Julia Cohen proves herself a protean writer, engaged with both world and word, playing for keeps. A finely etched portrait of a relationship with a suicidal lover proves but the portal for the author to recover a self and bid it sing. A beautiful, original, and deft achievement.
In ways unforeseeable until the very fact of this book, Julia Cohen re-interrogates and reintegrates that ongoing paradox Psyche presents us—figure that refuses to stabilize the ongoing crisis between soul and mind. As of Psyche of old, Eros lurks everywhere, even in absence. But here, resisting the ease of mere allegory, Cohen stitches together differing form of texts—lyric verse, prose poems bordering on the surreal, brief narratives, excerpts from psychoanalysis—to unfold the agonized reality of a lover’s attempted suicide. This possible death, the intention of it, causes rifts of every sort—interpersonal and intrapersonal, putting out of balance that sublime confusion erotic love most depends upon: the relation of subject to object. That relation is also, Cohen knows, language’s own erotic life. In the face of an act that makes inarticulate all that must be said, all the should be said, she lets her language enact for us what poetry’s deepest faith might be. It’s a faith not empty of desire, but in ardent pursuit of it. For Cohen reveals, as a poet must, that the poem is a lover’s work, seeking as love itself does, to keep intact the relation between us and each object we encounter, all we exist among. I Was Not Born opens in the extreme difficulty of those relations falling apart; it ends in affirmation that word calls out as a lover calls—be it in sonnet or be it in text message—to its dearest counterpart, world.
In I Was Not Born, Julia Cohen kindles a pillar of fire that reminds us that we do not always get out alive, that not everyone survives her or his youthful dreams. Like “… breaking into an apple,” the nourishment, the seeds, the core of life pulses throughout this accomplished work.
If you relish a poetry of the ear and eye, the light touch of vowels mingling in a breathing landscape, then you will feast on this book and these poems from Julia Cohen. Here the news is alive and subtly elegant. Here the cognate child builds her musings syllable by syllable to talk of insects on snow and little cliffs. Here the phrase is music and memory is inexhaustible. The things found in her night-garden—mimicry should be deliberate; the colossal leaf; the broken dinner plate—are replete with suggestive power. This is a voice indeed of an active and precise imagination.
Julia Cohen’s speaker, chalky / from / banged up /stars, addresses the sticky stuff of existence from all sides, from that [t]ender veil of the buffering field. This book is full of arrows. Some pierce, some direct, some snap in half and form an X to mark the animal inside that animal / alive & yelping through the skin. Or we’re shot through by being persons. Cohen won’t heal, but will direct us in our grief, our weird grief shot through with pleasure. I can’t just sit here with feelings. If you lose your grip on this book, if you slice your hand as the vanes pass through, hold tight as only the busted-beautiful can.
"The poetics enacted in Triggermoon Triggermoon are rare in their exuberance and delicate humanity, their wistful acceptance of imperfection as the human condition, imperfection as a kind of pet we grow to love and depend upon. I have grown to love and depend upon this book." Bin Ramke
"Julia Cohen’s poems will knock you out with their fresh logics like some moon-governed dream. Echoes echo, moons moon, the animate world amazes repeatedly with its agile turns of meaning and sound. With its two-headed kitten, its insurgent billy goats, its capillary action, this collection is half in the world and half in the 'non-world' that 'occasionally rolls over you,' utterly grounded in the domestic and wildly transformative." Elizabeth Willis