A poet meditates on the things that everyday life does and doesn’t prepare us for.
Cox (Sorrow Bread, 2017, etc.), a Pushcart Prize and Whiting Award winner, takes the title of this elegant new volume of prose poems from Hamlet, whose titular character says, near that play’s climax, “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.” Hamlet is presumably talking about timeliness, but many of Cox’s pieces are, ironically, about untimeliness—about the events for which we aren’t ready. The book is dedicated to the author’s friend and fellow poet Jack Myers, who died in 2009. He memorializes his friend in “Wrought,” which opens, “Jack, our old age together lasted twenty minutes. The distillation of all we’d learned about economy…we sat rocking on the rented beach house porch—something we had joked about for years, the inevitable old poets’ home—and listened to gulls scavenge along the water.” The scene-setting here is gorgeous, but the poem is, at its core, a riff on its one-word title; “wrought” is both a craftsperson’s word—and what is poetry if not a craft?—and the base of “overwrought”: agitated, troubled, disturbed. The author mines both meanings, thinking back on his friend’s work while still clearly troubled by his early death. With such careful wordplay, Cox gives lie to the common notion that prose poetry is too formless to count as real verse. (Poet Charles Simic once said of prose poetry that it’s “regarded with suspicion not only by the usual haters of poetry, but also by many poets themselves.”) This collection proves that this suspicion has no basis in reality, as Cox is as careful with diction, rhythm, and even rhyme as one might be if they were writing strict alexandrines—and yet, his poems are as fluid and readable as Jack Kerouac’s novels.
Thrilling prose poems from a cherished writer.