Norma Cole
Where Shadows Will
(City Lights, 2009)

Norma Cole
Natural Light
(Libellum, 2009)

Skipping beats—jumping textures, welcome to Norma Cole’s telescopic compressions of the “first person plural.” Whether it’s vernacular (“in your dreams”), (“tons of clouds”) or technical (“Anacoluthon”), (“More ’Pataphysics”) the poems probe language’s borders, blotting up spilled light.

Cole jumbles her subjects and then splices them into a “crosscut universe.” Process and form are alloyed into durable filigree. Line leads to line, word to word. The seams are generally recessed and sagacious, occasionally “dropping stitches” to inject astonishment.

Serial prose poems like “Artificial Memory 7” contrast with spare verse like “Allegory 10.” This presentational switching emphasizes Cole’s skill at subjective switching in which everything is part of a “subtext hard-pressed to find a resting place.” Yet there are respites, ambiences embedded in the relentless forward motion.

For me, a fluid lyricism is the glue in these ever-morphing, syntactically scintillating fountains: “all clipped together the fog cool dogeared it spotted with sparkles of light its heels.”

The “international memory” of Where Shadows Will, becomes “Collective Memory” in Natural Light. Here the fragments are fixed in their dispersed brokenness: “The nothing spread out all around.”

In “No Time at All” each isolated phrase reads like a separate performance in a matinee program. We are freed from narrative and delivered to the telling where “something blinked back.” The work is heroic an “epic without story.”

Above all, “the poem is a toy” and Cole, an ideal playmate. Abandon despair all ye who enter here. “Verily, kiddo.”