Poems of the Quotidian World
I first encountered Ed Cox's poems in the early 1980s, when I read his book Waking, which Gay Sunshine Press published in 1977. His spare, wistful evocations of adolescent gay longing and anticipation, and of the desire for touch and connection that drives men to cruise streets and bars looking, waiting, hoping for the one who will "hear the words we find in our hands," are still as powerful as ever. Some of the earlier poems in this collection are almost haiku, stripped to their most essential elements, elemental words: "this wind these windows." The delicate, precise poems retain their poise even when addressing homelessness, mental illness, Hiroshima, and Vietnam; and his homage to Hart Crane manages both grandeur and intimacy. The long poem "Ezra and Agnes," about his parents, vividly conjures up their world, their history, and their voices: "You can go, go / like a match on a cold night." The fragility of many of the poems underscores the fragility of the moments they memorialize.
Unfortunately, the linguistic energy and surprise, the sense of hearing and seeing each word for the first time, flag a bit in the last, previous unpublished section, "Part Of," though there are still amazing phrases like "this is the fossil of thirst" or "and our memories complete the shore." The revisions of earlier poems, in normalizing and smoothing out the syntax and diction, sometimes lose the charge of the originals. But the attention to and love for the things and people of the quotidian world, the overlooked and forgotten out of which the real is made, is always strong and compelling: "Immediacy [is] our primary objective." The poems never lose their conviction of "how things have names, a meaning of their own." Ed Cox may be dead, but his poems still help us in "drawing from the dark one more day."