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Norma Cole. Omnidawn (IPG, dist.), $15.95 paper (108p) ISBN 978-1-890650-68-1
Terse and delightfully challenging, and more serious than its comical title implies, this latest collection from the prolific poet and translator explores short lines, short units, blank space, and things left unsaid. After an introductory ode, Cole splits her work up into three long parts: the first, "14000 Facts," compiles syntactically independent, often self-descriptive, very short poems. In one of them, "thoughts shared/ line up// little ships/ light up"; in another, "A sign is a symbol for blood-/ soaked arguments." Gnomic, sometimes quite traditional in their symbols (doves, lutes), these compact pieces are more accessible than much of Cole's demanding earlier work. In her second sequence, "More Facts," short units speak across the borders of the page. In one transition, "nobody wanted// to hear that/ conversation/ is just// possible/ emptiness is/ relative// the way air/ resists": the page break, coming before the word "conversation," stands for the separateness of human bodies, the barriers to conversation after all. This focus on difficulty, on what comes between words and meanings, continues into the prose and verse of "If I'm Asleep," whose fragments can feel like erasures: "Night is approaching/ Butch// one pill less." Cole (Where Shadows Will) deals in hints, and in mysteries. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/20/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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