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One Girl Babylon.

by Ruth Ellen Kocher New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University, November 2003 $14.00, ISBN 1-930-97433-7

Kocher delivers concentrated doses of unadorned reality--not necessarily harsh and brutal but hardly always pretty, either. Her poems play out in short bursts of writing that are intense, clean and sparing, creating an uneasy jazz. They hit notes that test readers, yet draw us in deepen "Song of Evelyn, Upstairs" weaves two voices--a sassy subject and an introspective speaker: "Evelyn of voices,/ of men/ I have plenty/ one with a big long car that's white/ and I look good in/ I will say that twice/ because I do look good/ in that car/ ... / madonna of projects/ pieta of her house".

Structurally, the book has academic tones--sections with Latin titles, a dozen epigraphs by authors as varied as Arthur Rimbaud, Louise Gluck and Quincy Troupe--but fortunately Kocher maintains a balance between her obvious intellect, command of poetic craft and her ability to express an intangible sense of flesh and soul. In "Path," an observation of a teenage boy mowing the lawn turns into a reflection on youth, beauty, desire, the inevitability of time: "He does not know/ that before my lungs failed-before/ the tin sting of radiation, and the small/ eye of tissue formed in may throat/ a tornado of dark cells filling it--I was beautiful ... / and so he mows, and mows,/ ... / As though youth were really not/ the end of us both." Kocher is at her best when focusing on the single moment, the single object, elongating and stretching out mundane instances to reveal universal mysteries, complex histories.

Holly Bass is a writer and performer. Her book reviews have appeared in The Washington Post Book World,The Philadelphia Inquirer and Tema Celeste International.
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Author:Bass, Holly
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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