The Flammable Bird
by Elena Karina Byrne
“Like Hopkins’s kingfisher, Elena Karina Byrne’s flammable bird takes off from the branch of human passion, though the heaven she is dwarn to is desire itself, ‘the sanctuary of hunger’, the appetite that will not be fed. Enfleshed, inflamed, insatiable, these form her holy trinity, and the heady, headlong language of her poems has honored them with an artful liturgy of devotional wonders.”
— Sherod Santos
Elena Karina Byrne is a teacher, fine artist, and full-time Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America. She currently runs the poetry reading series at the J. Paul Getty Center where she recently worked as a Poetry Consultant to the Getty Research Institute. Elena is also the Poetry Moderator and Consultant for the Los Angeles Times Book Festival. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Poetry, Ploughshares, APR, The Paris Review, The Colorado Review and Volt.
“Like Hopkins’s kingfisher, Elena Karina Byrne’s flammable bird takes off from the branch of human passion, though the heaven she is dwarn to is desire itself, ‘the sanctuary of hunger’, the appetite that will not be fed. Enfleshed, inflamed, insatiable, these form her holy trinity, and the heady, headlong language of her poems has honored them with an artful liturgy of devotional wonders.”— Sherod Santos
“Elena Karina Byrne’s The Flammable Bird is a powerful and exquisite colleciton of poems. Graceful and lyrically complex, this work invites us into the layered realms of consciousness, into both the sublime pleasures and the raw psychological densities of contemporary experience. Like the phoenix, Elena Karina Byrne lifts herself—and us—high above the ash of our dissappointments and regrets. A marvelous debut.”— David St. John
“Sometimes, when a gifted poet bides his or her time, their first book seems more like a fourth or fifth book. The Flammable Bird is like that: a book flung whole, utterly original, beautiful and seamless, upon the world.”— Tom Lux
Every Definitive in July
The weather has beaten us
Down again; we are only animal, insect.
Moths cling to the screens outside
Like tiny flags pinned to a land map.
Out survival’s not fit for what we have
In mind of giving up our shoes, solemn
Talks. Time has eaten up all the air. There
Must be more ahead, more than these
Empty water jug clouds leading us
Toward thirst. Today will be like any other
Tomorrow. Perhaps this is just
An annunciation in wandering: the feel
Of miles of beach under out feet. See: those
Fevered waves at a distance are overwhelmed
By their own history. No one
Will walk on this water.
Nothing Is Anonymous
No fallen tree, misshapen
cloud or the sky’s underwater mirror,
elation’s incandescent new lawn before spring. Even
our names before they were given to us: not anonymous.
Entropy’s sweet chaos
had a hand in someone’s life, personal once.
Cursive arrows, the Kingfisher’s feathers
or El Greco’s blackest ink and a blade
of grass, a blade of silence on the tongue.
Ecosystem and cycle, ghosts
of trash from the street float
in the ocean. We walk out into a room
and belong. Someone’s perfume
floats down a staircase long after they’re gone.
The computer’s windy voice, telephone’s
hollow not without he or she
having their way with you.
It’s all the same, and what “I”, what itinerant
click of the universe sense us packing
from anonymous? You can’t get around it.
I pack my suitcase, I rest
my case. There are people
far lonelier than I.
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The Flammable Bird received a thorough, insightful, and boyant review from Marty Simon, which reads, in part: “Her best poems are mercurial and possessed, enjambing through a tumult of images and ideas that surprise and arrest. Even the poems primarily driven by formal experimentation exhibit substance and power. Byrne has crafted an excellent, surprisingly mature first collection of poems.” You can read the rest off the review here
Reviewer Patty Seyburn posted this very gracious review on Amazon.com:
The Lineaments of (Gratified?) Desire
The density of Elena Karina Byrne’s work makes each read rich with possibility. There is a relentless quality to her poems—”Relentless, I love relentless,” she writes in “The Proportion of Broken”—that keeps the reader riveted. Byrne’s poems are catalogs of obsession balanced by a constant examination of language. The dominant currency is desire. This is poetry of the body, and the reader is doused in sensual apprehension and comprehension. These poems make the heart want to beat faster, and it cooperates, with pleasure.