From Publishers Weekly
Although the title refers to an idyllic land of plenty, Cockaigne's melodious consonances are subverted by Ochester's speakers' fascination with life's seamier aspects. In "Pocahontas," he skewers the Magic Kingdomizing of John Smith's 12-year-old Indian companion, noting that "in colonial Virginia the age of sexual consent/ was 10. And, if you eat/ of the fruit of Disney/ you will die." Gestures like this, which abound in this sixth larger-press collection, might leave readers wondering who wrote the jacket copy comparing the poet to Norman Rockwell nostalgic he is not. "Calvin" describes an acquaintance who tortured cicadas: "He was stupid/ and stupidity like pained intelligence/ wants to wreck things: what cruelty/ have you ever done?" These 40-odd poems form a gallery of similar characters, usually stuck in lives of poverty, ignorance and racism. Yet Ochester does muster some sympathy for them, despite his focus on dull malevolence. And his free verse is gruff and plainspoken, getting in digs at academia whenever possible: "`motherfuckin motherfucker' (deconstruct that)." Although an entitled tendency to structure poems around the writing life can be annoying ("in the library I am very decorous and read/ what I think are my quietest poems"), at very least Ochester's speakers are not complacent, if perhaps complicit. (Apr. 2)Forecast: As the editor of the Pitt Poetry Series at the University of Pittsburgh, Ochester is the erstwhile publisher of bestselling poet Billy Collins. Last year's court case pitting Random House against underdog Pitt over the rights to Collins's back catalogue snagged an unlikely spot on the front page of the New York Times, and might help draw curiosity seekers and po-biz insiders to Ochester's cantankerous clatch.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Ed Ochester is the author of eleven collections of poetry and the co-editor of The Pittsburgh Book of Contemporary American Poetry
. His poems have appeared in serveral national literary journals, including Poetry, American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Georgia Review
, and others. Ochester is the editor for the prestigious Pitt Poetry Series and a Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and a faculty member at the Bennington Writing Seminars in Vermont.