A Privacy All Its Own: Melinda Goodman on Elena Georgiou’s Rhapsody of the Naked Immigrants

Rhapsody of the Naked Immigrants, Elena Georgiou, Harbor Mountain Press, 2009

To do it justice, Elena Georgiou’s second collection of poems really deserves a review that’s itself a poem. The music, rhythms, solitude, thoughtfulness, maturity, romance, love, beauty, appreciation, country/city, home/away, nature/concrete, embracing of dualities and contradictions, bravery, progressiveness, and humor of these pieces encapsulate my ear and ricochet in my chest like a lunar pinball. I want to jump into the moonlit lake and respond with my own songs of experience, my own perceptions. I want to jam with the poet in the way that sisters share when they haven’t been together for years. There is a lot of laughing to be done. There is a lot of crying to be done. There is a lot to understand and more often than not, much of that understanding will remain unspoken and not fully comprehended beyond the tears of recognition.

A book of poems is like a person. It has its own scent that is separate from the person who birthed it. But you recognize its creator’s lip or the arc of her eyebrow. You want to say, “You are just like your mother.” But that’s just you wanting to find a quick way in without doing the work of getting to know another being. To be sure, this collection has Georgiou’s highly developed style and sensibility. But it has a privacy all its own. It’s a book about transition, change, making a home, and learning to have faith despite the certain uncertainties of life. Round and round and round, nobody knows where exactly these spells will take us but this book of poems is a testament to the human spirit that doesn’t want to be defined by outside labellers. Like every good poet, Georgiou insists on her right to self definition and self determination. She creates a voice that drums its individual story like a dancer whirling through a clearing on barefoot earth. She reminds the reader that we all have this option to turn off popularized circumscribed visions in order to create the space we each need to come out of isolation and to listen to the adventures of our highest selves.

As the train screeches in the tunnel,
a woman hurtles down the steps behind me

chanting Jesus—
I lodge my foot in the closing doors—Jesus.

Her body forces its way in.
Thank you, she sputters. Thank you,

Lord. & though this is not the last train on Earth,
she is grateful to me, & her God.


Melinda Goodman is a poet, writer, and teacher at Hunter College in New York City. In addition to her collection of poems, “Middle Sister”, she has published poems in numerous LGBT magazines and anthologies and has recently completed her first novel, “Look Out Kid”.

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