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What Is a Domicile
Joanna Penn Cooper,
Noctuary Press, $14 (paper)
Joanna Penn Cooper has described her new book, What Is a Domicile, as being “about the first few years of a relationship . . . and then about pregnancy and early motherhood.” The collection is divided into three sections, with the title section proving the most complex and satisfying aesthetically. Its poems (mostly in prose) explore the spaces where the role of mother comes into contact with the role of poet, where the domestic and the artistic meet but do not, as one might expect, conflict. Cooper’s decision to present their interplay as synergistic instead of dichotomous is the collection’s great strength and joy; her focus is not on what is gained and lost when one brings new life into the world but on how pregnancy and motherhood manipulate space-time. In a delightful moment of theorizing, she co-opts the term effleurage from massage, making it mean “the mind and body’s flagrant disregard for notions of the consistent forward movement of time.” Elsewhere she develops this idea further: “It isn’t that I’m blind to the unavoidable exigencies / of the space-time continuum, just that . . . / I am compelled / to travel up and down the reality scale, playing whatever / notes create ambience and distract from the lack of plot.” This expansive temporal model does not, however, exclude the experience of time as units of resource, which anyone who has raised children knows is nothing to scoff at: “I had something else to say about this, but the baby wakes up smiling.”
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