Cornelia Hoogland’s tightly scored long poem explores the thin membrane between the living and the dead.
In response to her brother’s sudden death, Hoogland explores the shift in gravity his dramatic absence creates. Set on the Salish sea on Vancouver Island’s east coast, Trailer Park Elegy reaches back two thousand years to the First Peoples, as well as to the brother whose delight was summers spent at Deep Bay.
Hoogland looks to her child-experiences of death, as well as to chaos theory, dark matter, geology, and the effect of noise pollution on whales. She turns grief round and round, enlarges it, pushes beyond received ideas of closure and grief’s stages. Death is not only part of life, the dead assign their unfinished work to the living. Hoogland’s narrator puts in the time. Listens.
The reader participates in Hoogland’s excavations as she leans in, digs up an absurdity, hits a fault line. Similarly, she inquires deeply into her brother’s life, listening for what he reveals. Through spare, never-sentimental language, Hoogland’s lyric resources are adequate to human loss and suffering. “I see reflected in my daughters’ faces / the story my brother animates. / He opens his hands, / shapes a funnel his life / pours through.”
The book’s form, a long poem, provides thematic coherence for the multiple contingencies that disturb the narrator’s present. Like keeping balls up in the air, Hoogland expertly catches and tosses, thus sustaining her imaginative energies throughout the book. Here she is, contemplating the cliché that life flashes before the eyes of the dying, or questioning memory stored in her body like trauma or fat, when suddenly there she is, fifty years earlier, constructing the highway at the accident site.