"My father loved his student, and also me, but no one survived his desire:
in winter, animals sleep, soft and teleological the place where sleep drives, factoring night." -Claire Millikin, "Ephebe"
I’m writing about a poet whom I have never met which is fitting because so much of my writing life has been in isolation. Part of that is an old self-protective impulsive, so unconscious I am not fully aware of it. I read Elegiaca Americana this fall after it was recommended to me by my teacher Betsy Sholl and I immediately felt an affinity with Millikin’s haunting, lonely poems about those on the outside, about familial relations, grief, and beauty. From the first poem I was entranced. Partway through I encountered a poem about a cousin who was shot, an event that also haunts my own life. There seem to be so few books about fear and girlhood, about lack and girlhood, so few about the specific way economic and emotional poverty are entwined, how lack shapes one’s movement through the world—invisible, tentative—but keenly observant. There is a lot of attention lately to chosen poverty—men opting out of the system—but not a lot of attention to women caught in poverty and its attendant self-effacement. I held my breath while reading this book. It felt like I was eavesdropping or peering over a threshold into a private room. There are not enough poets supporting the stranger: the writer they have never met who does not attend their workshops or MFA program. Poets, especially, have a responsibility to read, review, and include the poets whom they do not know—who exist on the outside, less seen. If poets do not look past their own circle, we risk a poetry that is too insular, too comfortable.