Monday, November 30, 2015



the following works by Elizabeth Treadwell:

(Chax Press, Tucson, 2008)

(A Dusie Book, Switzerland, 2006)

(Chax Press, Tucson, 2004)

(O Books, Oakland, 2004)

The Milk Bees
(Lucille #1 / Double Lucy Books, Berkeley, 2000)

It seems fitting that I’m reviewing Elizabeth Treadwell’s wardolly seven years after its release. For her writing of dissolutions (as I think of it) to create gaps can be tested now to see if they remain relevant.  Unfortunately, the poems remain so; just read this and see how it applies to goings-on today  (early June 2015) in the world (and poetry world this year):

So much of that poem (and others) touches on the problematic relationships between others, between nations, between species and between and among poets, the latter being something I wish not to specify like how the poem doesn’t specify but nonetheless draws attention to … thus becomes more universally relevant. Here is a very relevant poem, relevant in prior centuries, today and likely the future as the human condition will never not be flawed:

parlour game

and perhaps secret waves bolted
like quartz to the sky as ice mountains
against the dictates so far

Treadwell’s approach makes me reconsider language yet again. Specifically, how sometimes specificity provides no guidance when the forces of evil (so to speak) are so much larger than an individual speaker can muster.  So, sometimes all one can do is say without further explanation:

city bankrolls
—from “troublemen”

wake up & mispronounce me, then algorithm
—from “Tipping”

this asphalt river of pelts
—from “This grubby star”

There’s text after titles to create the poems but, sometimes, the title suffices because the words are so powerful.  Like,

A Thousand Virgins Shout Fuck Off

Given how a thousand or more virgins have been treated by myths, histories and idiots, the title suffices for me.  (Though of course I enjoyed the rest of the poem too…)

Nonetheless, Treadwell’s writing style (I don’t know if style is the right term, but you get my gist) only makes the effect more devastating when Treadwell does become specific:

            When the doctor and the terrorists burn the news, it is the mortician’s daughter who notices groceries unpacked in the kitchen.
—from “Tipping”

Throughout, there is a delicacy to Treadwell’s approach and it’s a marvel to behold given her subject matters.  For example, this poem—and the parentheticals around the title is both smart and sharp:


women have died for this,
& more

& the little birds,
behind her

Yet, oh yet: Treadwell is sharp enough to note, from her poem “Toll,”

to be stung is prickly harbor

This book makes me want more from Treadwell: not just more poems but more of her insights.


Indeed, reading wardolly made me search out other books by Treadwell; I had this idea of reading them all in one sitting to see what the concentrated focus might surface.  So I read in one sitting her chapbook The Milk Bees and the books Chantry, LILYFOIL and Cornstarch Figurine (as well as POPULACE (Avec Books, 1999) though it’s not part of this review).

And I noticed the language again, but also how so many of the poems work like lists of compulsions, or compulsive listing. The words combine to become pulsating and compelling. Textual gaps remain to great effect, as in the poem "Bossy" (from Chantry) where the gap between this sensed listing and the ending couplet serves to heighten the palpability of the ending:

                                                  …flat river
in the myth teaching ancient summary as we have
seen, venom, paralysis, serpents, lather of composed
recent contrary primeval grime and curbs, a southern
door, world war the last, grand cap of still
unsewered nasty closest site, or
the adjacent rather than definitive,
offer numerous accounts, means both
wizard and border western skies they entered

to see you swing from a tree
whereby I know my loss

She also mixes up styles so that fragments, say, can be combined with a seeming exposition and the melding feels logical, as in this excerpt from "The New Elizabethans: Modernity & Tabloid: A History Book” from LILYFOIL:

mucoid idiom leech. palliation howler

last summer, whose smitten face in church terrified me so? I shall give myself up utterly to composition. Ah me! be my vow, splendid man-statue. and a little strange.

As ever, significance arises from the unspoken as much as the spoken. Such is also evident in Cornstarch Figurine, as in this poem "[angel backwards]" where there's some unknown story and yet the result doesn't feel incomprehensible:

[angel backwards]

angel backwards: an old machine,
curlicue: i  want to steal the sheet, take it

sacred distance, celeste is reading
biology: her house is boxed up,
piled at the landing, is

named, and aged, my you’re as young as
my baby, no i’m a decrepit
old lady, look at my

handiwork: I remember seeing you
quietly, and a pink book,
let’s make

something, a rag rug:
and swans and
swans and swans

In The Milk Bees, there is a line from "hollow pin"—

she is the circumstance or the occasion

I suspect Treadwell plays and/or addresses this idea a lot. And the results are  easy to read as it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the unfolding of her imagination to compel your own imaginings.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well).  She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work.  I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS received a review by Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; by Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; and by Allen Bramhall in Tributary.  Her experimental biography AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY received a review by Tom Hibbard in The Halo-Halo Review, Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web and Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source. SUN STIGMATA also received a review by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field.  Recent releases are the e-chap DUENDE IN THE ALLEYS as well as INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY focuses on the list or catalog poem form.  A key poem in INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman in The Halo-Halo Review, and the book itself was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source and Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web.  More information at 


  1. Another view of _CORNSTARCH FIGURINE_ is offered by Nicholas Manning in GR #10 at

  2. Another view of _CORNSTARCH FIGURINE_ is offered by Anna Eyre in GR #3 at