Good Timing & Gertrude Stein
Julia Cohen, 28 pgs, Diode Editions, diodeeditions.com, $12
Adolescent experiences ingrain themselves deeply in our psyches and can become secret preoccupations in adulthood. These events become especially interesting when intertwined with influential works of literature. In Good Timing & Gertrude Stein, Julia Cohen builds a prose poem from an event — a child getting her period — in the style and way Stein pulls apart the constraints of language in her poetry.
A period is not something someone can make happen, it just happens. And for the adolescent in the woman here, it provokes Cohen into a discussion of what exactly this bodily function means in terms of identity, “I question how to unleash the sentence. A sentence fermenting in a jar, then: confusion between the passive it wouldn’t come out.” Cohen’s wordplay spins out of words like menstruation, objects, nouns, ideas, and has them coalesce into a tight lyric she is determined to capture with a tinge of humour, “Stein claims: ‘A sentence can be taken care of.’ But how should my sentence ‘be taken care of’? I don’t pamper this unleashed sentence. I don’t sprinkle talcum on it’s fat creases, its sweaty angles.”
I enjoyed the pauses Cohen instilled in this chapbook. This work is about memory as a thin membrane to reality placed upon a setting of language formation. It is a unique and difficult construct for a poet. Cohen is adept at taking on the task.