Hannah Cohen’s poetry collection Bad Anatomy shows us how our world looks when we hold it in vine-wrapped hands, at once a fragile ball and a strong snare. Read this book to be inspired to look at the world through new eyes, with a fresh stop-to-smell-the-roses vision.
Cohen’s very first poem is about everything she leaves behind, which sets us up to hold onto her every word for the remainder of the pages, not wanting to miss a single fleeting thought. The book continues with quiet urgency, mourning the unsalvageable and “unfuckable” pieces of a paper person, a museum wreck. Cohen gives life to bodies that are less than art, not pushing the significance of what is not pretty, merely holding it out for us to examine. Our world is full of different kinds of people, and we would be impossibly lucky or unfortunate to meet them all, depending on which glasses we look through.
“there’s a green glass / bottle inside your stomach and it’s never / going to stop breaking.”
Cohen’s poems are the sheen of hopelessness on the water’s surface; there is an emptiness in skimming and a fear of the unknown underneath. How deep into life can you dive when you are “half-hell and half-morning” and “off-nirvana,” stuck being a husk, a shell, a ghost? Cohen paints a picture of a place that is very subtly sad and empty in all the wrong places, flowers without fields and fruits full of bruises, pleading that we pay attention to the little things that surround us.
Each sentence is an appreciation of sentience. The world is made of more than bones and dust, if we know where to look. There are more forms of poems than just freestyle words, if we know how to order them – and Cohen is one of the only young poets I have read who even mentions a ghazal, not to mention how she uses the drumming repetition to hammer home themes of emptiness and breaking. Her use of personification sheds light on female objectification in the poem “In My Last Relationship, I Was A Television,” and she compares herself to small dark things – crows, soap, and rust.
In an endless library of love poems, Cohen’s collection is refreshingly different, more an exploration of the body as a vessel and its relationship to the environment: “there’s a green glass / bottle inside your stomach and it’s never / going to stop breaking.” We should treasure every moment that measures our miraculous abilities – each footstep that crunches through snow, each breath of warm air, each hand that touches our hands and hearts.
(Glass Poetry Press, Poetry, 2018)
BETHANY MARY works in Minnesota as a life enrichment programmer for older adults with dementia. She was once the poetry editor of Green Blotter Literary Magazine and read submissions for Spark: A Creative Anthology and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. As an emotional advocate for a sexual assault center, she focuses on boundaries and mental health in her own writing. She rants and shares photos of her ragdoll cats on Twitter @bethanylmary.