Elsbeth Pancrazi’s first book, Full Body Pleasure Suit, creates a defamiliarizing near-future (or current?) dystopic paradise through which she and the reader might explore, as she says, “how to connect, be present, and be sensual in a virtual world I started to imagine as a possible future.” It’s a dizzyingly smart, funny, and delightful read–almost as pleasurable as having a coffee in the mid-morning July-in-Oregon sun with the poet herself, while a hummingbird buzzes around the two of you like a tiny spy-drone.
Which I had the good fortune to do, thanks to Tavern Books and the Wrolstad Residency at The Rice Place on the Clackamas River, outside Portland. And thanks, most, to Elsbeth’s generosity–when Tavern told her they’d put together a residency for her, as part of her manuscript’s being chosen as the 2016 Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series selection, she replied, “But what about the other Wrolstads?,” inviting Ruth Madievsky and me to join her.
This generosity is evident not only in the poems she shares with us here, but in their conception. “The Interior at Night” was, in part, conceived in a workshop Elsbeth and I hosted during our residency; we asked participants to make a list of words they would never use in a poem, and then we traded with one another and, of course, wrote poems using all those forbidden words. The poem holds in one deft hand the figure of a craven Secretary of the Interior, one whose “job is to fire up the dead fish on a grill,” and the poignance of that position, one that considers “the indefinite number of unregulated pleasures.” Likewise, the paractactic observations in “Sasquatch” highlight our disconnection from our environment, as in: “Some sites of famous and important killings / are camps for recreational rafters now”. With these poems, Pancrazi invites us to the invention of a new kind of nature poem, one which does not celebrate nature so much as elegize our relationship with it.