cover image Third Voice

Third Voice

Ruth Ellen Kocher. Tupelo, $16.95 trade paper (114p) ISBN 978-1-936797-73-8

Kocher (Ending in Planes) takes a cue from T.S. Eliot’s essay “The Three Voices of Poetry” as she utilizes the third voice—of a dramatic character—to thread history and the present. Sinking into the uncomfortable truths of her characters, Kocher uses these voices—including those of Richard Pryor, Paul Robeson, Pearl Bailey, and Eartha Kitt—as a means of challenging racism and exposing its changing reflection, whether it manifests as a grotesque caricature or a psychic wounding. Kocher mixes instructions on the running of a minstrel show with short skits featuring fictional women with names such as Lacy N. Igga and historical figures such as Malcolm X. In “[No Saints] One Act,” the poetic “I” is replaced with the poetic “You,” with the self becoming another character: “If you spoke to the voice in your head you could finally understand but would discover a different language.” There’s a lot to process in this collection, but the language is rich, deep, lyrical, and engaging enough to support the reader through the complexity of the presentation. The dramatic voices that operate throughout act as a reminder that history is a fragmented reality with many angles, not simply a linear series of indisputable facts. (June)