April 2004

Janine Armin

poetry

Skincerity by Laura Elrick

In her collection of poems entitled Skincerity, Laura Elrick has made a brave foray into the genuine with a penetrating look into the novelty of language. The cover art of a hand scrawled with the childlike image “I heart Ny” over an army fatigue background warrants the title of this collection in that it is an ironic look at sincerity. Her poetry harks back to the mid-seventies wherein writers like bpNichol and Bill Bisset tried desperately to inundate the word with value and eliminate the excesses of modern language. Ultimately these legends succeeded, as does Laura Elrick, though in a completely untouched way. This poet has forged new ground, where the only danger lies in confronting our own inability to recognize sincerity.

The title poem “Skincerity” is as formally telling as it is literally in that it seems to account for the approach Enrick has taken in writing this collection. “Skincerity” as an isolated poem is a metaphor for the entire collection. This is a poem that jumps around youthful negotiations of what school and sexuality mean:

. . . My mind, is currently occupied. Coming from content dyslexia, since no comma subordinate clause diagnosed it. Aks and you might receive. A myriad of / Built so, with the humble little blocks. Fits [here I find I have misunderstood what is wanted.

Italics and brackets signal interior meaning. These external communications from a second narrator, indicated by the bracket [ give the reader the sense that he has company. Someone is reading with him, with an equally judging, though possibly more informed eye. There is a humanity to the text in that the poet does not isolate herself from the reader, but chooses rather to accompany him on his journey.

Elrick uses hyphens and commas with the same precise permanence of Alexander Pope in his use of the semicolon. In “Serial Errant,” which details the perils of motherhood, preconceived notions on what a fit mother is, and meditations on job qualifications, Enrick’s hyphens mimic spliced content:

Tell me-when we arrive at-Exaggerated body language-
“Single mother”-What’s written here-“Can you read?”

In “Dimensions of Calm” her careful use of the hyphen punctuates her words and adds “dimension” to their formerly restrictive meanings:

when sunsnap
sheet-
back-
boys-
slip
pinned
to shade

Like the canonical poet Pope, she shows us the beauty in punctuation. A collection that will yield the silent fruits of small publishing houses like Krupskaya, her work should enter the new canon of subversive but historically informed literature.

Elrick plays with the space of the page so as to express visually her linguistic goals. In the following example she reinvents romance:

Man and woo-man
Self-coo vibrating

In “Dimensions of Calm” she takes into her own control prescribed definitions:

Charity-
Faith-based Beggars
Forth
Women-
Children-things
A dozen
Oil Floats-
Bloats
American Man:

The best art informs the reader that she must problematize her world and create her own self-referential art. One cannot possibly understand another’s point of view, one must create ones own and offer it up for interpretation. Elrick’s Skincerity does just that; she invites us to wonder at her power to communicate while at the same time inspiring us to do the same.

Her inner consciousness resides in the brackets – guiding our instinctual interpretations of meaning, so that we too commiserate on the “dimensions in a street.” Her poems elucidate material existence. She confronts societal norms and splices them with grammatical and formal alterations, which serve to translate original meanings into personal dogmas. In “Arctic Drilling,” she writes

The polar ocean ones
Immune to freezing
(some kind of
anti-freeze in their blood)

Elrick’s lyric poetry gives off a sensation of totality. A round text, with hesitations from outside the main body are often italicized or thematically set apart.

Subtle capitalizations of words unaccustomed to such regality offer hysterical punches to the text. These poems are epitomes, what Bachelard recognized in his studies of Mallarme and Elliot, how poetry is the essence of things, a personal infraction of cosmological/ontological study.

Comical rhymes circulate societal criticisms. In “Tow to Mouth” Elrick divulges the unknown secret of

bar-graph
tits
“what a glorious
drill-bit
that [hmm

Hunger888Hunger888Hunger888

The thick skin of her sincerity is laid down in eloquent and precise lines, which never approach excess. Skincerity is a true study of the impact of the single word.

Skincerity by Laura Elrick
Krupskaya
ISBN: 1928650171
88 Pages