2011 Indie Lit Awards Poetry Runner-Up Review: What Looks Like an Elephant by Edward Nudelman

What Looks Like an Elephant by Edward Nudelman, published by Lummox Press, was the 2011 Indie Lit Awards Poetry Runner-Up.  Initially, readers may fear the collection’s use of math and science, but Nudelman’s poetry makes these concepts accessible in most cases.  Broken down into four sections, the collection explores the known and the unknown, that which we fear and that which we do not.  There is a tension throughout the collection that will push and pull the reader with each poem’s exploration of the human condition steeped in nature imagery, math concepts, and scientific analysis.

In some instances, Nudelman uses the scientific method to carry readers through a series of images and questions about what we know to be true and what we think is true.  Like Socrates, the scientific method ensures that hypotheses are tested with experiments or examples and counter-examples to uncover the truth or guiding theory.  Beyond the use of math and science, Nudelman’s observation skills as a scientist still shine without them, like in “Arrival” (page 18),  “Outside, a dog wants in./Inside, a soul wears slippers and sips iced tea.//” and in “The Corners of Rooms” (page 35), “On sultry evenings while mosquitoes squeeze/through screens, you remain safe in the vertex/of walls.  Better to dazzle in a little gray light/than crisp-up in the middle of the oven./”

Beyond the science, the math, and the poetic observation, there are pieces of the great poets here, including Robert Frost in “Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Garage.”  Nudelman is tackling the seen and unseen in his poems from what death looks like and how his touch affects us every day in “Trump Card” to “Gorilla Flower,” which revisits the old saying if a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, did it fall? — though in this case, it is the existence of a purple bloom in the midst of a white jungle, an anomaly that shouldn’t exist and yet does.  Themes and topics run the gamut here, and one of the gems is “Tracing Roots,” which is a tongue-and-cheek look at genealogy through the eyes of a scientist.

What Looks Like an Elephant by Edward Nudelman is looking into the heart of the matter, human matter.  He seeks the truth in poems through science, math, nature, and philosophical discourse, trying to make sense of the world and how it works.  While his narrations acknowledge finding the truth is often a futile endeavor, the journey . . . the experience is worth doing and sharing.

Poet Edward Nudelman

About the Poet:

Edward Nudelman is a poet, scientist and literary critic from Seattle.  He has two poetry books and his latest collection was runner-up for book of the year.  Check out his Website.

Stay Tuned for my interview with the poet on April 19. Also, here’s a video with Edward Nudelman reading from the book:

***For Today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour Post, visit Diary of an Eccentric for The Girl’s post.***

Other Reviews of What Looks Like an Elephant from the Indie Lit Awards Panel:

Diary of an Eccentric


This is the 9th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 27th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.


  1. Well I love math and science so this may be the book for me. Lol. Seriously though, it sounds intriguing Serena.

  2. Thanks Serena,

    Nothing to fear but math itself! Well, no math in these poems, just metaphorical wanderings riffing off the wonderful paradoxes all around us. Except for that one poem about deriving Plank’s constant from a null set of infinite integers approaching infinity at zero degrees kelvin in a park in Minnesota. All the best, Ed

  3. Girl… you are so darn smart. I wouldn’t get half this stuff if I read it. I admit that I’m intimidated by poetry and now I know why.

    • Thanks but I don’t feel smart most days. LOL There is poetry for everyone…its just like fiction. You have to find your poet….

  4. I like the everydayness of this collection. I think of “Board Room” in meetings now, and thought about “The Corners of Rooms” yesterday, when I was peering into corners looking for a chipmunk.

    • I really liked the employment of the scientific and Socratic methods; that was just one of the highlights for me. The collection surprised me.

  5. Great review! I think your assessment of this collection is spot on. I really enjoyed Nudelman’s poems.