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Scaffolding is a sequence of eighty-two sonnets written over the course of a year, dated and arranged in roughly chronological order, and vividly reflecting life in New York City. In this, her third book of poetry, Eléna Rivera uses the English sonnet as a scaffold to explore daily events, observations, conversations, thoughts, words, and memories—and to reflect on the work of earlier poets and the relationship between life and literature.

Guided by formal and syllabic constraints, the poems become in part an exploration of how form affects content and how other poets have approached the sonnet. The poems, which are very attentive to rhythm and sound, are often in conversation with historical, philosophical, artistic, and literary sources. But at the same time they engage directly with the present moment. Like the construction scaffolding that year after year goes up around buildings all over New York, these poems build on one another and change the way we see what was there before.

Author Information

Eléna Rivera is a poet and translator. She is the author of The Perforated Map and Unknowne Land, and her poems have appeared in the Nation, Denver Quarterly, the New York Times, and many other publications. Her translation of Bernard Noël's The Rest of the Voyage won the Robert Fagles Translation Prize. She was born in Mexico City, spent her childhood in Paris, and now lives in New York City.


Scaffolding is a profound meditation. . . . [O]ne cannot but fall in love with the book, and its city, that Rivera has given us. ---Ankit Basnet, Cincinnati Review

"In faceted and fascinating turns of mind, these uncanny sonnets build a sensational edifice of canonical form and advanced lyricism. Eléna Rivera is a wonderful poet."—Peter Gizzi, author of In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987–2011

"Scaffolding represents a vibrant, exploratory addition to the venerable and diverse New York tradition of ‘city sonnets.' As among the teeming, gridded streets, the poems' play of pattern and randomness generates an electric dialogue between self and world, a dialogue replete as well with sonorous echoes from past and present masters (Roubaud, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Christensen, Coleridge, Wyatt, Donne, et al.). One poem declares, ‘what small joy then / the fitting of these wild pieces together.' Indeed."—Michael Palmer, author of The Laughter of the Sphinx

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