Monday, January 9, 2012

Quill & Quire Review of Carapace

Laura Lush’s third collection is awash in dualities: it is as much a celebration of life and new beginnings as a metaphysical journey into the notion of endings. The poems constantly switch from ironic to solemn, loving to hurt, empowerment to desolation. Anchoring these conflicting states, however, is the primacy of imagery.

Poems like “Sunset,” focused on how the eye sees – “your eyes, / anchored to the lake’s skyline, gazed the vastness” – evoke the works of John Ashbery and Wallace Stevens. Here the skyline becomes most overwhelming at its vanishing; to see the sky is to approach it not as a thing but a kind of activity, a poetic process.

Many of the poems in Carapace are painfully intimate. Giving birth becomes a stage upon which the constant colliding of psychic states – the elegiac against the euphoric, for example – produces a synthesis that gives the individual conditions new significance they would not possess in isolation. Elsewhere, the poems “Time Under” and “First Born” poignantly consider the “colossal effort of one foot in front / of the other” required in the midst of grief.

A carapace is the dorsal (upper) section of the exoskeleton on a variety of animals, including crustaceans and tortoises. The collection retains the image of the shell, especially as it relates to Lush’s nuanced explorations of human vulnerability. While it would be convenient to don a shell in our weaker moments, the poet suggests, to carry a carapace at all times would most likely be debilitating.
Carapace is a thoughtful collection, to be read and appreciated for its ideas about nature, family, and love. “This tableau vivant all yours” Lush writes in “Right Now at This Moment.” This moment, and many others in the collection, prompt us to see the world anew.