book_cover 2014—Wesley Michel Wright Prize and ReLit Award, Shortlisted

The sea with no one in it

Purchase a copy through Porcupine’s Quill or Amazon.
Certainly, Koulouris’s lines and images, tight and terse, flow with “the likeness of the waves” and create a remarkable and daring collection.
—Anthony Frame Weave Magazine  (September 26, 2015)
The sea with no one in it is fantastical adventure in which water is synonymous with art. “The sea does not need lions in it / needless elephants and bears / from here there is nothing to behold / but the solitary cranking out of waves”. This collection is a tour of imagination; it is not seasick but precise.
Contemporary Verse 2 (May 27, 2015)
In her debut poetry collection, Niki Koulouris stands, as many have before her, at the lip of the sea. New from the Porcupine’s Quill press, The sea with [no one] in it is a sparse re-examining of the water that surrounds us, the preternatural body on our shores. The collection rattles with the detritus of land-meets-depths, as spare and exact as a ship in a bottle.
—Emily Davidson, The Telegraph-Journal (January 4, 2014)
Niki Koulouris’ poems take up the contemporary challenges of environmentalism and ekphrasis—poems about other kinds of artifice, including statuary and Stelarc—in a global frame. Her pithy, often punchy poems mix the sentimental with the acerbic, Alpine cigarettes with “Lolly Gobble Bliss Bomb bliss.” Above all, Koulouris’s topic is the sea that “never closes/unlike the sun,” with all its mutability and absoluteness.
—Wesley Michael Wright Prize citation (2014)

In these two beautifully-produced volumes, The Porcupine’s Quill press and Pitt Street Poetry have provided their poets with first collections that are a pleasure to handle and read.

Both writers are impressive, too, in their contrasting ways, showing contemporary poetry to be hospitable to a variety of styles and modes.

The sea with no one in it provides an intriguing contrast to Chains of Snow [by Jakob Ziguras]. In many respects, though here, too, the writing is of high quality. Sound patterns and seductive brief phrases play off a metaphysical sense of the ocean, and its power over the imagination, against more concrete images and ideas.

Words and phrases nudge against each other and form alliances. … a number of ekphrastic poems exuberantly inhabit the work of modern artists and ancient monuments. Some readers will readily relate to the evocations of the work of Anselm Kiefer, Philip Guston and Maurice Sendak, and to Berlin’s Pergamon Museum. Others will be intrigued enough to seek out the originals.

These are two fine collections; the two poets will undoubtedly go on to produce more. This would be a good point for readers to acquire and enjoy first editions of their debut volumes.

—Christopher Ringrose,  Adjunct Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University, Melbourne, Australian Poetry Journal (July, 2014)

One can sight in Koulouris’s work the surrealism of the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos, but also the fabulous imagination of Leonard Cohen’s Greek-flavoured poems and songs of the 1960s.
—Dr George Elliott Clarke, E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement (May/August, 2015)
A linguistic dexterity startles the reader wonderfully in contrast with the fluid, oceanic metre that rolls through the book.
—Geoffrey Nilson, Pulp (May 21, 2015)

The logic of a female explorer allows this very talented author to turn the many stories we have into ravishing poems. I hope the other new poets out there won’t be too envious. So much grace. This is the debut book of the season!

—David Donnell, author of the Governor General’s Award-winning book of poetry, Settlements

It is not surprising that Canadian poet, Niki Koulouris, who was raised in Australia and whose heritage is Greek, focuses her imagination on the sea. What is surprising is the stunning poetry she makes of her setting. These poems – with their unexpected turns, startling juxtapositions, dream sequences and mysteries – are in the service of a sibylline voice that makes Koulouris heir to MacEwen, Atwood and Lowther.

—Kenneth Sherman, author of the acclaimed Words for Elephant Man



Excerpts from The sea with no one in it

Today of all days
this is the sea with no one in it
is this all it will be
unable to dye all it touches
in primitive ink

what could you give the sea
but your stripes,
since you ask,
your war paint, your blindfolds
your appetite for westerns
in exchange for waves
as wide as trains
from the next frontier.


It looks like the ocean
with its cargo of gunpowder and ash
bottles the colour of bulls
from another era
longhorns moving ahead
and not much else

once it had been
half man, half sea
unhealed, yet unwounded
by the greyest of steeples

I do not think of the deep
what has been worn
will be worn again by sheiks

why leave these shores
when the rest of the waves
will come to us

what more can they bring us
these waves
with their formula-one
alligator instincts
but vast zithers
and drop sheets that
fall short of rafts.


It was there all along
as if undiscovered
the modern sea
already alive, sawn off
craved by gravel
summoned by the populace
that salvaged pendants
from the surgery of tides

even though it was the sea
it did not seem like it
nor did it seem like what it could be
it was not the sea I missed
on its way to another age

It has always been like the sky
on a day no one is born
it has become its counterpart
a half icon, as permanent,
from where can it be seized
how should it be adorned?