Elevate Difference

Also Known As

Being a writer is often a difficult endeavor. It’s not the desire nor the passion that is constraining but more often the discipline, the dedication. Sometimes what writers struggle most with is the publicity of the written word. Once something is printed, with your name next to it–there is no going back. It may be one of the reasons so many authors choose to publish under a pseudonym, a fictional name created to hide the identity of the author in order to create a truly private space where creativity can thrive.

Elizabeth Robinson has taken this practice one step further. In her latest book of poetry, Also Known As, Robinson “interacts” with the work of Portuguese poet Fernando Passoa in an effort to “explore the opportunities and limitations of persona(e).” What is interesting and challenging about this task is that Passoa wrote most if his work under “heteronyms,” alter-egos with distinct personalities and unique poetic voices. As introduction, Robinson opens with a poem by Richard Reis, one of Passoa’s most well known and prolific identities.

Robinson doesn’t merely rely on the inspiration of Passoa’s work, but rather invokes an exploration of identity that is both darkly ambiguous and yet deeply personal. By refraining from use of gender based descriptors and pronouns, Robinson relies on the collective consciousness of anyone who seeks to be identified. Her work is simultaneously brave yet cowers to self-consciousness – I, who loved to fondle the antonyms, was caught red-handed. – “Intermediary”

Poetry is a form of literature that many people shy away from, out of fear of not understanding or lack of connection to the material, often because of the way it’s presented. Robinson balances gracefully on this tightrope, and offers a collection of work that is both intellectual and accessible. On the power of poetry, I must agree with Travis MacDonald who suggests “The cumulative result is a seamless (if eerily disjointed) whole in which the individual edges of authorial identity become indistinguishable from the tangible act of each poem’s performance on the page.”

Written by: Alicia Sowisdral, August 24th 2010