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Elizabeth Arnold

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Professor, English

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Research Expertise

Creative Writing
Modernist
Poetics
Postmodern and Contemporary

Elizabeth Arnold is the author of five books of poems, The Reef, CivilizationEffacement, Life, and Skeleton Coast. She has received an Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship, residencies at Bellagio, MacDowell, and Yaddo, a Whiting Writer's Award, a Bunting Fellowship from Radcliffe College, and a Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship. Arnold's poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Paris Review, Poetry, Slate, Kenyon ReviewConjunctions, Literary Imagination, and The Nation. She edited Mina Loy's novel, Insel, for Black Sparrow Press in the early nineties. She is on the MFA faculty at the University of Maryland and lives in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Publications

Skeleton Coast

What do I see when I look into the eyes of another? What kind of exchange takes place when that look is returned? The poems in Elizabeth Arnold’s devastating Skeleton Coast investigate the ways we are formed by such encounters.

English | Center for Literary and Comparative Studies

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:

“‘What do I see’ when I look into the eyes of another? What kind of exchange takes place when that look is returned? The poems in Elizabeth Arnold’s devastating Skeleton Coast investigate the ways we are formed by such encounters—especially, at the core of the collection, by encounters with evil in the face of a person one loves, or has loved, or has wanted to love. These poems alternate between spare, psychological explorations and more expansive descriptions of difficult terrain: the Sahara, Egyptian ruins, and the dry riverbeds of the Skeleton Coast in the title sequence. The goal is to read what is truly there, as if we are all wrecks and deserts, to understand our dislocation from the forces that have made us and the sources that might feed us. What is buried is both violence and clarity, ‘like a fault deep in the ground // with its / inexact though statistically measurable need // to relieve stress over time.’ The vistas and profundities are Jamesian here, the poems scrupulous in their exploration of ethical weights and balances. Each poem is like a delicately fused mechanism, twisting around both still and moving parts, which the reader tracks silently on the way to inevitable, impeccable detonations.”

                       - Jennifer Clarvoe on Skeleton Coast

Life

Poetry. LIFE is Elizabeth Arnold's fourth volume of poems.

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:
Poetry. LIFE is Elizabeth Arnold's fourth volume of poems.

Effacement

In this remarkable new book, Elizabeth Arnold focuses on what certain bodies undergo against forces that efface them

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:

"In this remarkable new book, Elizabeth Arnold focuses on what certainbodies undergo against forces that efface them. Physical law has it that 'what pokes out gets hit.' Limbs, noses, and jaws are blown off. There are mastectomies. Prosthetic reconstruction is 'flesh displaced.' Some of those who experience it learn that there is now between them and the ones they love a wall of cancelled desire. 'One can adjust to this, they say, but not // from it.' Losses such as these italicize how unlikely it was to begin with that any soul should ever have made its way into a body out of the oblivion that precedes birth. Death too is that oblivion. Its 'fingers' open the face out of which 'something // inner joins the surface' as soon as the eyes ask for help." — James McMichael

The Reef

Arnold's first book of poems documents her struggle with cancer.

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:
A book-length sequence of poems, The Reef rockets the reader through a Heraclitean chute of accelerated life experience by way of anecdote, satire, facts from medical science, and lyrical sweep. This multilayered work explores the depths of illness, investigating the way one's attitude toward it changes over time and how one gathers and processes information in order to make sense of it.

Civilization

In her second volume of poetry, Arnold's poems move from politics and history to an intimate gesture, from ancient fragments and architectural facades to a father's face.

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:
The layers she excavates in the process are both archaeological and psychological; at the limits of civilization we find both silence and archaic force, "the white-noise light, a sand-storm whiteout.

Effacement

In this remarkable new book, Elizabeth Arnold focuses on what certain bodies undergo against forces that efface them.

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:
Physical law has it that 'what pokes out gets hit.' Limbs, noses, and jaws are blown off. There are mastectomies. Prosthetic reconstruction is 'flesh displaced.' Some of those who experience it learn that there is now between them and the ones they love a wall of cancelled desire. 'One can adjust to this, they say, but not // from it.' Losses such as these italicize how unlikely it was to begin with that any soul should ever have made its way into a body out of the oblivion that precedes birth. Death too is that oblivion. Its 'fingers' open the face out of which 'something // inner joins the surface' as soon as the eyes ask for help.

Life

Elizabeth Arnold’s Life is a collection of light, bold, contemporary paeans to natural cycles and incidents involved with living.

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:
Arnold’s scope for and definition of “natural” in no way limits that word to being only “of the earth.” Instead, it expands out so that all observations, all happenings, from natural disasters to the use of DDT and from the effects of ice storms to that of a fourteen-wheeler’s on the highway fit within the natural world.

Skeleton Coast

The poems in Elizabeth Arnold’s devastating Skeleton Coast investigate the ways we are formed by such encounters—especially, at the core of the collection, by encounters with evil in the face of a person one loves, or has loved, or has wanted to love.

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:
These poems alternate between spare, psychological explorations and more expansive descriptions of difficult terrain: the Sahara, Egyptian ruins, and the dry riverbeds of the Skeleton Coast in the title sequence. The goal is to read what is truly there, as if we are all wrecks and deserts, to understand our dislocation from the forces that have made us and the sources that might feed us. What is buried is both violence and clarity, ‘like a fault deep in the ground // with its / inexact though statistically measurable need // to relieve stress over time.’ The vistas and profundities are Jamesian here, the poems scrupulous in their exploration of ethical weights and balances.

The Reef

Arnold's first book of poems documents her struggle with cancer.

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:

Arnold's first book of poems documents her struggle with cancer. A book-length sequence of poems, The Reef rockets the reader through a Heraclitean chute of accelerated life experience by way of anecdote, satire, facts from medical science, and lyrical sweep. This multilayered work explores the depths of illness, investigating the way one's attitude toward it changes over time and how one gathers and processes information in order to make sense of it.

Civilization

In her second volume of poetry, Arnold's poems move from politics and history to an intimate gesture, from ancient fragments and architectural facades to a father's face.

English

Lead: Elizabeth Arnold
Dates:

In her second volume of poetry, Arnold's poems move from politics and history to an intimate gesture, from ancient fragments and architectural facades to a father's face. The layers she excavates in the process are both archaeological and psychological; at the limits of civilization we find both silence and archaic force, "the white-noise light, a sand-storm whiteout."