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House with a Dark Sky Roof stands nearly dead-center between the traditional and experimental schools of the 20th century. Unlike so much 21st century poetry by younger Americans that might be described this way, this book evidences, on a line by line level, a truly original voice, unbeholden to Ashbery, O’Hara, and the other poets too often emulated by graduates of the American creative writing programs.
The poems in House with a Dark Sky Roof are unashamedly intellectual, often complex, yet never ungenerous, never unnecessarily obscure. Though these poems are attached to the land, they are never provincial, travelling from New York to Mexico to London to the Karuk reservation in Northern California to Slovenia to ancient Greece and the outer solar system.
‘What strikes me most in Cotler’s poems is their rich and dense verbal music. As Housman and Auden, among others, have pointed out, poetry is not what is said (which is shared with all sorts of other verbal discourses) but a way of saying, and the way of Cotler’s saying is compelling and hypnotic. And yet the music is not detached from the fact; the poems’ love for the weight and heft and tune of their words is matched by their love for the particulars with which they are replete to overflow: Cotler has taken to heart Keats’ admonition to load every rift with ore.’ —Reginald Shepherd