Loads of Learned Lumber

Friday, July 22, 2016

Noelle Kocot, _Soul in Space_

ANOTHER GOOD ONE from Kocot. Four sections. The first has a lot of short poems with short lines, often with phrases rather than complete sentences, clipped, not giving a whole lot away but even so with stray lines of direct address: "That's all I got," "My mind is not right" (or is that just citing Lowell?), "It will all be okay, I promise."

Part two: a nine-page poem, most of it statements about "it," but the pronoun has no antecedent until the second page: "I will be mad. / / I will be mad because it is my mother."  So, in some ways, a familiar kind of poem about an aging parent ("It liked looking at pictures of cats / On the computer"), but the simple alienation-effect of the pronoun brings out a very particular aspect of this experience (I can attest), one's intimate involvement in a difficult process that one can do little to alleviate, that one can sometimes only watch.

That's the thing with Kocot (for me). She creates a charged intersection of the confessional and the surreal. I wish we could revive that grand old term "expressionist," but we're probably too far down the road for that.

Part three: perhaps my favorite, actually, all sonnets (nineteen), exuberant in their verbal invention yet also strictly containbed by the form--another good example of two divergent things happening at once, pulling aginst each other, yet also strengthening each other.

The wolf howled at the flock, linguistics
Didn't matter. I spout tubes today from
My head, the trees, leaves, all over the place.
Another blue valley in a starboard eye-socket,

A paper touch of something else.

The language is in flower, but the kenosis is ongoing: "I am not finished emptying myself, even though / I thought I was." Nonetheless (unlike James Wright?), "I have not wasted my life."

Part four: harder to characterize. Seems connected to part one, but more expansive, perhaps more ambitious, still streaked with pain, but with a weary sort of spirituality;

          Is this a 
message? A message to whom? Is it
To you, who polishes me like a pearl?

The acknowledgements page indicates that the book's title is the translation of a Jarrell poem, "Seele in Raum," which has a couple of lines that might account for this book's hybrid of mystery and candor:

            This is senseless?
Shall I make sense or shall I tell the truth?
Choose either--I cannot do both.

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