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Michelle Elrick's then/again is a poetic account of finding home, and the meanings and moments that the concept of home can come to embody. The collection tracks the poet through a landscape of intimate places--an ancestral home in Scotland, a mother's birthplace in Salzburg, a childhood home on the West Coast--as well as the memory-warped terrain of the poet's past houses.
In brief poetic capsules that combine to form long, lyrical narratives, Elrick enfolds layers of tactile and remembered experience, offering continual moments of surprise. In the observer's eye, the double act of perceiving and writing lends transformative and mythic properties to the everyday: a heron drums a pattern of shadows on the surface of the sea, wings tick with quartz regularity. bay clouds spot red, bulbs of peach bloom, smoulder and die down into blue. The collection is infused by a sense of nostalgia and longing within the present moment, illustrating the elusiveness of home even while it is being lived: I watch as the day opens, expanding its geometry. diffuse light penetrates the blind. hot sun yellows cold concrete (caress stretching across the courtyard).
Each quiet moment of reflection builds upon the others to produce a sense of place that is as immediate and fleeting as home itself. Elrick has an uncanny sense for capturing and illuminating those moments that will later glow in memory.
I am thrilled with the sudden left turns within these poems. A reader, in almost every stanza, ends up in a different place than where she assumed she was going to go. There are wonderful small grenades of surprise and such deftness with the syntax and diction.