In its opening lines, Andrea Cohen’s poem “Adjacent” conjures a remove: “My life was going on / in the next room.” I think, I know this story. Sometimes, when I spend hours staring at a computer, or waiting for a plane, or pacing around my apartment hoping the health insurance company might take me off hold, I, too, feel that my life is happening somewhere else, just beyond my reach. But as the poem proceeds, it subverts what I think I know about separation. While it unfolds in neat, compartmentalizing couplets, enjambments repeatedly disrupt the distance between them. In the line breaks, meanings proliferate. The speaker is both “in the room” with the action—“people // talking over each other” and “making borscht”—and listening at “the adjoining door,” finding a strange intimacy in being present yet apart. And, isn’t that, after all, what language can do: touch the thing in its absence—and, in this touching, be changed?
– Claire Schwartz
Listen to Andrea Cohen read "Adjacent."
My life was going on in the next room. There were board games and Pinochle, there were people talking over each other. They were making borscht, they were making flowers out of pink and blue tissue. Whatever you do, don’t cry into them, someone was bawling. I was in the room with the adjoining door, listening, the way a child warm and dry might listen to rain.
Andrea Cohen’s most recent poetry collections are Everything and Nightshade; a new collection, The Sorrow Apartments, will be out in early 2024.