E. Tracy Grinnell

Hell Figures, Nightboat Books, Spring 2016

In this erudite, elegant, complicated, and dazzling book, E. Tracy Grinnell reflects on the classical female figures that have held in place the social and political architectonics of Western culture, with its basis in gender difference, heterosexual reproduction, and control of women. A meditation on Helen of Troy, Sappho, Cassandra, the Sirens, and Mnemosyne (mother of the nine muses and goddess of memory), Hell Figures performs a deconstruction of patriarchal imagings of these figures as props to men, revealing them as ciphers for various modes of compromised female agency. Distortedly mirroring distorted mirrorings, Grinnell refuses imaginative recovery of these vanishing points by ingeniously rebounding the violences they have always met with: Hell Figures retraces the peculiar transposability of these feminine eidolons onto one another as they are perpetually re-projected into logics that deauthorize them, figuratively and literally killing them. This book also mimes the more explosive maneuvers of Claude Cahun, mulitply-gendered, surrealist writer, translator, photographer, and anti-fascist activist. Taine to Cahun’s mirror, Grinnell re-queers Cahun’s queering of Ovid’s Heroides through deliberately wandering translations: we come to from these material swoons cum analytics on the other side of sense. “La sirène succombe á sa propre voix” (Claude Cahun) – have you listened to an anti-siren in an echo chamber, seducing gender to its wreck? Put this mother-of-pearl to your ear…
—Judith Goldman

Cover art: Entrance Hall, 2015, collage, 24 x 24 inches
© Ashley Lamb. Courtesy of the artist

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portrait of a lesser subject, elis press, Spring 2015

I suspect that E. Tracy Grinnell is an ecstatic. Yes, I’m using the word as a noun. Very few poets are able to sustain, and then communicate to others, the state of being outside oneself, or beside oneself, as she does. It’s only from the experience of being formless that someone can embody multiple forms in time (all time). Poetry—the page—may not be the most effective at easing our human terror (that solid ground is an illusion, that we may all just be a sound that repeats…) however, “while in duration / even then / are elements of light.”
—Stacy Szymaszek

Cover art: The Kiss, 2010, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches
© Marina Adams. Courtesy of the artist

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The Elders Series #1, Belladonna*, 2008
E. Tracy Grinnell (Helen, A Fugue) hosts Leslie Scalapino (A Pear / Actions Are Erased)

… the two sides of the brain at war become a form of scrutiny and war in the sense that one cannot be only ‘inside one’—one is not one ever. So, there being two sides is a faculty, even by virtue of the fact that both sides are unlike each other, even opposite. Their war is painful. I’m rejecting the conventional perspective that psychological union or harmony is healthy, a union which also negates or reforms intellect as less passionate. There’s something of that sense (of occurrence) in your own piece? Ecstasy, moving outside oneself is a part of the intention in mine, as pairs that in space make separate occurrence outside the speakers.
—Leslie Scalapino

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Some Clear Souvenir, O Books, 2006

Some Clear Souvenir is situated between intent and document, theory and experience. Bouncing between numbered “Clips” and “examples,” Grinnell’s carefully considered language straddles the hard edge the individual asserts over her shifting context. She is caught between subject/object, between background/foreground. She is as “stone complicates / the sand”. “I try / to feel / against / the elements” In Grinnell’s sweet giveaway, the poetic language that is held so close “…escapes / not by violence // by giving way, by calling it / something else”
—Diane Ward

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music or forgetting, O Books, 2001

In music or forgetting, E. Tracy Grinnell’s first collection, poems are diachronic cartography. As in the title, a single line may be her memory and conjecture being the same space and time at only ‘the present time of the poem’. Or, her memory and conjecture are the same, cumulatively absorbed, as if there is no speaker or seer in a long quiet present, which becomes its music: “historically/waves are either synchronic,/spatial, or/new presence of body presupposes dialogue.”
—Leslie Scalapino

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