cover image Of Marriage

Of Marriage

Nicole Cooley. Alice James, $15.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-938584-77-0

Cooley (Girl After Girl) brings an impressive range of literary forms, voices, and conceptual lenses to bear on lingering questions about language and intimacy in her accomplished seventh collection. Utilizing tankas, triolets, dictionary definitions, and linguistic portraits, Cooley places vastly different styles and traditions in dialogue with one another. As the collection unfolds, her formal dexterity evokes both limitlessness and constraint, mirroring the speaker’s commitment, but also her ambivalence and her visible trepidation: “I twist/ the wedding beads around my neck. I’ve lost/ my ring, silver and antique.” The line breaks convey a palpable sense of unease as they wind through a form that is described as a “daybook.” The seemingly unnatural pauses created by Cooley’s enjambment suggest the speaker’s hesitation as her modern voice is made to fit the confines of literary tradition in much the same way that a complex and multifarious life is situated within what is here portrayed as the thoroughly unmodern framework of marriage. Cooley thus remains ever vigilant in dangerous terrain, however tamed: “We stand together in the glass garden made of sand and fire.” Throughout, Cooley fearlessly weaves together threads on inadequacy, the inability of the individual to achieve a kind of selfless intimacy, and the shortcomings of the iconic, long-standing institutions so often perceived as emblematic of closeness, self-sacrifice, and commitment. (June)