Michelle Elrick’s poetry is both quietly provocative and philosophically tantalizing. The same rhythm that pulses through her poems seems to guide and pervade her life.
For Elrick, the rhythm of writing is intrinsically part of her being.
“As a writer, the way I understand the world is through words,” she said while sipping from a steaming mug of green tea at Soma Café.
The 26-year-old’s first poetry collection, To Speak, was published this past spring after she won a first manuscript contest sponsored by CV2 and The Muses’ Company.
The tremendously eloquent and powerful collection marks her journey from a child into an adult, spanning themes of self-knowledge, memory, sexual identity and landscape.
The collection culminates in To Speak, a raw, sensual poem that Elrick described as probing the ability to greet the other as a whole soul, specifically asking: what is it to speak the words “I,” “love” and “you” to somebody?
Many of Elrick’s poems draw on her hometown of Abbotsford, B.C., while others speak to Winnipeg, her adopted home. She moved here four years ago, hoping to find a place to establish herself as a writer.
The Prairies, a landscape that Elrick sees as a metaphor for open-mindedness, led her on her journey of self-discovery.
“I needed Winnipeg, I needed the distance from home,” she said. “The difference of this place has really helped me to understand not only where I come from but also how I interact with my surroundings.”
Elrick splits her time between life as a musician and life as a writer, although the rhythm of music influences her writing.
“As I’m writing, I often speak the words out loud while writing them; the rhythm and the sound of the words dictate what will come next. There is a musical quality to my approach to poetry,” she said.
Writing with a typewriter also aids her in the creative process, filling pages to pull out ideas, thoughts, or images that are stuck in her head.
“The typewriter is its own thing, it’s almost like another character that you interact with. It’s loud – it talks back to you. You really have to engage your body with the typewriter in a way that’s different than writing by hand.”
The rhythm of walking also pulls her thoughts together.
“There’s something about the monotony of the rhythm of the feet that frees up some creative headspace.”
Elrick is currently writing a novel, Dust House, which is an exploration of home and identity. She hopes the novel will tie up themes from To Speak and allow her to move on to a new creative period of life.
“Every project, every season of life seems to have its own rhythm,” she said.
Published in Volume 65, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 7, 2010)