By Ellen Kaufman
Ellen Kaufman’s Double-Parked, with Tosca navigates the natural and the manmade—often with an eye on their strained juxtaposition—or unravels the complex dynamics of the physical, social, and political. Kaufman can go from elegizing an Elizabethan old dress past to the environmentally conscious “now [when] the polar caps / undress themselves.” She weaves the history of early settlements and their challenges and triumphs over the sometime inhospitable land; or negotiates the melding and mismatch of cultures in her native New York City. Kaufman’s poems assert their claim inside violence, indifference, and exclusion. This surefooted second collection is a fitting special honoree for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award.
Ellen Kaufman’s poems pierce the reader the way a needle pierces fabric. With a stunningly precise apprehension of the real, she stitches immigration histories and the intimacies of family life, cityscapes and suburban developments, the recent past and the perilous future. She has the power to shapeshift, too, so that we experience, as if from inside, the hidden life of a retired battleship, an algae bloom, a bird nesting in a traffic light. Marked by grief, endurance, and the truths of beauty made manifest, these are essential poems.
— Jennifer Barber, author of Works on Paper
Ellen Kaufman’s absolutely terrific second book can fearlessly slash through pretext, but also cohere unlikely pairs through the X-ray delicacy of an ace metaphorist. She can use “he wanted to get laid” as a refrain in a satisfyingly avenging villanelle, and also see how a beret looks like a “fluffy flounder,” and a chandelier handed down through generations “rattles like a skeleton.” A tick can alternate stanzas with its host, and an orchestra can create a landscape from its instruments. Kaufman uses form—including a masterful crown of sonnets about her father’s end of life—and the speaker herself takes form in persona poems of NYC landmarks; of the USS Intrepid, she writes, “the old moon / shuttle Discovery perches / like an aphid on a rose leaf.” I bet you never heard that before! And so you will feel about this whole body of poems. Kaufman’s wit, her craft, her vision—this book celebrates their collaboration.
— Jessica Greenbaum, author of Spilled and Gone
As a young person, the best poem I ever read in my life was a Petrarchan sonnet by Ellen Kaufman—before I even knew what a Petrarchan sonnet was. Now, in reading Ellen Kaufman’s newest book, Double-Parked, with Tosca, I immediately see everything I want poetry to be: imaginative, evocative, observant, musical, filled with sound and living breath, and brilliant. I can’t recommend this book and this author enough.
— Nicholas Samaras, author of American Psalm, World Psalm
Ellen Kaufman’s first collection, House Music, was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Award (Able Muse, 2013). A poem from that book won the Morton Marr Poetry Prize awarded by Southwest Review, where it also appeared. Her poems have also been published by Beloit Poetry Journal, Carolina Quarterly, Epoch, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, the New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, Salamander, Shenandoah, the Yale Review, and other literary magazines. Twice a MacDowell Fellow (2009 and 2013), she holds an AB from Cornell, and MFA and MSLS degrees from Columbia University. Formerly a poetry reviewer for Library Journal, she now reviews for Publishers Weekly. She lives near Straus Park in upper Manhattan.
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