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.
“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
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.
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?
Deep sleep, glister and minnow, half-
eaten rose or
last resort, favorite impulse
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-
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.