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Elaine Sexton

Elaine Sexton

Elaine Sexton is the author of Sleuth and Causeway, both from New Issues. Her poems, reviews, essays, and art criticism have appeared in American Poetry Review, ARTnews, Art New England, Prairie Schooner, Poetry, River Styx, New Letters, the Writer’s Chronicle (AWP), and numerous other journals. She teaches a poetry workshop at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, works in magazine publishing, and lives in New York City.

Also by Elaine Sexton

 

Sleuth

SleuthSleuth

$14.00 paper | 69 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-930974-29-6
Publication Date: April 2003
Buy: Amazon.com | spdbooks.org

"Elaine Sexton knows how to raise autobiography to the level of true poetry, and this knack has much to do with her use of surprise. Just when we think we know where one of her poems is going, we step into air. Sleuth leads us carefully into her life through a series of bracing verbal delights."
        —Billy Collins

"Elaine Sexton’s poetry is furious and unstoppable — and it is all the more so because it insinuates itself into our consciousness with such love and exquisite tenderness. Underneath that tenderness, though, is a relentless will to forego the inessential, to take the measure of the real, to uncover the secret and silent engines of our human grief. It’s hard to know what to praise more in these poems: their beautiful surfaces or their depths, which verge, in poem after poem, on the oceanic. This is a book of great valor and awareness."
        —Vijay Seshadri

"When I first saw Elaine Sexton’s poems, I was impressed by their bright intelligence, their fierce gaze and crisp language. Now I see she was always the Sleuth intent on knowing the mysteries — and it’s that hard bright gaze that redeems the ordinary sorrow in this book and celebrates, without sentimentality, the restorative love here too."
        —Marie Howe

"‘Could I get more specific?’ Elaine Sexton asks rhetorically in a poem about her mother selling the World Book door-to-door. The charm of this first book is indeed its specificity. Poem after poem unfolds with crisp detail and subtle metaphors that take us by surprise. ‘Nothing,’ she writes, ‘is safe from poetry,’ and with a sure hand she proves it."
        —Maxine Kumin

"Together, Sleuth's two major perspectives — memory and discovery — mark an identity in flux, still defining itself, still developing. Sexton has a talent for capturing the mechanics of self-exploration. Though intensely personal, she never slips into sentimental introspection, thanks in part to a detached, forensic mood, and to a detective's eye for the all-revealing detail that might otherwise have gone unnoticed."
        —Luke Gerwe, New Letters

"Sleuth, Elaine Sexton's first collection, is on of those wonderful books that keeps calling you back and offering new surprises and pleasures."
        —Diane Lockward, Marlboro Review

Poem

Public Transportation

She is perfectly ordinary, a cashmere scarf
snugly wrapped around her neck. She is
a middle age that is crisp, appealing in New York.
She is a brain surgeon or a designer of blowdryers.
I know this because I am in her skin this morning
riding the bus, happy to be not young, happy to be
thrilled that it is cold and I have a warm hat on.
Everyone is someone other than you think
under her skin. The driver does not have
a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his metal
lunchbox. He has caviar left over from New Year’s
and a love note from his mistress, whom he just left
on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street.
When she steps off his bus to take over the wheel
of the crosstown No. 8, she knows she is anything
but ordinary. She climbs under the safety bar
and straps the belt on over her seat. She lets
the old lady who is rich but looks poor take her time
getting on. She lets the mugger who looks like
a parish priest help her. She waits as we sit, quiet
in our private, gorgeous lives.