I admit it. I purchased Erica Wright’s chapbook Silt because of its cover. Light gray with a simple design — it looked like a soft, but sturdy read. I didn’t know this poet’s work until I read Silt — and I found that the poems inside were sturdy — in a stubborn, edgy sort of way. But, there was nothing soft about the works.
There’s no other way to describe the characters found in Wright’s chapbook but to call they surly. Sure of themselves, they are not afraid to take chances. For example, the narrator in “Taking a Punch” explores her life among men. In the opening lines, the persona explains that after her father and uncles install an electric fence she explores the new addition: “When left alone, I threw sticks at it/then grabbed hold, felt my skin snap, released.” Later, when she fell from a tree, she listens to a brother who explains, “it would hurt less if I didn’t cry.” The narrator in this poem seems to take these physical lessons with her for even harder life lessons: “And later when someone I loved/said he didn’t and never had, I managed//to nod, numb myself until morning/when I learned that whiskey’s a lousy anesthesia.”
Not only are the characters not afraid to take chances, but the poet herself is not afraid to use uncommon metaphors to explore life’s events. For example, in “Anniversary of Sorts” the narrator uses a messy house (with such images as “caked cough syrup bottles” and a “garage floor dirty despite the brooms” to explain the darker life of marriage and family and note “There are some places/not meant to be clean for very long.” In another poem, “Night Sweat” the speaker trades descriptions of physical discomfort for more emotional distress: “My body, assassin, is a night hunter/makes me see serpents.”
Wright’s chapbook is a recent purchase I made from dancing girl press. As I noted, I was not familiar with her work, and a quick search revealed that she has many poems online. My favorite poem, “Taking a Punch” can be read/heard at From the Fishouse. Click here to listen to Wright’s fantastic work.