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Author: Shira Dentz

Publisher: [PANK] Books (2020)

Sisyphusina is a cross-genre collection of prose, poetry, visual art, and improvisatory music, centered on female aging. Faced with linguistic and literary traditions that lack rich vocabularies to describe female aging, Shira Dentz uses the hybrid form as an attempt to suture new language that reflects internal and physical processes that constitute a shifting identity. By deviating from formal classical construction, and using the recurring image of a rose, Sisyphusina circles around conventions of beauty, questioning traditional aesthetic values of continuity, coherence, and symmetry. Some of the book's images are drawn from separate multimedia collaborations between the author and composer Pauline Oliveros, artist Kathy High, and artist Kathline Carr. A musical composition improvised by Pauline Oliveros, based on one of her text scores, titled "Aging Music," is the book's coda, and readers can listen to it online by scanning a QR code inside the book. The interweaving of these collaborations with the author's voice and voices from other sources imbue this book with a porous texture, and reimagines the boundary of the book as a membrane.

"With Sisyphusina, Shira Dentz tunes her eyes micro- and macroscopically to the fine details and patterns of animal behavior. Dentz is acutely aware of the animal that is a human body, in this case, a woman's aging body, but also how the adaptive behaviors of earlier historical moments (such as the Egyptians dying even the hair of the dead) and of flounders and sharks converge into a mass of shared understanding about beauty and existence. This is a calmly anxious book, playful, confident, and exploratory in its textures and experiments with text and form. Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein are shades throughout these pages filled with shells, skin, and suits. We are reminded of the privilege of good vision, and it is a gift to behold the visual art, photographs, and drawings weaving throughout the book. Sisyphusina is a multi-media tour de force, an unforgettable one."

–Diana Khoi Nguyen

"Even if I weren't caught up in the inspiring words of Shira Dentz, which I am, I would be swept along through her remarkable new book, Sisyphusina, by the shapes and textures of her verses, by the graphic surprises (and anticipation) from page to page, by her well-timed typographical idiosyncrasies, and by her perfectly calibrated spaces—around, below, above, and between the areas of text. I fell in love with the way 'the very eye of night' shared two pages with a graph of dots which became snowflakes (asterisks) which became dots again, cued by her words and by a small perpendicularly arranged message: 'thisiskin.'"

–Kay Rosen

"What I admire about Sisyphusina is that whether through time, the self, or the image at work, there is an attempt at definition even if it is an untrustworthy definition. The willingness to tempt solution, I think, is a particularly innovative flourish throughout the work. 'What we think is a total picture / is a series, an addition of parts.'"

–Cody Stetzel