POEM FOR THE END OF TIME AND OTHER POEMS by NOELLE KOCOTELIZABETH TREADWELL Reviews
Poem for the End of Time and Other Poems by Noelle Kocot
(Wave Books, 2006)
[First published in TRAFFIC, Issue No. 2, Ed. Elizabeth Treadwell, 2006-2007]
Be the skin on my lap
As I kneel once again upon your absence.
This is a beautiful book of mourning.
Noelle Kocot’s twisting use of sturdy, unkempt, unbossed metaphor makes me glad, as do her knock-out, knockabout turns of phrase, and her well-hewn, precious (in the best sense) words—each its own gift, measure, and presence. The sixteen short, ‘other’ poems that begin this collection are very strong, and in the fullest sense, strange, for Kocot is a writer whose bravery and talent allow her work to fulfill its own idiosyncrasy.
Two of my favorites here are “Lithium” (“my mind is a sea that eats me”) and “My Devilish Ancestors Skirt Me on the Sly” (“O what is real? God. Damn.”). To the final of the opening poems, “Your Death,” I can only say, brava.
The final, title poem, is long and limited by: its own title, its own all-America-in-a-pen dream of it, the over-ness of the myth of a generational or national speaker. The final poem cannot ‘succeed’ in the way that nearly all of the earlier ones do because it stretches thin like the empire that first accompanied its uncomfortable (or fakely comfortable) form—it splinters in specifics and tumbles on enormity. This, however, is not to deny its tender rendering of poets migrating to Brooklyn:
America your poets are flocking to my neighborhood
They are sick of your insane demands my neighborhood
They take jobs at dry cleaners
They take jobs at Starbucks
They take jobs in editorial offices getting their asses pinched
by washed-out Medeas
They take jobs cleaning the apartments of drug dealers
They take jobs licking the blood from the grasses of cemeteries
Nor is it to fault the poet, who “sing[s] in the shower to you my neighborhood.”
For this poem is also a lament, dedicated to the author’s late husband, and it is enacted on the page with the valor, grace, and wit only a poet-priest can muster. Thus it ‘succeeds’ as a keening, as if such a judgement made any sense at all, as if it were not a bit dreadful of me to use it to make my previous point, some critical gesture about Euroamerican (North branch, U.S. corner) poetry in general.
Elizabeth Treadwell is the author of 7 books and a blog, secretmint.blogspot.com.