I Was Not Born
Julia Cohen proves herself a protean writer, engaged with both world and word, playing for keeps. A finely etched portrait of a relationship with a suicidal lover proves but the portal for the author to recover a self and bid it sing. A beautiful, original, and deft achievement.
In I Was Not Born, Julia Cohen kindles a pillar of fire that reminds us that we do not always get out alive, that not everyone survives her or his youthful dreams. Like “… breaking into an apple,” the nourishment, the seeds, the core of life pulses throughout this accomplished work.
In ways unforeseeable until the very fact of this book, Julia Cohen re-interrogates and reintegrates that ongoing paradox Psyche presents us—figure that refuses to stabilize the ongoing crisis between soul and mind. As of Psyche of old, Eros lurks everywhere, even in absence. But here, resisting the ease of mere allegory, Cohen stitches together differing form of texts—lyric verse, prose poems bordering on the surreal, brief narratives, excerpts from psychoanalysis—to unfold the agonized reality of a lover’s attempted suicide. This possible death, the intention of it, causes rifts of every sort—interpersonal and intrapersonal, putting out of balance that sublime confusion erotic love most depends upon: the relation of subject to object. That relation is also, Cohen knows, language’s own erotic life. In the face of an act that makes inarticulate all that must be said, all the should be said, she lets her language enact for us what poetry’s deepest faith might be. It’s a faith not empty of desire, but in ardent pursuit of it. For Cohen reveals, as a poet must, that the poem is a lover’s work, seeking as love itself does, to keep intact the relation between us and each object we encounter, all we exist among. I Was Not Born opens in the extreme difficulty of those relations falling apart; it ends in affirmation that word calls out as a lover calls—be it in sonnet or be it in text message—to its dearest counterpart, world.
When art and pain collide, a perfectly complicated and beautiful book sometimes emerges. Such is Julia Cohen’s I WAS NOT BORN, her third and latest work. It is a lifetime achievement and commingles poetry, transcripts of therapy sessions, letters, meditations, and text messages (all of which are poetry really) with a tremendous psychological and emotional impact.