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About Erin Belieu


Black Box
Copyright © 2006
by Erin Belieu
Copper Canyon Press
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Black Box is a raw, intense book, fueled by a devastating infidelity. With her marriage shattered, Erin Belieu sifts the wreckage for the black box, the record of disaster. Propelled by a blistering and clarifying rage, she composed at fever pitch and produced riveting, unforgettable poems, such as the ten-part sequence "In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral":

I root through your remains,
looking for the black box. Nothing left
but glossy chunks, a pimp's platinum
tooth clanking inside the urn. I play you
over and over, my beloved conspiracy,
my personal Zapruder film-look. . .

When Belieu was invited by the Poetry Foundation to keep a public journal on their new website, readers responded to the Black Box poems, calling them "dark, twisted, disturbed, and disturbing" and Belieu a "frightening genius." All true. — from the publisher

Titled after the flight-data recording devices analyzed in plane-crash investigations, Belieu's forceful third collection examines the wreckage of interpersonal disaster, chiefly a nasty marital breakup. ... Belieu is also interested in how emotional extremity makes shameless performers of us all, an observation dramatized in the book's astonishing centerpiece, the longer poem "In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral." — Publishers Weekly

Belieu's poems use a vernacular of their own to suggest a noir world of erotic innuendo and red lights waiting to be run. — Neon

The Extraordinary Tide
Copyright © 2001
Edited by Erin Belieu and Susan Aizenberg
Columbia University Press
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A collection of more than 400 poems by more than 100 different writers, The Extraordinary Tide synthesizes and celebrates a new era of poetry by women in America. Long overdue, the anthology includes Americaís most recognized women poets and those emerging as exciting new artists of contemporary verse. The book also contains a forward by poet Eleanor Wilner and short biographies of all the contributors. — from the jacket

An extraordinary and important anthology that anyone interested in contemporary American poetry will want to read and cherish. — Alan Shapiro

The delights of this anthology are in its plurality, its collection of such a rich and varied sampling of that tide flooding American shores. — Eleanor Wilner

Reluctant as American poetry has been to embrace its own majority, the almost inestimable variety, abundance, and accomplishment of this anthology makes one shudder to think how half-hearted our national literature would be without the voices that are gathered here. Itís as if, at last, Eurydice had cleared the vast silence of the underworld, and in so doing she has fashioned a music that enlarges the voice in all of us. — Sherod Santos

Stunning in its accomplishment and breathtaking in scope, The Extraordinary Tide is an anthology like no other: rather than merely defining some very particular territory, the work of the women writers gathered herein in fact gorgeously illuminates all of contemporary American letters. — Rafael Campo

One had hoped that by this time there would be no need for an anthology like The Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women, but its existence testifies to the continuing negative gender politics of poetry. ... anyone who has doubted the richness of poetry by women in the U.S. will no longer be able to do so. — Publishers Weekly

The Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women unequivocally hits its mark. Read it as a textbook of contemporary poetry. Or read it as a comprehensive collection of women poets. ... The women included in this book may all rise from the same chromosomal wellspring, but the way each asserts herself as a poet could not be more diverse. The Extraordinary Tide is an important book beyond its gender specific objective and because of it. — Teri Grimm, Prairie Schooner

Copyright © 1995
by Erin Belieu
Copper Canyon Press
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Armed with humor, anger and sensuality, Erin Belieu fuses the discursive methods of fiction to a lyric impulse, resulting in a remarkable first book. With unwavering attention to telling detail, she explores a model's thoughts while posing, or draws portraits of people caught in ungainly moments of self-revelatory failure, or captures the bizarre systematic mental destruction of a fifteenth-century princess at the hands of her rapacious father, exposing the moments in which assumptions and presumptions are subverted.
Selecting Infanta for publication in the National Poetry Series, Hayden Carruth has written, "The poems have a sophisticated urban chic that is both attractive and deceptive. Beneath their verbal glamour, which is considerable, they embody an intelligence both sensual and political. They speak to the beleaguered outposts of compassion in our society. They are original, fresh, extraordinarily skillful, grounded at the same time in literary, including historical, awareness and humane contemporary concern. I hope they will be well and widely received." — from the jacket

The poems of Erin Belieu's debut collection are both turbulent and serene. There is a wild wisdom here, an artfully composed spiritual/ sexual restlessness. Everywhere in these poems, beneath their wry intelligence and tender humor, we stand in the dark undercurrent of the caught breath. In Erin Belieu's world we know that we live at the edge of some terribly intimate and imminent catastrophe of either the heart or soul. — David St John

Here are freshness and art. Erin Belieu's writing about gender, love, history encompasses many kinds of awareness — of feminist issues, of poetic conventions of street-talk, of ideas — materials that she manages with her own characteristic ebullience, a poetic intelligence that in poems like "Erections," "For Catherine: Juana, Infanta of Navarre," and "Legend of the Albino Farm" attains outrageous comedy and moral insight in a single, memorable gesture. Belieu's Infanta is a first book that presents not the imitative licks of a beginner but a distinctive new voice, outpacing expectations. — Robert Pinsky

...lyric agility, intellectual curiosity, and deft use of forms as well as free verse....The poems are admirable in their diversity, not only of form but of tone: quizzical, dismayed, amused, or saddened. Various combinations of tones are called forth by the complexity of our lives, and create the sense that we can't quite know the world, or ourselves — a sort of quantum uncertainty about it all, as if the poet were changing reality by writing it. ... her book is meant to be disturbing (among other effects), and it is a book about "us" as much as about "I." — Boston Book Review

Belieu, born in 1965, is a young poet, and Infanta is a promising volume. Belieu ranges over a variety of subjects and styles, but focuses most frequently on relations between men and women. She works well in traditional form ... and makes good use of blank verse in the volume's strongest poem, "The Man Who Tried to Rape You". ... among the most promising poets to emerge from "Generation X." — Eclectic Literary Forum

Erin Belieu's Infanta, selected by Hayden Carruth in the 1995 series, is an outstanding piece of work. One can see right away what drew Carruth to these poems: the tensions between humor and anger, the intelligent eroticism that threads through many of the poems, the off-beat subject matter, and what Robert Pinsky called Belieu's "distinctive new voice." —

One Above & One Below
Copyright © 2000
by Erin Belieu
Copper Canyon Press
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Erin Belieu's debut volume, Infanta, was selected for the 1995 National Poetry Series and quickly sold through its and both both The Washington Post and the National Book Critics Circle named it as one of the best poetry books of the year.
In her second collection, One Above & One Below, Belieu again seduces her readers with a precise and delicious language. As she tries to make sense out of what constitutes the truest self, she ranges from the elegiac horizons of the Great Plains to an equally open embrace of a more frenzied, cosmopolitan world. Whether angry or humorous, formal or free, Belieu's poems "dive and soar," gathering an exhilarating, exquisite momentum. — from the jacket

The spirit of Erin Belieu's One Above & One Below is "knotted to the gristle of the body." It's an open-twenty-four-hours-drop-ins-welcome-all-American-vernacular, notwithstanding a cephalophoric hike up Montamartre. She's nervy and "titian-haired like Nancy Drew." Under her roof, even the moon leaves a grease spot and the dead are pictured up close and personal, including you." — CD Wright

Belieu's poems dive and soar ... One Above & One Below is a rare poetic mix. — Marie Ponsot

Belieu ... excels at a witty, drawn-out vernacular that requires a bit more space. Of her native Nebraska, she writes: "If you ever have a child,/ remember to assure her that/ one cannot really die of boredom, just an expression/ folks use to pass the time, as one milo field drifts/ into another and the same decrepit shed, year after/ year, threatens to collapse." This poet is wedded to a dark muse, one who is "busy rubbing lotion in her fresh tattoo." But she has a youthful, upbeat spirit. ... Belieu is a young poet worth watching. — Library Journal

This second collection speaks in many voices: the edgy sophisticate of the first poem, whose muse is "like the gorgeous dykes/ who rule my health-club locker room"; the singer of the Western plains who begins "Plainsong," "He lived in a sod house,/ a formal nest of grass"; a different kind of all-American poet who plunges into italicized memory: "I smell the sugary,/ acid stink rising/ from the wood-slatted truck bed,/ and hear the glass-rattle bell/ the green bottles will make when my father loads them." — Publishers Weekly

Belieu has met and exceeded the expectations of her early readers. — Boston Book Review

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