Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer is a poet and installation artist in St. Louis. Her debut collection of poems, Cleavemark, is just out from BOAAT Press. Schlaifer has an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her poems have appeared in Georgia Review, AGNI, Denver Quarterly, LIT, Colorado Review, Fence, and elsewhere. Schlaifer was a semi-finalist for the 2015 Discovery/Boston Review Prize, and she was selected for Best New Poets 2015. She frequently collaborates with other artists, most recently with Jeff Pike on the illustrated chapbook, Strangers with a Lifeboat, and with Cheryl Wassenaar on the installation Cleavemark Drive. Schlaifer is a compulsive baker and also very handy with a pitchfork.


Selected by Shane McCrae for BOAAT Press, 2016



As a poet and a sculptor, I am keenly concerned with the integrity of
materiality—its honesty, poignancy, and authenticity. My poems are foremost
concerned with sound‹whatever the content, I strive to create a singular
diction. It establishes an intimacy with the reader. It should feel
familiar, if unplaceable. Though I am deeply invested in craft, I do not see
that reverence as preclusive to experimentation. In my installation work,
material is language, and I seek specificity, tactility, and
resonance‹unusual substances which carry their own agenda, like salt, sugar,
and soap. Sometimes I use these to alter found objects; other times, I cast
objects from them, creating something tangible but unreachable. My first
book Cleavemark (just out from BOAAT Press) is an extended lament
through the architecture of houses. Its language borrows from familiar, if disparate,
sources—the Bible, obscure movies, the clinical language of accident
reports. With this source material, I create a speaker who can engage old
memories with deliberateness and agenda. In my newer poems, the Cabinet
Series, I imagine the mind as collection of governing bodies, where a
variety of unusual bureaus, such as the Cabinet of Ordinary Affairs or the
Cabinet of Lesser Offenses, preside over the inner workings of the psyche,
weighing important decisions, calculating the weight of survival. In my art
and my writing, I strive to create an engrossing experience, where the
rhetorical power is created by the lyrical puissance. If nothing is being
risked, it’s not worth keeping.