BC Poetry 2017: "then/again" by Michelle Elrick (Nightwood Editions)

Excerpt from “spilt flour”

and I try to keep working with the pain in my chest (getting
worse), the lump in my throat: I just swallow more frequently.
think about paper.

reams of towel unroll toward me, sliced zigzag, embossed 
and shot with ink (invisible, black-lit). count up: 264,
thirty times/minute. ambidextrous swing

between the right and left hand wave: goodbye is one of those
things that does not get easier with experience. it begins again:
I am running out of the room

with only one shoe on, saying I will stay in touch. the other
shoe, my other hand. (switch). folded paper towel inches 
for the edge on belts made of strap.

trough and rod conveyor: two thumbs up, a nervous laugh, 
a pat on the back. I say go get ’em tiger instead of I love you.
think about baseball.


Michelle Elrick is the author of To Speak (The Muses’ Company, 2010). Her poetry has appeared in Contemporary Verse 2, Event, Poetry Is Dead and on CBC television. She was a finalist in the CBC Poetry Prize in 2015. then/again is Elrick's second collection of poetry. Raised in BC, she lives and writes in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


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.” – Lorna Crozier


Arrived March 2017.


Book Launches: April 3rd in Abbotsford, April 4th in Vancouver, April 5th in Gibsons, and April 6th in Courtenay. (Yeesh, I'm tired just typing it up!)

Purchases: From the Nightwood Editions website or at your local bookstore. If you're in St. John's, Newfoundland, Michelle recommends her personal favourite, Broken Books. $18.95.


Grenading deft surprises.

The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.

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