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Propagation

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Poetry
  • by: Laura Elrick
  • Date Published: December 2012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-9846475-8-3
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 103pp
  • Price: $14.95
  • Review by: Patrick James Dunagan

Practicing a vagabond bit of poetic loitering, the haunting use of a well-steadied repetition lingers round Laura Elrick’s Propagation, sounding off with jarring consistency throughout:

the resonance
of the resonance
is detail
resonant detail and
what you can say
of the detail
is detail
and that’s resonance
and that’s
what you can say

This series of untitled lyric fragments at times resembles mixed-up notes from jotted-down scraps of overheard conversation, which are then brought together without key details included. The sort of idle day-to-day chitchat which makes for such mild banter gets mixed together with news from unknown sources, full of what appears to be cast-off debris from hefty doses of serious reading, without much of any context tying it all together:

sediment like
heavy gets
heavy gets more
prismatic
again migration
misdirection
my
direction
again migration
it
my words
migration layering
sediment
as if sediment like
sediment
through time lodged
in that geology

This would at first seem not to yield much of interest, yet again and again instances are found where a series of lines carries a significant attraction when read, whether silently or aloud. Possible meaning begins to accrue only to then retreat with a recurring thud as speech patterns get flipped about and rearranged. Syntax gets remixed, then remixed anew:

blood comes
out of me
the blood is coming out
of me
again
again the blood comes out
the blood comes
out blood
comes out and
blood comes out also
blood comes out also
blood also comes out
also
blood
yes

Mysterious and disturbing, or matter-of-fact and disarming? Elrick withholds as much as she offers. In the back of the book, her “Notes & Acknowledgements” attributes her interest in such repeating of “phonological residues left over from The Day as modulating chain structures” to “an earworm episode” brought on by “Robert Desnos’ poem ‘Sleep Spaces.’’’ She refers to the writing undertaken in Propagation as “tossing a phrase off in looping pulses until it begins to migrate,” acknowledging that “a kind of narrative emerged in the work, though an oddly shaped one to be sure.”

Assorted themes and motifs get picked up on, tussled about, but never further developed. There are instances of clear, direct statement but no final summation; phrasal accumulations run down the page driven by the sheer propelled inertia of repetitively weighted lines. Every causal return an opening as much as a closing:

I wouldn’t be a bully
I wouldn’t bully
someone
never I would never do that
I would just never bully
I would just never bully somebody
like
my colleague I
wouldn’t bully my colleague I
wouldn’t bully my colleague
especially I wouldn’t
bully the less powerful
ones the less confident the ones
with marginal relations you know
I wouldn’t do that
that is one thing I would
never do

There’s apparent humor—“the king / is dead POP! / the king / is dead”—along with a shopping list: “peanut butter / cayenne / coriander / lemon pops.” Rhyme and off-rhyme make random appearance, casting a rare, casual elegiac mood. There’s also an undeniably earnest desire for expression that meets frustration as well as fruition in face of the resistant form the writing project itself adopts:

and silence
silence matters
silence also
matters it
matters that silence
isn’t passive
only
if it isn’t passive

This lends itself towards sign of possible resolution: “and talking matters / and silence / silence matters.”

No resolution is found, however, for the possible is always to be left in the hands of the unresolved. Elrick’s attention continually remains diverted upon what is immediately raw. The writing flickers, quavering at the point of unleashing directed knowledge. Only, Elrick is never interested in having the work be so invested outside of its own means. The poet remains fixedly open in her process, while the work stays permeably closed in exasperated gasping over spent material. Everything seemingly enters into the writing as simply as it ever exits. The results are a much hampered, exquisite yet harmless display of various disturbing syntactical layering back of everyday speech. Yet that lingering buzz which never dissipates hangs in the air, willing itself insistently onwards.

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Review Posted on August 01, 2013
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