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Elaine Equi grew up in Chicago and the outlying suburbs, graduating from Columbia College. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, she and her husband, the poet Jerome Sala, were at the forefront of Chicago’s lively performance poetry scene. Equi is the author of more than 10 poetry collections including The Cloud of Knowable Things and Voice-Over, which won a San Francisco State University Poetry Center Award. Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems was also nominated for a 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Widely published and anthologized, her work has appeared in a number of Best American Poetry compilations as well as in publications such as The New Yorker and American Poetry Review. Equi lives in New York with her husband and teaches at New York University and in the MFA programs at The New School and City College.

Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems

Coffee House Press
2008 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

Her poems don’t try to change the world, but as they rifle through it, pausing to think about sleeping pills or sales catalogs or Wang Wei or ‘a factory made fresh by broken windows’ they use their abundant resources of humor, intelligence and verbal acuity to change the way we, as readers, see the world. Which is the mark of true poetry.

In a warmly appreciative essay on Frank O’Hara, Elaine Equi gives a description of the poet’s distinct way of walking, as recalled by his friend Joe Brainerd: “Light and sassy. With a slight bounce and a slight twist. It was a beautiful walk. Confident. ‘I don’t care’ and sometimes ‘I know you are looking.’” The words could stand as an accurate description of Equi’s own highly distinct poems. They too move with a bounce and twist; they have their own insouciant, confident wit, their own beautifully poised way of looking outward at the world in all its quirky variousness, while at the same time retaining an uncompromised inwardness: the registering of a complex, sophisticated poetic self. Founded on a casual mastery of modernist and post-modernist techniques – montage, free-form improvisation, prose-poem, surreal inventory, found object – her work is at once impeccably avant garde and immensely enjoyable: a rare combination. Her poems don’t try to change the world, but as they rifle through it, pausing to think about sleeping pills or sales catalogs or Wang Wei or ‘a factory made fresh by broken windows’ they use their abundant resources of humor, intelligence and verbal acuity to change the way we, as readers, see the world. Which is the mark of true poetry.