Elevate Difference

The Wave-Maker: Poems

If Elizabeth Spires' poetry collection, The Wave-Maker, presents a single image, it is something deceptively simple, like the flick of a blouse hanging on a clothesline. Difficult subject matter such as death, aging, and the meaning of life are examined by peering in to closely examine the minutiae. Here, life is made up of the smallest of things: the snowy hill, the snail's shell of a home, and how everyone needs a "a place to be quiet in."

Spires's poems are spare and airy. In "Story of a Soul," light enters a room where the "journal is deliberately cryptic." Like the windows the speaker wipes clean, this collection's poems are streamlined until they "everything is immaculate." The smallest of details are made mystical: the courage of a snail teaches something the speaker is not quite sure of, a white room suggests existence or lack thereof, and the tenacious bamboo in the midst of a thirsty backyard is in need of the speaker's hand. The Wave-Maker is bold because it asks what will happen once we leave. It is brave because it heeds to the present as much as it hints or recounts the past.

One of the best poems in the book focuses on the popular computer game The Sims. Spires retells the game as "explained by a child." Deceivingly simple statements make for a sharp poem full of meaning. Spires writes how "you design the people" and "adults don't have to have jobs they can cheat: / push the rosebud & money appears." Clear cut definitions of concepts like 'family' and 'love' shake readers into considering what is real or true. Spires writes, "a family is anyone who lives in the house with you," and "If you have Free Will you can starve or drown yourself / then you wander around as a ghost." Such details are chilling when considering the realities we form for ourselves.

Sadly, some of the lean lines seem brittle, as if the marrow has been sucked clean along with the flesh. All of the watching and observation sometimes results in a stagnant feeling. A line like "Foolish or true, the rose blooms only for you" seems too basic and loud for such a smart poet, and the poems' questions seem too obvious for such a subtle collection.

The Wave-Maker shows there is no beginning or end to the world. Instead, the wind comes or it does not. Meaning is brief and subjective. Spires's poems are careful waves that will wash over the reader, carrying him or her into poetry-centered meditation. We are all pallbearers, and we are all heroes. We can understand that we are all "a shell / a monument / a memory."

Written by: Lisa Bower, April 15th 2010