[by Ben Ficklin]
Eleni Sikelianos’ grandmother dressed as a leopard, married five times, and collected rocks. This eccentric grandma is the subject of Sikelianos’ newest book from Coffee House Press, You Animal Machine . Sikelianos read from this part-memoir,part-poetry, part-essay on September 27th at Literary Arts. The other featured poets were Endi Bogue Hartigan and Joshua Marie Wilkinson. Before and after the event, they discussed literary habits, future projects, and expressed mutual-admiration.
Styled off Melena’s journals, the book utilizes pictures and a variety of writing styles. Original poetry, feminist commentary, and biography were all performed. Photographs of Melena were projected behind Sikelianos as she read. In these pictures, Melena wore a leopard costume, a straw hat and no shoes, and draped herself in a boa constrictor. While reading, Sikelianos acquired her grandmother’s personas. She was sultry. She was empowered. She was confined. She was married to a jazz singer and a midget. The reading just began exploring this boundless woman.
Joshua Marie Wilkinson, fresh off a reading tour, started the evening. Wilkinson runs the press The Volta. His books include Selenography (Sidebrow Books), Swamp Isthmus (Black Ocean), The Courier’s Archive & Hymnal (Sidebrow Books), and the Meadow Slasher (Black Ocean).
Endi Mogue Hartigan is a Portland poet and a 2010 Oregon Book Award finalist for her first book, One Sun Storm (Center for Literary publishing) She read from her most recent book Pool [5 choruses] (Omnidawn). These poems utilized a chorus-like commentary, which Hartigan enacted by stepping aside to speak different parts. She also read new and unpublished work in which clockwork was prevalent.
Literary Arts partnered with Coffee House Press to bring Eleni Sikelianos to Portland. Thanks to Coffee House and all the readers and audience for an exceptional evening of poetry and prose!
This post was written by Ben Ficklin, Literary Arts intern
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