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Sonnets, Noelle KocotThe A5 jacket is bright pink. In the bottom third, diagonally filling the left hand corner are letters. On top, and all lower case bright blue, the letters spilling over irregularly, read Sonnets, and below these, also spilling and irrgular like shapes filling up a triangle, the author's name in bright red. It looks really attractive.

Clinic Publishing Ltd, 2017  £5.00

Meaning in disruption

This little publication of 23 unnumbered pages, no endorsements, no blurb, no bio, no clue to how to approach it except the title Sonnets, offers strange sets of thoughts in sonnet-shaped 14-line arrangements. It’s left-field, alternative in spirit and method, and yet soberly visually patterned, with a capital letter at the start of every single line.

The first poem flags an underlying theme of ‘incomplete / Mourning’, and then little statements of distress appear like forlorn flags throughout the set. Sections of some poems seem to be about to assemble a sonnet that can be read in the ordinary way – for what it means or seems to mean. But another line or phrase or sentence disrupts any ordinariness of communication and kicks it right into the surreal. ‘I’m sending this message into the past’, for example, in ‘The Booby’, is a plain-speaking, somewhat haunting expression, but it follows ‘Orange and squishy, the worm / Laughs. Ha ha!’

The bizarre ‘Trains on the onyx prairie, / You speak of tendrils’ leads (in ‘Intelligible Heart’) into ‘Heart is a dark blue’ at line 9, before finally arriving at the final, curiously meaningful, paradox:

I’m sending a message to the future. It reads,
The house is empty, and you are all tucked in.

I spent a lot of time wondering in what sense these poems might be ‘sonnets’, and how to get inside them. In the end, I was able to accept what was happening without trying to construct meaning. I let the whole sequence wash over me kaleidoscopically, like a dream collage, rather than tussling with individual poems.

What floated clear for me, from different sonnets, were anguished fragments, as plain as day and utterly human,  continuously emerging from the waves like bits of melting ice cap. Here are some of them:

‘Speak of the moment: forget / About pain.’

‘I / Alone can tell my story, but ‘I’ is no more I.’

‘The world seems tipped somehow [ ... ]’

‘O God, keep me in that secret, secret place.’

‘The love // Birds go on singing, and my ears / Are wrecked.’

Helena Nelson