MFA Writing Program Visiting Artist Series: Eleni Sikelianos
CalArts, Butler Building 4
CRITICAL STUDIES: Poet Eleni Sikelianos, the great granddaughter of the Nobel-nominated Greek poet Angelos Sikelianos, was briefly a biology student in her undergraduate career, drawn to oceanography and microbiology. Although those formal studies were abandoned, the language of wild oceanaria and cellular activity continues to inform her writing. Her latest book, The Loving Details of the Living & the Dead, is forthcoming from Coffee House. She is the author of seven books, most recently, Body Clock (Coffee House, 2008), The California Poem (Coffee House, 2004); and a hybridized memoir about her father, heroin, and homelessness, The Book of Jon (City Lights, 2004). She has won numerous awards for her poetry, nonfiction and translations, including the National Poetry Series, residencies at La Maison des écrivains étrangers in Britanny, a Fulbright Writer’s Fellowship in Greece, awards from James D. Phelan, NYFA , the NEA, two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Writing and the New York Council for the Arts Translation Award. She currently teaches in and directs the Creative Writing program at the University of Denver, and spends her days with her husband, the novelist Laird Hunt and their daughter, Eva Grace. When asked about the process of hybridization in her poetry, Sikelianos responds, A feeling arises — a feeling about language, an image in my head or seen in the world, a few words might cluster together — and a poem comes about. Then, as I’m working or reworking, a feeling might arise about the necessary direction of the work. I might have questions I want to explore or answer, I might have a conscious thought “Oh, I need to include more history,” but for the most part, thus far, I’m of the Frank O’Hara school. I can’t imagine myself saying, “I want to write a hybrid book,” and proceeding from there.