Advance Praise for
Histories of the Future Perfect

“Ellen Kombiyil’s poems are fascinated with the many guises of time—physical and psychological, frozen, upside-down, cyclic, simultaneous. They capture moments that are eternal—‘handkerchiefs falling, falling/never landing’ and menus that never change. But they also explore the relentless ‘instability/of electrons,’ parallel universes where neighbors complain of parties that end with a ‘bang,’ and a future that ‘splits away like a cannon/boom of sound.’ The images are often drawn from the world of science, but these provoke other journeys of reflection, on which a sense of wonder remains a constant companion. These are intellectually dexterous poems, but, more vitally, poems ‘laden and alive’ with unexpected illumination—which could be found ‘inside God’s/sensorium, infinite shades of black,’ or those beautifully evoked places of intermingling where river and brook are no longer distinguishable. A finely-crafted, assured, and thoughtful debut.”

—ARUNDHATHI SUBRAMANIAM,

winner of the Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry

“Histories of the Future Perfect is a shimmering book, both delicate and bold. Interstellar travel, girlhood, erotics, American history:  Ellen Kombiyil ranges both far and near, with a command both intellectual and sensual. These are poems that test out life partly by imagining other lives—other lives one might live, the lives of Mary Todd Lincoln. Delicate lyrics zap us through the cosmos and back into memory; persona poems bring us into the specificity of grief. This is a poet who can toggle between bikinis and trilobites, between astrophysics and pop culture, between elegy and premonition. Kombiyil’s work is alive to whiplash our lives in the timeloops of the universe. ‘Let sprinklers equal X, an absence that is manifest./Now solve for bare feet glisten. Now step on constellations.’ This is a poetry of rigorous, ingenious, warmhearted exploration.”

 

—MAUREEN N. McLANE,

National Book Critics Circle Finalist and National Book Award Finalist

“Ellen Kombiyil’s debut collection, Histories of the Future Perfect, contains one of the most marvelous lines of poetry I’ve read in quite a while:  ‘oh one one zero zero oh oh one.’ Unequivocating and precise as binary code, Kombiyil’s work hacks into the lyric itself, in poems of unsettling intelligence and emotional honesty. Like Wallace Stevens, this poet ‘delves past thought in search of/the anatomy of thought,’ but she always animates this anatomy with intimate feeling. From the boundaries of the universe to the nesting dolls of personal memory, Histories of the Future Perfect marks out a bold beginning for a voice of great talents.”

 

—SRIKANTH REDDY,

author of Facts for Visitors

“‘Nothing happens until something moves,’ Albert Einstein once said, and Ellen Kombiyil’s first book of poems is a glorious embodiment of that principle, canvassing across time and space to provide us with a luminescence unafraid of the big ideas. Here we find Galileo’s thumbprint, Kurt Cobain in Las Vegas, and Mary Lincoln communing with the dead. The poems themselves are never narrowly historical but rather cosmic in their inflections, taking on subatomic particles, DNA, and black holes, not simply as scientific props but as the very impetus for lyric motion. Innovative, ecstatic, and emotionally potent, these poems shimmer with their skill and acumen, and indeed it’s been a long time since I’ve been as excited about a new book as I am about this one.”

 

—RAVI SHANKAR,

Pushcart Prize winner and Founding Editor of Drunken Boat

“In Ellen Kombiyil's baptismal work, Histories of the Future Perfect, personal intellect converges with conversation about many things in heaven and earth. Through her pure, astute, and humane poems, Kombiyil raises them all to a high power.”

 

—ALANE ROLLINGS,

author of To Be in This Number