Eleni Sikelianos and paratextual comments


Sometimes while I’m listening to audio files (or listening during a live reading) a reader will say something in between poems that seems like a poem itself. For example, several years ago (late 90’s?) I heard Forrest Gander read in Fort Wayne, Indiana and he had a bad cold. He was carrying around a carton of orange juice and (although I thought he sounded fine from the audience) he felt his voice getting scratchy. After one of the poems he said “I apologize for my voice turning to dust.” That sentence stuck with me and it eventually ended up in a poem I wrote years later. Since then, I’ve been especially tuned into the language used between poems.

A few weeks ago I was on the bus in Philadelphia listening to an Eleni Sikelianos reading from the Segue/Bowery Poetry Club series which I got from Pennsound: full reading. My listening environment was full of ambient sounds and so my attention was often split in several directions, dipping in and out of the reading and my immediate surroundings. I was struck by a particular moment when she made some comments between poems: Eleni Sikelianos’ comments

Notice the different kinds of shifts in her voice as she finishes one poem, addresses a specific audience member (a child, in this case), addresses the entire crowd (“You might take a cue she’s laying down to listen”), reads the title of her next poem, and begins reading the body of the poem. The musicality of the sentence about “laying down to listen” made it exist momentarily in the same mental space as her poems. There is something about the intonation she uses when saying that particular sentence that triggered a kind of “poetry listening response” in me.


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