Proposition at the Walk-In Infinity Chamber by Bobbie Lee Lovell. Finishing Line Press, 2017
Reviewed by Mary C. Rowin
The poems in Bobbie Lee Lovell’s Proposition at the Walk-in Infinity Chamber reflect on the arc of relationships and the connections between people. The writing is earthy and the poet is scrappy, getting up and starting over, regarding these life experiences in sardonic and humorous tones, but always climbing up and out of the abyss.
The title poem, “Proposition at the Walk-in Infinity Chamber,” uses an art installation called “the Walk-In Infinity Chamber,” a room lined with mirrors and lights, as a trope for possibility and hope: “They say it’s just an illusion / but let’s take our chances. /…tonight we’ll be the center of the universe.”
In “When to Say When,” Lovell says never. “…not even / when you’re drowning. Never.” In spite of her determination, things change, but not without resistance. In “First Thought Upon Waking,” Lovell acknowledges that today is the day she is being left, but she wants to close her eyes “like Princess Aurora / until you hack your way back…and finally set things right.”
Coming to terms with her new reality, Lovell suggests in “Hotel Heart” that some guests become permanent residents:
Sometimes it’s simpler
to seal a room shut
than to clean up
the mess left behind.
A person can always add on.
Lovell’s background and interest in art—she has worked as a graphic designer and art director—is evident in several ekphrastic poems such as “The Dance of Life,” after a painting of the same name by Edvard Munch. From virginal anticipation to black regret, the figures of lone women represent the past and future, while a couple in the center dance and Lovell asks “You are still dancing. You are, you are. / Well, aren’t you?”
A new theme emerges at the midpoint of Proposition at the Walk-In Infinity Chamber: the edge. According to Lovell, the edge is a metaphorical line between despair and hope, union and separation. In “Prayer at a Cliff’s Edge,” Lovell’s entreaty is to be satisfied, to have purpose and resolve “…to bud on the breath of spring, again and again.” In “What It Is About the Cliff,” Lovell ends the poem, “Each time I return from the cliff is a Holy Yes / to living, to resilience.” In “At the Summit,” Lovell finds “…it was really / about the climb.”
The first and last poems in Proposition at the Walk-In Infinity Chamber are speculative. Inside the infinity chamber “…we’ll be human-shaped holes / in a caged galaxy.” Angels, aliens, explorers in space. In the final poem, “Mothership,” Lovell is surprised to realize she does not want to return. “…homesickness waned / to complacence.” She has acquiesced “to the primitive patterns / of Earth years, earthling lives.”
Proposition at the Walk-In Infinity Chamber is for readers who appreciate a poet who writes about the muddle of life with toughness and courage, and who employs a variety of poetic styles in telling her story.