Sirens Are My Best Chimera

Mónica de la Torre and Eleni Sikelianos with Janice Lowe

January 19, 2023, 6:00pm

Poets and translators Eleni Sikelianos and Mónica de la Torre will perform and discuss recent work reflecting on chimeras, translation, and song, with interventions by composer-poet Janice Lowe.

If sirens carry the head of a woman and the body of a bird, what being is the voice? Sirens are just one species in the genus of (sometimes monstrous) human-animal hybrids, and chimerism is not only the stuff of myth. Marmosets are natural chimeras, and human chimeras sometimes carry the cellular ghosts of a lost or living twin.

Animating their performance are questions such as: How does chimerism extend our thinking about language technologies and translation beyond the “carrying across” of meaning implied by the term? What bodies of words are hidden when we move from language to language? If a poem is “a prolonged hesitation between sound and sense” (Valéry), and if the body carries more animals than we think, what kind of creatures do the voicings of poems produce?

This event is organized in the framework of SIREN (some poetics), a group exhibition and a poetics devoted to technologies of myth and mouth, earth and alarm, gender and language. The title of this event is drawn from something the poet Phoebe Giannisi said to one of the performers,

Prior registration is recommended.

Jenna Sutela video still Nam Gut (The microbial breakdown of language), 2017

Mónica de la Torre is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Repetition Nineteen (Nightboat, 2020) which centers on experimental translation. Other collections include The Happy End/All Welcome (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017)—a riff on a riff on Kafka’s Amerika—and Public Domain (Roof Books, 2008). She has published several books in Mexico, including Taller de Taquimecanografía (Tumbona, 2011), written jointly with the eponymous women artists’ collective she co-founded.

She writes about art and has translated numerous works from the Spanish, among them Omar Cáceres’s Defense of the Idol (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2018). She has co-edited several anthologies with Alex Balgiu, Women in Concrete Poetry 1959–79 (Primary Information, 2020).

She is the recipient of the 2022 Foundation for Contemporary Arts C.D. Wright Award for Poetry and a 2022 Creative Capital grant and teaches poetry at Brooklyn College.

Eleni Sikelianos is the author of eight poetry collections, including Make Yourself Happy (2017), The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead (2013), Body Clock (2008), and The California Poem (2004). She is also author of the hybrid memoirs You Animal Machine (The Golden Greek) (2014) and The Book of Jon (2004).

Eleni has received numerous honors and awards for her writing and translations, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Commission, and Princeton University, where she was a Seeger fellow. She has held residencies at Yaddo, the Lannan Foundation in Marfa, and La Maison des Écrivains Étrangers in Brittany and is the recipient of two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Writing, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award in Nonfiction Literature, a James D. Phelan Award, and a New York State Council for the Arts Translation Award. She teaches in the Literary Arts Program at Brown University.

Janice Lowe, is composer, poet, and pianist-vocalist. Janice enjoys collaborating with librettists, performing artists, poets, bookwriter-lyricists and setting/musicalizing all manner of text. Her works composed for musical theater have been performed at Ars Nova, NYU, NAMT, The Eugene O’Neill Musical Theater Conference, Case Western Reserve University, and Barrington Stage. Her song cycle collaboration with librettist Tyehimba Jess Millie and Christine McKoy Sisters’ Syncopated Sonnets in Song was performed at 92nd St. Y and at The Lensic Performing Arts Center. She is a recent recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship in Music Composition, and jointly, with Tyehimba Jess and Yahdon Israel, was awarded a Creative Capital Award for collaboration on a stage version of Jess’s Pulitzer Prize-awarded poetry collection, OLIO.

Janice records and performs with Janice Lowe & NAMAROON, a music and poetry ensemble, and has performed/ recorded with BRAJAH, w/o a net, Digital Diaspora, Anne Waldman & Fast Speaking Music and HAGL. As a pianist/vocalist, she has performed with improvising ensembles at the Berlin Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center, Jazz Jäntar, Crossing Border, The Vision Festival and Bop Stop.

She teaches Multi-Media Composition at Rutgers University and has taught sound-text composition at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics-Naropa University. In winter 2023, Janice is a resident music director at White Bird Productions and directs the Mabou Mines production,The Vicksburg Project, at Harlem Stage. She is the author of Leaving CLE songs of nomadic dispersal, and composer of the album Leaving CLE songs. She holds an MFA in musical theater composition from NYU. She is also a co-founder of the Dark Room Collective.