Born in Oak Park, Illinois, Elaine Equi grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She received a BA and MA in English from Columbia College, and after graduating, went on to teach a poetry workshop there for several years. Along with her husband, poet Jerome Sala, she helped create a lively performance poetry scene. In 1988, they moved to New York City where she currently teaches creative writing in the MFA programs at The New School and City College.
Equi’s early books are Federal Woman (1978), Shrewcrazy (1981), and The Corners of the Mouth (1986). In 1989 she published Surface Tension, the first of many books with Coffee House Press—firmly establishing herself as a poet of national reputation. It was followed by Decoy (1994), Voice-Over (1998) (chosen by Thom Gunn for the San Francisco State Poetry Award), and The Could of Knowable Things (2003). Ripple Effect: New & Selected Poems is forthcoming from Coffee House in 2007.
Equi’s work is often praised for its lucid simplicity. Wayne Koestenbaum characterizes it as “clean, clear, cool, quick,” adding that, “she is at once an entertainer and an oracle….” Of her own work she writes: “I like the fact that for the most part, my poems are pretty accessible. I don’t consciously aim for that, but I do know that my sense of audience is always a mix of literary and non-literary types. On the other hand, I like to keep things (especially in terms of language) interesting. Over the years, my work has been informed by a wide range of styles including surrealist, concrete, and classical Chinese poetry, so it’s not unsophisticated—just willfully direct in a minimalist sort of way.”
BOOKS OF POETRY:
Federal Woman (Chicago: Danaides Press, 1978); Shrewcrazy (Los Angeles: Little Cesar Press, 1981); The Corners of the Mouth (Los Angeles: Iridescence Press, 1986); Accessories (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1988); Views without Rooms (New York: Hanuman Press, 1989); Surface Tension (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press); Decoy (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1994); Friendship with Things (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1998); Voice-Over (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1998); The Cloud of Knowable Things (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2003).