Noelle Kocot’s The Raving Fortune (2004)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 4/5, which was published circa early 2005.


Noelle Kocot's – The Raving FortuneNoelle Kocot’s The Raving Fortune (Four Way Books, 2004) represents what many in this new generation of poets (roughly aged 25-40) are going through with their own poetry – trying to write a poetry that satisfies the self, their peers, & all the poets who preceded them: a poetry that talks to all poets at all times. This collection starts rough & punky in poems like “To the Place in My Head Where Ideas Come From:” & “I am the Supernova of Your Psalmistry,” where she makes clear she wants to make it new:

   I don’t like poetry, poems, or poets lately,
   Yet I get excited so easily when lines come to me:
   [. . .]
   I want to scream with aggravated pleasure
   Like the woman with the pierced clit in the porno flick.
   The images stand at attention at my fingertips,
   But I want none of it, I want to say I am 17
   And have quit writing poetry to go to business school,
   [. . .]
   Everything has been done a googol of times,
   Yet I write this still with far flung steps
   And yes, I crumpled miles of streets beneath
   Our snowy feet as, together, we slid across the threshold
   Of an age to smash the old Rosetta Stone.
                                                              (ll 13-14, 15-20, 22-26)

The poems do settle down until we reach the meditative “Poem Written in 17 Minutes,” which incorporates all the themes I have mentioned.

   Last week I looked up my name on the Web
   To see if anyone shot up anything nasty about my poetry

   Lately and sure enough they did. One person called me an “idiot,”
   (Re: inept sestinas), said I had drunk too much
   Champagne, that my words were a bunch of “bubbly nonsense.”
   It’s a step up; in grad school they were merely croutons.
                                                                            (ll 7-12)

(The “croutons” also appear in “I Don’t Think I’ll Ever Write this Poem,” a parallel & complemental poem to the one just mentioned, which illustrates how the poems talk to each other in this book.) Further in “Poem Written in 17 Minutes,” “But earlier today I went back to Celan, / And for once he didn’t scare me” (ll 18-19). She then yokes together the past literature with the current pop culture & announces:

                                                  This is beautiful   
   To me somehow. We have survived.
   We’re dying, yet we have survived, like dead bridges calcified.
   There is blood on my hands as I write this.                           
                                                (ll 26-29)

The tone of this poem rides throughout the The Raving Fortune as she finds balances between eloquence & punkiness, beautiful images & contemporary allusions, while often disobeying a few of Ezra Pound’s suggestions in “A Few Don’ts,” such as “undulant tomorrows” (in “Consolations Before an Affair, Upper West Side”) & “foam languishing” (in “The Newlyweds and the Funny Papers”), but that is her goal & she succeeds, as do almost all the poems in this collection.//




Kocot, Noelle. The Raving Fortune. New York: Four Way Books, 2004.//

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