I don’t normally go out of my way to write reviews for poetry collections when I can just post a poem and let it speak. The Bigger World by Noelle Kocot is the most recent selection for The Rumpus Poetry Club. If you enjoy poetry, I suggest signing up for it.
Back to the collection. I really enjoyed Kocot’s collection of character poems. In fact, I’ve re-read it twice since I originally read it. All of the poems are easy reads and the whole collection can be read in an hour. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the read.
Todd promised Francine,
“I will make you very happy.”
But Francine didn’t want happiness,
She wanted truth, which was savage
And dangerous. “I want a solution
For my disease,” said Francine,
“And I want it quick.” So Todd
Went to the witch doctor, and came
Back with the cure. “Boil this root
Until it shrivels. Make the poultice
And put it on your eyes.” Francine
Did it. The giant anaconda that
Had been chasing her dissolved.
Now that she could see truth,
Happiness also came her way.
Francine married Todd, and they
Had a lot of good years together,
And every time that giant anaconda
Came back, Todd would boil
Roots for her, put them gently
On her eyes. Their memories
Were both misty and watercolored,
Through the patchwork of Francine’s
Dark thoughts hovering idly by.
Each poem in the collection takes on new themes and involves new characters. Each poem is its own story, but how do they add up in terms of the collection as a whole? This isn’t something I’m really prepared to answer — as much as I want to explore this, I don’t have time. However, I do have links, quotes, and videos.
Kocot began writing The Bigger World as a way to deal with the death of her husband.
At first, the poems were more on the fanciful side in general—dense, dark poems that could never have taken place in real life (“The I.R.S.,” “The West Village”). Then, the poems turned to more real-life situations. Then, in general, they became more ontological and diffuse. Though the poems were fictional for the most part, they helped me to exorcise so much existential terror while I was writing them, and I needed to talk to a couple of friends about it as it was happening, in order to process it all. Writing these poems was a more intense experience than writing almost anything else, because it was all so concentrated and fast-paced. I was literally emptying myself of the bulk of baggage I still carried, so I could get to the point where I could be like one of the other kids again. And what happened to me was that I realized that I was not only one of the other kids, but that I was actually very creative, and that my gifts for story-telling and negative capability were in tact. I don’t usually like most of my work. I mean, I’m satisfied with it, but like is not the word I would use. Maybe feeling an affection for it is more on target. But I really like the poems in The Bigger World. They excite me when I read them, at least for now. When I was a child, I used to fool my family and my teachers with long surrealist yarns about supposed goings on in the neighborhood. I feel like I took that playful energy and wrote a bunch of poems I feel proud of, and which I want others to enjoy. I guess I just feel like these character poems establish me as an artist and as a human being. (viaHuffington Post)
Here is Noelle reading from her book.