cover image Phantom Pains of Madness

Phantom Pains of Madness

Noelle Kocot. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $18 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-1-940696-30-0

Kocot follows Soul in Space with a collection that should further confirm some readers’ views of her as a visionary poet called to despair or ecstasy, delight or shame, by forces beyond her control. Each poem contains just one word per line: “Blood,” for example, begins “I/ Aired/ Out/ My Heart/ Like/ A/ Scumbag/ That/ Is/ Seeing/ The/ Light/ Of/ Day/ For/ The/ First/ Time.” Another poem concludes “But/ Then/ Again/ Living/ In/ The/ Empire/ Is/ Its/ Own/ Sorrow.” Such announcements resemble the content of prior work, but here the words must stand up on their own as well as in phrases, even once a reader gets used to the lines or non-lines of Kocot’s form (whose many precedents include the one-word lines of Robert Lax, the brief display texts of Jenny Holzer, and some kinds of graffiti). The pages, with their great white rectangles, almost invite the context of gallery art, though they also try to tell a story about Kocot’s mental breakdown and partial recovery: “Everything/ A/ Whirl/ Of/ Molecules.” These one-word lines may sound like a series of shouts, but they also sound like nobody else. Some readers may be turned off, but others will find Kocot to be perfectly like “The/ Commas/ That/ Lurch/ Us/ Into/ A/ Galaxy/ Of/ Forever.” (May)