Monday, January 12, 2015

Book Review: The Green Condition

*Spinion Note: This piece has previously been published in Quail Bell Magazine.

The Green Condition is a lyrical collage composed of raccoons, metal-casting, Roman history, Seattle, and the trials and tribulations of moving. Though Colen dives into these distinct and metaphoric images in a stream of conscious-style, she ties them together through the narrator’s revealing one-liners:

Once I know what to listen for, I hear it all the time.

The Green Condition evokes the lush, overgrown arboreal environment that is the Pacific Northwest. At the same time, it evokes the loneliness that comes when a new job absorbs a significant other. The narrator has no choice but to observe her (his?) new surroundings.
When she leaves I put her toothbrush in my mouth. I hold it here two hours.
Comparisons of Seattle and Rome further evoke the narrator's loyalty to nostalgia. Unlike Rome, Seattle stands, and continues growing. Does the narrator hope for the fall of Seattle where the couple can return to their old life?

At one point we had a symbiosis. An understanding of how a life should look.

Enter the raccoons and metal-casting the narrator continues dissecting during these lonely days. Colen weaves these vastly different images together in a way that reveals a the narrator’s resolve in this new environment: scavenging to survive and building a thick skin despite a dissolvable core.

In the green condition there must be adequate strength for handling.

I am most interested in the bronze sculpture of the wolf, and the core that was made to hold it. The core that was designed to come apart in the end once the casting metal had cooled, held shape.

Was it the move? The raccoons? The longing for a fading love? The casting of a new shell to survive? We won’t know—but through these images, though at first glance appear irrelevant, Colen deconstructs them in a way that inspires readers to find symbolism and meaning in the most uncharted manner.

Elizabeth J. Colen is the author of the poetry collections Money for Sunsets (Steel Toe Books, 2010) and Waiting Up for the End of the World: Conspiracies (Jaded Ibis Press, 2012), as well as flash fiction collection Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake (Rose Metal Press, 2011). She lives in Seattle.

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