Bradley Harrison says that he “firmly believe[s] in a healthy balance of reverence and irreverence both in art and life.” The former is probably why he decided to brilliantly beat the bejeesus out of his own poetry in this amazing series of erasures. The latter is probably why I enjoy watching the process, his poetry continuously stripped down and torn into tinier and tinier kernels of lyrical truth. Over the course of these four poems, everything adorned and fabulous and unapologetically more
about the opening prose piece is chiseled away, until Harrison’s readers (or, at least this
reader) feels like the victim of a Zen drive-by. Everything was taken away, sure. But lose all those fancy word possessions, and we’re left with a deeper, more terribly lovely story.
In the first, narrative poem, we meet Isabella, with her white umbrella and blustering skirt. Her mysterious wandering through the poem conjures up the Girl from Ipanema; and as she passes—a ringing in her bones like a bell—one might experience a similar longing as the Gilberto and Getz heroine inspires. However, unlike that girl of Bossa Nova fame, we do begin to know Isabella; her inner self is laid barer and barer for us, as the page’s white space grows and grows. In the final poem, Isabella tries “not to wallow in the unknown,” and it’s only Harrison’s ability to dig and cut away and kill his darlings that allows the known world to reveal itself to her, and to us.