Oyster Boy Review 16  
  Winter 2002
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Zoë Francesca

The poems in 4, recipient of the 1999 Four Way Books Levis Poetry Prize, are remarkable in their ability to hide all and reveal all in one fell swoop. The book's title is one of the mysteries given the reader to solve—the poems like clues to a murder. Not only are most of the poems written in four-line stanzas in multiples of four, the number four has a mystical symbolism related to the Holy Trinity, the colors blue and green, and the narrator's childhood. 

A majority of the poems in 4 are abstract with a coded language that lends the poems an eerie gravity and tension reminiscent of surrealism and Salvador Dali. As in a Dali painting, nothing in 4 is off the cuff. Each image, each word feels carefully selected to stand for something that can't be said directly, as in the poem "What I Want to Tell You But Can't": "A creature sealed in deepest amber, / I have grown immune to horizons / Dragging their bars like leaden sunlight / Against a destiny wrapped / Around me like a fence / That I will never climb." 

Kocot's formalism, reflected not only in her measured stanzas but also in glorious rhyme schemes and sestinas, pay tribute to Elizabeth Bishop. This is especially evident in the book's first poem, "Good Things Come To Those Who Wait," which takes its rhyme scheme from Bishop's "Arrival at Santos" and even one of its characters, the retired police lieutenant Miss Breen. The poem "Nostalgia" is a good example of Kocot's technique of building metaphors and similes on top of each other until the words form a new story of their own. The effect is breathtaking, like a cinematographic tracking shot: "While you continue to hide yourself away / In some hotel, this season spreads a tablecloth / Of newly-fallen snow covered / By an immemorial, telluric dust / Illuminated by the artificial rust / Of streetlamps that shepherd / Him or her to their respective subways / As you sanctify your place among the lost."