A review of Eric Larsen’s “Ursa Minor”

Eric Larsen's "Ursa Minor"

Ursa Minor, location of the north star, locator star, dependable guide, a title for a book of poems by Eric Larsen that continually pinpoints the reader and at the same time disperses their sense of foundational stability. This is the tension at the heart of the book – the tension of an explosion that is not a singular moment but a perpetual expansion. This is a book written in the middle of such an explosion, knowing that we are all exploding, that every observation is moving at incredible speeds away from every other observation. And yet they talk.

These poems are not mystical hymns to the supernatural. They do not look back hopefully to some shamanistic vision luxuriating in the warmth of a balanced universe that understands needs and pets fur. These are calculations made during a forest fire. There is hope here but it is hope that has shattered, is shattering, and that will be shattered.

“Orange safety cones conceal shells. Some / tipped in blow-back, brushed by wheels. / Each positioned for a shell game / or a chinois for molten lug nuts; / changing a tire in a sink.”

There are explosions of time. A disaster has happened, is happening and will happen.
The series of poems titled “Metro anaerobe” repeats the refrain “one hundred million years” – a number combining a human/nonhuman scale of time repeated in household products and fossils of various kinds: “unpredicted civilizations will unearth the fossilized remains / of Andromeda Sasquatch / with no dopamine traces.”

There are explosions of space. HO scale trains suddenly “life-size now, listing and bloating –.” The inside and outside, the there and here. The tension between the expanding catastrophe and the continuity of imagery is a brave construction of the human and nonhuman: “And over a telephone, the humans on Claret Beach / break even under a moon. / Their comprehensive selves remain stones when the sea recedes / and their internal worlds are carried away.”

Images here are both epic and intricate. There is a grandiosity coupled with intimate detail. Manipulations of scale. The poem as a “pocket universe.” That is, the poem as both refuge from and product of an infinitely expanding catastrophe. And the poem as a tiny universe. The micro and meta universe in conjunction and argument.

The overall structure expresses a state of continual parataxis. Images speak to each other over pages. Themes build and tear each other down. “The two concepts were never meant to touch; / in decay it becomes less defined.” This book is an aporetic hymn. Continually caught between center and edge – the fluctuating punctuating light.
To get “Ursa Minor,” go here.

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