Elevate Difference


Elizabeth Robinson’s new book of poetry, Apostrophe, is startling in a number of respects: more white space than word, more whisper than yawp, poems with one-word titles like “Wind” and “Lost”—and, in fact, titles like “Anemone” repeated twice, as if the author were revising herself or perhaps offering variations on a theme. The language first encountered seems startlingly abstract and enigmatic, although moments of sensational contact invoke Whitman’s advice: “missing me one place, search another,” at the end of “Song of Myself.”

In two epigraphs, the poet signals that the book is, in part, a narrative about grace, coming unpredictably like an a gift of words. Often, here, because of the sparseness of the lines, the silence in the interstices, the words seem more sacrifice than gift, offered almost reluctantly and with great caution. In her revisions, her repeated titles, her quiet musings, she experiments with forms of grace as made manifest in the wind, in the passage of time, in the unfolding of petals.

Perhaps the most extraordinary effect of the work, finally, is a product of the author’s singular talent as a sculptor of bodies: mouths and spines and armpits vivid, bare, resplendent: “My back pressed up against your back, and times’s tensile in between”—time and flesh, object and abstraction nestled up against each other.

Robinson’s title alludes to a poetic convention: the direct address, in this case I think to the reader, rather than to the wind or perhaps some supernatural being as others have done. An apostrophe is also, of course, a punctuation mark of elision or ownership. Read the white space; find what’s omitted, she asks, and there you will find a poet of remarkable control and evocative power.

Written by: Rick Taylor, January 6th 2007
Tags: poetry