Review of PLACE by Alexei Perry Cox

By Alexei Perry Cox
Noemi Press
122 Pages, $24

In the author’s second full-length prose poetry collection, Perry Cox’s inquisitive nature shines through. In PLACE, the disciplines of language, anthropology, philosophy, history, and geography converge. Perry Cox embarks on an audacious journey to engage with these various fields through poetics in order to re-imagine a world that has been unscathed by colonialism, moral corruption, and forced exile. Perry Cox brings together several languages (including, but not limited to, Chinese, Arabic, and French) to elicit thoughtful discussions with great thinkers from different periods of history, often using their ideas as departure points to examine the flaws of past revolutions, such as the Cuban Revolution.

Her childlike curiosity guides her in dissecting historical tragedies and ongoing global turmoil, insisting that “we have to remake our reality.” Perry Cox is led by a passion to unite and repair instead of divide and conquer, as seen in the poem, ‘Cultured,’ in which she writes, “In this moment, the countries beyond our country can / vanish. It’s just the people and me / us. / Before all thought, desire.”

Perry Cox’s experimentation with poetic form takes some getting used to at first, but certain poems, such as “From Diaspora to My Unborn Land,” shine when read aloud. While the theme of the Lebanese civil war in PLACE can be heavy, it is not without great reward. Fred Moten’s quote at the beginning of the collection reads, “Anybody who thinks that they can understand how terrible the terror has been, without understanding how beautiful the beauty has been against the grain of the terror, is wrong”; Perry Cox’s words may offer readers a sense of hope amid the dread of inhabiting a world that can feel foreign and unwelcoming.

Her unwavering optimism in the bleakest of moments, unforgiving environs (both personal and public), and the histories that haunt her have the capacity to remind readers that a successful revolution requires perseverance and, above all else, collaboration. As she notes in ‘Cultured’ “a single spark can start a prairie fire.”

I consider Cox’s words to be a call to action, one that aims to incite change through revolution, through the re-creation of a world where women are no longer punished for loving other women and where each person has a place to call home.

—Ashley Fish-Robertson

Ashley Fish-Robertson is a Montreal-based journalist and arts editor for The Concordian newspaper. Her work has been featured in This Magazine, Shameless, Cult MTL, and more.

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