If This Makes You Nervous
Distributed for Omnidawn Publishing, Inc.
If This Makes You Nervous
Elena Karina Byrne’s fourth collection of poems offers what she describes as an homage to her art-immersed upbringing with poems that challenge perception as they create a dialogue between the speaker and sixty-six artists. Lyrical narratives unfold with psychological urgency and candor as they re-encounter each artist’s unique oeuvre. The poems are as political as they are personal, mapping out the author’s emotional, spatial, and gender orientations within the confines of our visual culture.
Longing and loss prevail in If This Makes You Nervous, always leading the reader on winding paths that return to the bodily while balancing beauty and terror and what is seen and what remains invisible. If This Makes You Nervous is a devotional look at shifting identity that begins in a preteen’s memory, moves through history’s collective body, and ends with what is “connected and accounted for” in the imagination’s relativistic measure of time.
96 pages | 6 x 9
“Drawn into a heady swirl of images riding sinuous syntax, I was curved swiftly, slippery, but unblurred in Byrne’s If This Makes You Nervous. The poet strokes a verbal impasto with lines that spun me through kunst-struck odes to artists here and gone, sudden un-nostalgic memories, ‘time’s own vertigo,’ and wild eros. Elegiac in mode, not mood, Byrne disinters vision after vision, breakneck and breathless from her ‘terror-hairless skull,’ pounding, enveloping, and cutting the lyric into ekphrastic surrender. This is a stunning book.”
Douglas Kearney, author of Sho
“In this original and beguiling collection, Byrne offers us her private gallery and guides us through episodes of her life, revealing to us not only how works of art have instructed and nurtured her, but also how her life became imprinted on the art. As she engages with the art of visionaries, iconoclasts, and infidels (from Marcel Duchamp to Nan Goldin) they, in return, challenge her, ‘Can you circus act in color, grief-teach yourself / how to dance out the floorboards away from the house into the fields again?’ The art allows for her own reckoning, and with lush language and alluringly reckless syntax, she voices her urgent and vulnerable responses inseparable from the art itself.”
Molly Bendall, author of Watchful
“Marcel Duchamp, Tony Oursler, Joseph Beuys, and Caravaggio (among others) supercharge Byrne's new book. Wildly fighting the ekphrastic, Byrne's poems get lapel-pulled-close to the dark overtones of being. ‘Did I mention you are me?’ she asks. ‘I am riddled &/gated, keyed like a car in a future divebar’s parking lot.’ The ‘bled glitter’ and exciting poetics of If This Makes You Nervous boils over with memory and meaning. Gorgeous ‘from the Mona & the Lisa’ on.”
Terese Svoboda, author of Thatrix: Poetry Plays