Elaine Equi’s Book Party
Last night there was a book party for Elaine Equi’s Ripple Effect, New and Selected Poems (Coffeehouse) at the Cue Art Foundation in Chelsea. Opening up for Equi was a musical duo including a theremin player. A theremin is an instrument that gets played without being touched. You move your hand near the instrument, and it picks up on your electromagnetic energy and produces sound, a sound that made me think of outer space movies. My friend Amber whispered that it was more like an opera singer. Ethereal and strange, it was the perfect opening act for Equi, a smart, quirky, inventive, darkly funny poet who doesn’t fit neatly into any of the boxes in the highly factionalized American poetry landscape. (I love when poets complicate our tendency to categorize.)
Over one hundred people were spread out neatly in ten rows of steel chairs in the back of a large, boxy, white-walled room with a thirty-foot ceiling. An art exhibition curated by poet Peter Gizzi hung on the side walls. There seemed to be a number of poets from what I might call (for the lack of a better word) the “experimental poetry scene”, including Bob Perelman (who from certain angles looks a little like John McEnroe). There was a warm feeling in the air, and a great deal of excited laughter throughout her twenty-minute set.
Terrorism has ruined
S & M for me.
Now it just seems
Equi is one of the few American poets adroit at the short poem, and in reading her closely and listening to her poems, we become aware of the variety of entry points that exist, the multitude of ways into a poem. Her work is sparse and exact, slippery and direct. It’s great to be able to find thirty years of her work in one place.
Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Other books include The Endarkenment (Pittsburgh, 2008), The Splinter Factory (Manic D, 2002), The Forgiveness Parade (Manic D Press, 1998), and Alibi School (Manic D, 1995). His poems have...