by Elena Karina Byrne


Reveals, then carefully slices away, layer after layer of the masks we wear until our most secret selves are exposed. Pretense is overthrown in her exotic and electric imagery, irresistibly drawing the reader into an unabashedly intimate internal dialogue.

Format:  paperback

ISBN: 978-1-932195-57-6 Categories: , Tag:

In verse simmering with sensuality, Elena Byrne eloquently reveals, then carefully slices away, layer after layer of the masks we wear until our most secret selves are exposed. Pretense is overthrown in her exotic and electric imagery, irresistibly drawing the reader into an unabashedly intimate internal dialogue.

Elena Karina Byrne is Poetry Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and was Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America for 12 years. Her first book was The Flammable Bird (Tupelo Press 2004). Recent publications include, The Yale Review, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, and Best American Poetry 2005.

Artifice Is Enough: Mask

Truth is entirely and absolutely a matter of style.
—Oscar Wilde

For every white noise there’s a washing machine and the dead weight
of your name being pushed around.             Mirror in your mouth.
There’s an incurable look in the eyes, the French bridegroom of
for you.          Not everyone

digs their own grave. Some people just like the feel
of the shovel, the funerary smell of loose
earth, art of the face.
I’ll tell you what: I’ll pick your brain for just a few extra coins.
I’ll be your fairy tale of tall stories and dark chocolate apples left
on your pillow.           I’ll be the child crossing
the street you never saw

in the blue & blind eye of memory.
I’ll even take you to lunch in an amusement park made for poverty.
We’ll eat everything that moves, even the trapped birds
of our own hands.
I’m fete for the unintentional, yes.

Can you blame me?

Spring Masque: Heartbreak

                             And who asked springtime
for its kingdom of clear air?
                                                                                —Pablo Neruda

Deep sleep, glister and minnow, half-
eaten rose or
last resort, favorite impulse
place here
covered in cut grass and human ash
a eucalyptus awning
high over her, where he bore
in mind (behind)
the hard wind’s swing toward her head
where the garden
was never Eve’s, lilac-blackened
blocking this light all winter, tight green bud-
tongues, metallic
taste of early green when she didn’t
know any better
to peel wet petals back with her teeth
or call the cold
from under all the doors, new stitched faille
of ice on the windows
veil for face, spider’s gauze, failed lasting
grace, lace hiss
lacking remorse, so that this spring
can come on
with its clear air and clean earth
twelve hands o
n twelve clocks sweeping the bride’s
hair, her becoming
a paper kite ascending the indecent
blue of him.


Elena Karina ByrneA freelance teacher since 1982, Elena Karina Byrne is a visual artist, book reviewer, editor, lecturer, Poetry Consultant and Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, former 12 year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America and Executive Director for the AVK Arts Foundation. She is also currently one of the final judges for the Kate/Kingsley Tufts Awards in Poetry, a Contributing Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club. She sits on the advisory boards for What Books and White Pine Press. Elena received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from Beyond Baroque’s Literary Arts Center.

Elena was part of the West Hollywood Book Fair’s Planning Committee and worked with Red Car studios editing several documentary film projects including, The Big Read, Muse of Fire and Why Shakespeare? Since 1991 Elena has organized or funded programs for the Museum of Contemporary Art, the University of Southern California’s Doheny Memorial Library, the Getty Research Institute at the J. Paul Getty Center, UCLA’s CAP/Center for the Art of Performance,Columbia University’s School of the Arts International Translation Project, CAFAM’s Poetry and Art Collaboration Series, The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Metro Art live Poetry in Motion annual readings, and the renowned Chateau Marmont “Act of the Poet” series. She was the 2005 Poetry Co-Editor for The Los Angeles Review and one of three judges for the 2006 PEN USA Literary Award in Poetry.

Her book reviews and essays have appeared in Slope, Poetry International, The Journal and Omniverse. Elena’s publications, among others, include, 2009 Pushcart Prize XXXIII Best of the Small Presses, Best American Poetry 2005, The Yale Review, The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, TriQuarterly, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Dublin Poetry Review, Levurelitteraire, Painted Bride Quarterly, Barrow Street, Volt, Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, Verse, The Journal, Hotel Amerika, Pool, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Verse, Drunken Boat, The Offending Adam, Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry, Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes, Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics From California, Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, Poetry Daily Anthology, and Spunk and Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language and Style. Books include: THE FLAMMABLE BIRD (Zoo Press 2002) and MASQUE, (Tupelo Press 2008) and Squander (Omnidawn October 1 2016); she just completed a book of essays, VOYEUR HOUR: Meditations on Poetry, Art and Desire.

“The Greeks highest compliment to Odysseus was to call him ‘myriad-minded.’ Shall we say of Elena Karina Byrne’s amazing sequence that it is ‘myriad-masked?’ By turns poignant, intricate, ingenious — Byrne’s poems explore and dramatize the theme of mask into a multiplicity of insights and imaginings almost as rich as consciousness itself.”— Gregory Orr

“Ancient, proliferative, profligate, and prophetic as language itself— ‘I am that greased machinery of heresy and hearsay’—these poems might have issued from the oracle at Delphi herself…”—Angie Estes

“Instantly ticklish and slowly narcotic, the language of Elena Karina Byrne’s curious index of masks in her book nearly confounds the rigour of its ancient form, the poetic catalogue. Yet one cannot help but trail the voice threading through these veils made of words, as once Luciferian and terribly vulnerable to its own power, as it escorts the reader, and abandons her, into a dappled space reminiscent of one of Tolstoy’s great Russian balls—a social and erotic prospect distilled to meteoric gestures. One can only yield to the naked hermeticism of this book” — Daniel Tiffany