Saturday, November 22, 2014

Joanna Penn Cooper's What is a Domicile?

I almost can’t write about a book when I like it this much. Texts like this inspire such an emotional, visceral reaction that I can't always put it into words. I too seem to wake to a certain "quality of weirdness;" feel seasick, like I have "sea legs" in the mornings. I too feel like I am living on rations; like I am "always learning/all the freaking time: How to lose how to lose how to lose."

I have said before that I appreciate when it is so easy to insert oneself into a book; to feel its "everyday-ness" so acutely. The repeated objects; the repeated images—the crowns, the kites, the headphones, for example—offer a strong  narrative, even though these poems are often lyrical too, occupying both poetic spaces equally well. The poems talk back and forth with one another, having a dialog among themselves, which, as I have said before, I like very much. The poems exist very comfortably in the house of their book.

I noticed that the poems had echoes of one of my favorite poets, whom I have also written about, Gina Myers. Her poems do very similar things as Penn Cooper’s poems. Myers’s poems offer a similar kind of comfort. I wonder if Penn Cooper is familiar with Myers and who Penn Cooper’s influences may be. All poems, no matter who writes them, tend to lean on each other; tend to have their own lineage. What is Penn Cooper’s poetic lineage?

Ani DiFranco says there is always a “you” and always a “you” that the singer sings to. There is certainly a “you” here and I wonder who it is. Is it the protagonist’s lover; her baby; herself? Us, as the readers of her text? The poet is quite self-referential and meta, even using this particular word at one point in the book, and he protagonist even says in the poem “Our New Year,” “This poem, you may have noticed, has an I and a you. This poem is the daughter we don’t have.”

In the second part of the book, there is a kind of breaking down of form, and of tone, somewhat. The lines become shorter, the poems more fragmented, but by the end of this second section, it’s like the poems build a stronger domicile for themselves, a sturdier place to rest.

For me, the best part of these poems is that not only do they let themselves rest, but they allow us to rest as well. Yes, this is part of what makes a good book: it is a place to come home to.  

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