Larry Odegaard’s voice in The Elusive Hold and Other Poems is passionate and his poet’s eye painterly, as in the title poem, which begins: “Night washes the twilight’s leave-taking / in darker hues / with a restless, brooding brush. / The way grows entangled” and in “The Connection,” in which he makes effective use of alliteration and shifts in rhythm, “where gang punks with graffiti spray / poison calligraphy in the refuge of darkness.”
The book is, according to the back cover, about “requited and unrequited love,” and while that is timeless terrain for poetry, the details that Odegaard, a gay man, includes bring a refreshing specificity not often found in self-published work. He makes frequent use of vivid, sensual similes, as in “The Leave Taking,” in which the speaker addresses a distant lover: “Drunken on memories falling like poppy seeds on swollen desires.”
Yet sometimes the similes are overwrought; later, the same poem contains the awkward comparison, “…I see our images pierce through / growing entangled / like tortured oaks.” Inclusion of purple prose adjectives like “tortured” and the book-wide frequency of melodramatic nouns such as “pain,” “sorrow,” “hopes,” “dreams,” “mourning,” etc. signal the need for more ruthless editing.
At 202 pages, this is a long book of poems. Line-by-line compression is not a strong point of this work–the book generally has a prose-y feel–but patient readers not looking for concision will find a kind of melancholy beauty in some of the tender imagery offered here and in the humble, romantic tone of the speaker.