political climate of the United States, one that has been rising in a variety of countries around the world, of isolationists, self-protectionists and right wing ideologues: to isolate is to, inevitably, reduce. And a world (or a body or a house or a poem) can’t live or thrive in fear.

Build my house of consciousness
Build my house of language-states from scrap
Build me clean, clean water

What I Knew is a steady lyric stream: a regalia, of facts and facets, experiences lived and wisdoms, postcards, truths and suppositions. Her poem-in-fragments is legion, for it is filled with multitudes, from the dark corners of violence to a sequence of friends to how different cities might smell. As she writes: “And in Seattle where it always sounds like someone’s taking a shower / it smells like dumb luck / in muscular Seattle rooted down in its piney ground // the light is blind / & she is there [.]” What I Knew is vibrant, sensual and lyric, and travels the length and breadth of the United States, and internationally as well, listing and listening and absorbing facts, figures and experience, in a poem that seeks to absorb and articulate the lessons that only a series of connections can provide.

in the dusty light of Cuisnahuat

Soaring Homicide Rate in U.S. Cities
Oil Rig’s Owner Settles Gulf Spill Case
Malala Yousafzai’s Parents Arrive at UK Hospital
Murder Charges Are Filed in New Delhi Gang Rape

And what I know anywhere
the world is a dangerous place for a girl
In Colorado or in Salt Lake City a girl splits herself in two
to protect herself in Swat

to tell if he’s killed before
                        examine the crime scene
he knows how to dismember a girl near Ketner Lake

he’s killed before
he’s killed before
Don’t write those words
Don’t write those words

why take my emotion away (grey)

No comments: