The sea with no one in it

Primary Author: 
Niki Koulouris
In this stunning first collection, Canadian-Australian poet Niki Koulouris takes her readers out to sea. Born of Greek descent in Melbourne, Australia, Koulouris’ imagination is fixed on the ocean. Here she conjures striking displays of power from a bygone era, transposing the potent energy of each wave into each line. Deep in Koulouris’ sea, a formidable original force can be found, available to any who recognize it.
Even on land one is not far from this oceanic spell. Here life is composed of disparate pieces that confound us by falling into place. With startling juxtaposition, Koulouris creates a lollapalooza of the obsolete, extinct, familiar and yet-to-be. Sundry artifacts, remnants of a pan-epochal uprising, are adeptly curated, resulting in a realm-altering aftermath. As Koulouris’ modern speakers present us with oracular quandaries and recollections of various items – a Grecian kore, a telephone and sandwich in a Philip Guston painting, or a Twinkie and window envelope conjured up on a cab ride in Chicago, the city of their origins – we find the extraordinary amongst the contemporary disorientation that plagues us all.

Table of contents

Part 1 
     1. I’m fond of ships
     2. It looks like the ocean
     3. Don’t mention the sea
     4. You’ll miss more than the road 
     5. You prefer these battles 
     6. When night spiked
     7. As evening misses 
     8. As you look out 
     9. The closer you look 
     10. If I’m the type
     11. Today of all days
     12. Today the fish are sober
     13. The sea does not need 
     14. You’ll never know the sea 
     15. Any day you walk the shore
     16. It was there all along 
     17. The shoreline tells you 
     18. Now the sea has the likeness 
     19. You are the self-adorned 
     20. World-worship at the Consulate
Part 2 
     21. You have given me a city
     22. Shelled like the moon
     23. Arrows for stone fruit/Did I leave the San Francisco Museum
     24. In a pact with an owl
     25. The bear is carved 
     26. I write for the beast
     27. If anything, he kept his onions
     28. I’ve come to expect Guernica
     29. These animals, they keep their heads
     30. Why think of her as the stranger
     31. As wide as the foot
     32. I bought a souvenir of New York
     33. In a turquoise cab
     34. You don’t have to be finished
     35. I am aware of It and Lunch
     36. You may decide rain
     37. Where were stars 
     38. The impish drizzle
     39. The palm trees along the shore 
     40. This is the new office
     41. These are works barely made 
     42. Admire the forest 
     43. Should I think of the river 
     44. It’s always midnight

Excerpt from book

It looks like the ocean 
with its cargo of gunpowder and ash
bottles the colour of bulls 
from another era 
longhorns moving ahead
and not much else
once it had been
half man, half sea 
unhealed, yet unwounded
by the greyest of steeples
I do not think of the deep
what has been worn
will be worn again by sheiks
why leave these shores 
when the rest of the waves 
will come to us
what more can they bring us 
these waves
with their formula-one 
alligator instincts 
but vast zithers 
and drop sheets that 
fall short of rafts.
Today of all days 
this is the sea with no one in it 
is this all it will be 
unable to dye all it touches
in primitive ink
what could you give the sea 
but your stripes, 
since you ask, 
your war paint, your blindfolds
your appetite for westerns
in exchange for waves 
as wide as trains 
from the next frontier.
It was there all along 
as if undiscovered 
the modern sea
already alive, sawn off 
craved by gravel
summoned by the populace 
that salvaged pendants 
from the surgery of tides
even though it was the sea 
it did not seem like it 
nor did it seem like what it could be 
it was not the sea I missed 
on its way to another age
It has always been like the sky 
on a day no one is born 
it has become its counterpart 
a half icon, as permanent, 
from where can it be seized 
how should it be adorned?

Unpublished endorsement

‘[Koulouris] seems to have a whale of imagination and experience with which to talk about our lives in a sort of ocean trip scenario.
‘The logic of a female explorer allows this very talented author to turn the many stories we have into ravishing poems. I hope the other new poets out there won’t be too envious. So much grace. This is the debut book of the season!’
—David Donnell, author of the Governor General’s Award-winning book of poetry, Settlements

Unpublished endorsement

‘It is not surprising that Canadian poet, Niki Koulouris, who was raised in Australia and whose heritage is Greek, focuses her imagination on the sea. What is surprising is the stunning poetry she makes of her setting. These poems – with their unexpected turns, startling juxtapositions, dream sequences and mysteries – are in the service of a sibylline voice that makes Koulouris heir to MacEwen, Atwood and Lowther. By bringing shards of the classical world into the present, Koulouris’ poems provide us with an ironic and, I believe, accurate presentation of our contemporary bewilderment’
—Kenneth Sherman
Niki Koulouris was born in Melbourne, Australia, and is a graduate of the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. She has worked as a staff writer and editor at Victoria University. Her poetry and prose has appeared in The Cortland Review, Space, Subtext Magazine and The Age. A beer enthusiast, she has been known to start spontaneous lists on napkins of her top India Pale Ales. Niki lives in Toronto. The sea with no one in it is her first book.
Price: $4.99