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Andrea Rexilius

Andrea Rexilius completed her Ph.D. in Literature and Writing at the University of Denver. She is co-editor of Marcel Press. She is the author of To Be Human Is To Be A Conversation (Rescue Press, 2011) and Half Of What They Carried Flew Away (Letter Machine Editions, 2011).


"Species, landscape events, and color saturations collide in this work to make the reader glitch and flutter towards a possible answer, again and again. Intimacy and mimicry are closely inter-twined in Rexilius' work to create a unique first book that's both painful and enormously pleasurable to read."

– Bhanu Kapil

"In a brilliant weaving of 'ordinary' events into glittering eruptive celebrations of language, Andrea Rexilius has produced a work of image and text and truth. Presented as a sequence of interlocking forms -- interviews and definitions and essays and unnamed cognitions -- this book engages the imagination both delightfully and shockingly."

– Bin Ramke


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To Be Human Is To Be A Conversation

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I enjoy a book when the experience is challenging & entertaining, but for me to recommend a book I need to learn something from it, something no other work of art could teach me. It’s hard enough to write in such a way that holds an unwavering mirror up to yourself. But Andrea Rexilius teaches me what happens when a writer holds a mirror up to herself & finds someone else looking back. It reveals an intimate being with the same role as the self. To me, as a reader, it results in an endlessly exciting exploration of the self in relation to another, as a sewn-together object.

Rexilius writes:

“I returned home from visiting my mother in California. My father and I lived in Illinois. I returned home and another girl was wearing my clothes and sleeping in my room.”

The girl, almost the same age as her, was her new sister. They shared everything. They slept in the same bed. They became telepathic. Through effortless intricacy the book’s opening sections explore the nature of this mirroring of self. It is as chilling, beautiful & thoughtful as a Remedios Varo painting.

Later sections of the book center around the images of stitching, sewing, hemming. Rexilius obsesses over the nature of conjunction, of coming together. The nature of sisterhood & sororial love extends outward to the work of love & the presence of the body in the world. She writes:

“The body has been said to mimic the act of sewing. In The Symposium Aristophanes defines love as an impulse that has its impetus in our constant search for a second half. This half was once sewn to the back of us.”

And this act of seeking the union is one that happens in the writing as well. She writes in “History of Reading as Stitching” that:

Every remove should correspond to a passage. It is how we know who we are. Mary Rowlandson ate raw meat and blood ran down the edges of her mouth. Dickinson a manifestation of this same uncertainty. To shut the door more fully. She stitched her poems into pamphlets. One’s physical location locked away. One’s body becoming less necessary, or more so. Dressed in white blank paper. Teach us how to read.

I find myself following her, fascinated by every extension, absorbed in Rexilus’ exceptional mind, & delighted to be so.

While the ideas of the book fascinate, what is most exciting to me is its constant feeling of correctness. Rexilius ignores any barrier between myth & reality, between the logical & the absurd & this makes the real dreamlike & the fantastic real. She relates incidents from her life that actually occurred, such as this performance:

  . . . a series of still movements taken from Muybridge’s photos of the human body. I would pose as one of the stills for one minute (counting out this minute in my mind) and then turn, into the next still (repeating my count). I wore a blindfold during the rehearsal of the performance to experience how I would be affected when I was not able to see the audience. Counting out each minute took a great deal of concentration. I could think about nothing but the unit of time and what number I was on in my count. No longer being able to see away from myself, I found I was able to become the sentence my body was making.

At other times, she relates incidents of interior understanding, such as this, from one of the poems entitled “Essay on Sisterhood”:

“A sister is an echo chamber. She is a nun, but the naked kind. Having religion is having a sister to speak in tongues with.” Yet between these two incidents, I have a hard time feeling like one is less real, less the world I actually inhabit.

This sense of correctness is hard to come by. It’s something I look for in my own writing: that feeling that the idea could not be said any other way without it being untrue. While I love Rexilius’s dazzling use of image & metaphor, it’s this correctness that draws me through the book, seeking a wisdom that arrives through the concurrence of disparate ideas.

To Be Human is to be a Conversation opens endlessly, each poem & each image intertwining, suturing to another, as the meaning is made more full by the reading. It is a book you’ll learn from, a book you’ll keep in your bag for months, always dipping into briefly for small bits to dazzle & oblige you with its beauty & truth.

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