In Nicole Cooley's lively and engaging collection Of Marriage, marriage becomes many things in the crucible of poetry, but never boring.
Cooley (Milk Dress) is an established poet who brings a rawly inventive kinetic energy to her work. Ostensibly about her own spouse, Of Marriage taps the universal ups and downs of long-term relationships through a variety of poetic forms and metaphors. "Triolets, Erasing Marriage" combines the traditional triolet with an erasure technique. The language is borrowed from a 19th-century text on the duties of marriage and then selectively erased to leave a new impression.
Later in the book, Cooley experiments with analogy in a series of short poems that start with the title "Marriage as...." It's in this series that Cooley reaches her wildest and most unrestrained. Marriage is likened to a koi pond, a rock quarry, a plate of spinach and many other things. In "Marriage as a Skateboard Flung Off a Bridge," the poet finds herself stuck in gravelly mud, pining for the "clean lines" and the "lovely concave shape" of the skate park. As much as she explores the pain, frustration and disruptive forces in marriage, she explores the sexy, sensuous and unifying aspects too, the bedroom windows "rain-flushed and dark," or rather "our meeting here, now, naked on the kitchen's cold linoleum."
By virtue of its formal variety, Of Marriage is hard to classify. But beneath the experimentation, it has a loving, beating heart that is clear and resonant. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset