Boulder experimental poet Eleni Sikelianos wants readers to literally rip into her new book “Make Yourself Happy.” She’s included pages that are meant to be torn out and turned into three-dimensional art. She describes it as as a tactile experience of one of her primary themes: extinction, where in the course of creating civilization and our own happiness, we may cause the destruction of something else.
Sikelianos says visual elements were part of the original concept for her book. For example, some of the illustrations show extinct animals from different regions of the world. The technique used to make these images is called blind embossing. The artist burned out each design leaving just the residue from the fire, so the ash is left exactly where it was from the burning, to create each print. It illustrates the concept of extinction by symbolizing the animals as reduced to ashes.
Stirring up traditional poetry with data from the online world, Sikelianos leans heavily on science and history in her work. Online data sets and surveys become parts of her poetry. She says, “a poem should be part of its time and this kind of information is part of our time.” For example, she’s gathered data about the frequency of words in blog posts referring to the ideas of happy and sad and uses it in the book.
Sikelianos is the author of six books of poetry and teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Denver. She’ll be reading and speaking about her new book, along with her husband, author Laird Hunt, on February 9 at the Boulder Bookstore in Boulder. You can read one of her poems and see a page meant to be torn from the book at cpr.org