DIORAMA OF A PEOPLE, BURNING by Bradley Harrison
Ricochet 2012; 31 pp
Reviewed by Annie Won
DIORAMA OF A PEOPLE, BURNING may be a slim 31 pages of erasure, but its small volume belies a larger gravity that is worth pause. The notion of a diorama involves a set scene, angle, and arrangement, and like a diorama, Harrison’s thematic gravity holds the work together; an angle is considered through multiple eyes. The work meditates on the density of sensation through time, as a series of prose poems progressively erased through two iterations. Bradley Harrison brings to surface the lines between words and the unsaid as he reconsiders the nature of the stated quotidian.
The book begins as a dedication into the ordinary as opposed to an anticipated intimacy with a named person; Harrison writes, “for Colfax / for better / for worse. Harrison’s words contain a chewy density that carries us through the erasures, beginning with "Old men hawking chaw toward the cracks in the / sidewalk, talking the weather. Mostly not talking…/There is solitude in knowing. A depth one can swallow" (in “Her Problem of Gravity”).
Progressively erased from “Her Problem of Gravity,” Harrison’s telescoping eye moves the title into somatics, onto the face, not the scene, in “Her Gravity,” and finally "Gra y” — which speak of displacement and the consequences of physical, thematic, and emotional erasure. Often stated is the feeling of nothing, as in “In Defense of Currency;” the poem begins as, “There is nothing to do… / keep falling from trees, acorns, etc.” “Etc.” is written over and over; through the progressive erasures, the word persists.
Similarly, there is an exquisite use of the letter “o,” as erased from “In Defense of Currency,” to “o Currency,” to “o,” to the persistence of “o” in “Down.” The title is erased to words, to a letter, a moment’s pause of a feeling. What of this do we retain? What of a moment’s sensation is internalized and what is here to hold?
There are more questions than answers, which make this book a very contemporary American statement of what the future may hold. What persists through day-to-day interactions and relationships in the greater environment of economic, occupational, and overall future uncertainty? Harrison brings to the forefront a consideration of an individual within oneself, the resident fire of an individual’s core and its need to burn. The rest is erased.
As Harrison writes, “The current is / all it can offer…/There is nothing to do.” ("In of Currency”).