—Author Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker
I have known Elise Levine since 1994 when my co-editor Maggie Helwig and I included three of Elise’s stories in our annual anthology Coming Attractions (now edited, by the way, by Mark Anthony Jarman who has appeared often on these pages). Oh, she can write! She has a hip, dark, extravagant flair for language, an alienated edge, a way of making the bourgeois world look, oh, so dull. In other words, she makes you stand up straight and look at yourself. Her story “Angel: starts: It was midnight, Angel, and I’ll never forget. We did it in the doorways up and down Church Street, my back against rotting wood or my hamstrings hurting, crouched down on grey concrete, the club where I’d cruised you receding as we twisted down alleyways and across half-empty parking lots. And then a decade later, actually 2005, I put an Elise Levine story in Best Canadian Stories. She is that good that you are always curious about what she is doing NOW. And so just so you know, here is a video poem, an example of what she is doing NOW, where her questing mind is taking her. City street sounds, pigeon wings, hand-held video, the words coming in bursts or sound and image, the strange beautiful “no, about, no” turning your toward home.
I’ve always been attracted to hybrid literary forms, little monsters like the prose poem, the lyric novel — the way they embody neologism and thus the desire to transform, transfer, mutate. The video poem offers yet another opportunity to ironize and complicate. Layering audio tracks, images and text amplifies the words, creates larger resonances.
Elise Levine is the author of the story collection Driving Men Mad and the novel Requests & Dedications. Her work has also appeared in publications including Joyland, Sententia, Hotel Amerika, Gargoyle, Coming Attractions, Best Canadian Stories, The Journey Prize Anthology, and Prairie Schooner. A graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing at Vermont College, she is currently an Assistant Professor in the MFA in Creative Writing Program and the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, DC.