During an event at Poets House NYC, in the fall of 2016, Sylvia Legris mentioned that she had spent six or seven years researching for the poems that ultimately formed her collection The Hideous Hidden. “Four years doing research and you end up with nine little lines,” she joked. Those nine little lines, it turns out, are bound together by a deep reading of Hippocratic texts. It might be stating the obvious that poets are attuned to the nuances of language, yet some highlight attention to their métier more than others. Legris is among the most committed, with a vertiginously precise ear for a word’s potential semantic modulations. Through the five books she has produced from circularity of veins to her most recent there is a fascination with the vocabulary of the natural world; the lexicon of birds, of the body, and of disease predominate her verse. But her attention to language has been particularly acute in her most recent works. Take the first poem of The Hideous Hidden, entitled “Articulation Points (a preface),” which functions as an invocation:
Renounce the vestibule of non-vital vitals.
Confess the gallbladder,
the glandular wallflowers,
the objectionable oblong spleen.
The poem articulates anatomical, spatial, and even liturgical vocabularies; each word contains shadow meanings. Perhaps the most obvious example is “spleen,” which echoes both the irregularly shaped organ as well as the long history of associating the word with madness, creativity, joy, and depression, especially in the poems of Charles Baudelaire, whose work Legris frequently quotes. . .
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