Thursday, January 15, 2009

Paris and Eleni Sikelianos

Next week, I'm headed for a short to Paris with my friend and neighbor Julia. What has become an intension to visit any number of museums has quickly become a shopping opportunity.

There are two poets that remind me of Paris. Of course, Alice Notley who has been a long-time resident and Eleni Sikelianos who lived there during her NEA year. Eleni is a one time friend, editor, and great writer. I picked up here Body Clock recently at Moes in Berkley.

Body Clock follows the recent trend of mother-poets using children as inspiration. This 'movement' for my money is one of the most important trends in poetics. It is, of course, hardly new. Levertov, Rukeyser, Notley, Mayer, Ostricker, and many others have written about their children in years past. But, now women are beginning to be more and more open with their experiences in a number of forms. Body Clock, for and about Eleni's daughter Eva Grace, is one such book and a splendid one it is.

Sikelianos's poetry to straddles many worlds -- it has qualities of academia and experimentalism. She is one of the few poets who has managed to find readers across communities. Yet, at heart, Sikelianos is a most talented lyricist. She is the kind of poet who notices, who sees the world and translates it into her own particular language. Here, the music is not just in language, but in images. This is what has always made me love her work. How to say it? Sikelianos so perfectly describes what is like to be pregnant -- to give birth to the other -- in the most base, romantic, violent ways. 

This house is a little haunted, it's
my body body-house  

How the mother's body splits.

Sikelianos says:

the soul with the body's first double

Finally, the book ends with my favorite lines:

in the quiet sleep of animals
from the balcony of a belly
say your speeches
no cow licked you 
I do

Sikelianos's work, to me, provides an opportunity. To my knowledge, so may young poets and male poets are hesitant to read poems relating to children. As with other 'feminine' issues the poetry of motherhood is often disregarded. This needs to change on all fronts. Writing about motherhood is the ultimate act of feminism. It means to speak ones experience. Resisters should know that poems about 'motherhood' are never just that. Particularly with the work of a philosophical poet like Sikelianos, motherhood is merely just the backdrop. The work is truly about philosophy, time and timelessness, death and lyricism. They are about body --all of our bodies.

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