Laura Elrick


Propagation by Laura Elrick

by Laura Elrick
Kenning Editions, Dec 2012
106 pages / $14.95  Buy from Amazon or SPD







The poems in Propagation might seem quiet at first, or early on in the book, consisting mostly of simple phrases restated again and again with different line breaks, subtle emphasis shifting in language we might otherwise overlook, and while that might be true in some cases, don’t be fooled: these poems are loud shouts and angry jokes, raucous and just as ready to hit you as to be read. And this is a good thing during a manufactured crisis in poetry having to do with affect and identity and stuff you already know about if you’re all conversant with what’s going on in the poetry teacup right now.

What’s great is that all that stuff is beside the point. Delivered in a deadpan lateral slide that manages to recall both Gertrude Stein and Larry Eigner, Propagation is a defiant book, ready to just provide you with language you’ve taken for granted and let you figure it out. Again, this is a very, very good thing. Propagation doesn’t so much present with you with poetry to appreciate or interpret as it presents you with words and phrases cut mostly like chunks off vernacular language and just offered, take it or leave it, life for example the following excerpt from an untitled poem:

this is really
thanks thanks
this is
this is
really this
is         thanks
thanks and you
and you
and you
and you
this is
and you

So what’s above is both devoid of content and overdriven with it: devoid because we as readers don’t “get anywhere” beyond a stutter of I, you, this, and thanks, and overdriven because the more insistent the excerpt gets at connecting “you” and “thanks” the more sinister it seems, as if the thanks might be forced or insincere or desperate or all three. Many of the poems here work like this: what seems wan gets pounded home with great force until something as ephemeral as a thank you lands in a constantly shifting territory between and I and a you that don’t need to be named or described because it’s not them that matter it’s the gesture trapped in the stammer.

And as deft as Elrick is with empty generalities, she’s just as good with the kind of local and particular that you might be looking for in a “normal” poem, as in the following excerpt:

do you want
bio fuel
cardmoms want
to know why this svelt pixie
is cutting the floor to pieces
why you approach on impulse
asking why
she danced with two knives in the hallway
circling her intensity and anguish
which has something to do with Tecumseh (?)
vaguely but it does why
this girl is stabbing her kidney
do you want
the highest stiletto
the best speech
wicked smartness
want the schooling
(you said you did in the application)


September 9th, 2013 / 11:05 am