On the bus to work this morning, I read Bradley Harrison‘s Diorama of a People, Burning. A chapbook of erasure poems, Diorama is brief enough to be read in one sitting, yet complex enough to leave the reader with many meanings to think about. The chapbook contains original prose poems that, after composition, the poet rewrites as new poems by erasing words from the first. Dedicated to the town in which the author grew up, Diorama reveals more about Colfax, Iowa with less; each erasure is like adding (or pulling away?) a sheer cloth to a pile of words and memories.
Poetry and memory already have a tangled relationship, and reading through Harrison’s erasures I felt as though I was looking more directly at a representation of memory. The act of erasure as both a covering (with white-out) and uncovering (of other meanings) showed the layers of language in all of our acts of writing. I remember thinking to myself that I was learning something about Colfax from each poem. Not less from the erasures, just something else. By the end, the writing made me think about the town I grew up in and my own relationship to it; made me wonder what it would look like if represented to someone else.
Diorama of a People, Burning (Gold Line Press)