In the Standard Model of Big Bang Cosmology, about 300,000 years after its birth the temperature of the universe had dropped to the point where the first simple elements were formed, matter became cool enough for light to at last move freely, and the universe itself became transparent to radiation. This transition during the infancy of the universe is called the “surface of last scattering.”
These poems map out such zones of last interaction. In the texts, the visual and semantic vectors of authorial intention run headlong into the messy and mundane material stuff of everyday life. In the apparent cause and effect of the resultant textual interactions between writer and reader, each influences the consequent shape, direction and possible outcome of the other. Any meaning is therefore entirely contingent upon the readers’ engagement of the text, without which it is uncertain these texts exist at all. From his ongoing long poem “The Julian Days,” framing abstract and representational takes on life and death with a calendar system that is cumulative rather than cyclical; to poems that respond to the auras of the visual and the aural that envelope language; to a poetic narrative enacting a history of what Charles Olson called “the human universe”; McElroy engages what words mean. There are no cause-and-effect events in the universe, he reminds us—there are only interactions.