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Field Guide to Autobiography

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This book earns its title. It’s a field guide to the ecosystem that is being human. And that means it is also an autobiography. It is unclear in most of the poems where the human begins and ends, and this is how it should be. The world that comes out of these poems is luminous and difficult. This isn’t conventional nature poetry; it’s a poetry that helps us understand the future and the world that embeds us.

- Juliana Spahr


What is a species autobiography?  An autobiography not written through the convention of the senses? What is the bone mouth, what is it to break the surface?  If autobiography is a particular history of body and bodies, then what kind of book is this?  What does it permit itself: not to know?  Does the book accomplish its non-human (human) aims?  I like that there is a wren in it.  I like that there’s a whale.

- Bhanu Kapil


Forage the wilds of language with Melissa Eleftherion’s field guide and find yourself reconstituted in sensate particles of taste and sound. Saturated in the language of insects, these poems expose identity’s viscera down to its protoplasmic and mineral compositions, its Latinate roots, its collectivizing and individuating compulsions. Passing through syllabic way-stations of consciousness in formation, attention is brought to bear upon that which is irreducibly alien in us, yet common as fur and delectably female in its reproductive capacity - not to mention badass! Here are whorls, and bursts of light, where to fly is to sing is to fly, where “soft noises” compose a listening to instruct your ontological imagination. Following Eleftherion’s exertion towards classification, we are led to its (im)possibility. Read this book! You never know what form you may be compelled to assume.

- Elise Ficarra




MELISSA ELEFTHERION grew up in Brooklyn. A high school dropout, she went on to earn an MFA in Poetry from Mills College and an MLIS from San Jose State University. She is the author of huminsect, prism maps, Pigtail Duty, the leaves the leaves, green glass asterisms, and several other chapbooks. Founder of the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange, Melissa lives in Northern California where she works as a Reference & Teen Services Librarian, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series at the Ukiah Library. field guide to autobiography is her first full-length collection.