Nicolle Elizabeth's
One Time All I Wanted
(Dark Sky Books, 2012)
reviewed by Kathy Fish

I loved Nicolle Elizabeth's chapbook Threadbare Von Barren (Dogzplot's Achilles Chapbook Series) and I was eager to read more of her work. Her e-book, One Time All I Wanted, did not disappoint. I admired it more each time I read it. It is a hybrid work in style and structure, a sort of prose poetical memoir that reminded me a little of Mary Robison's Why Did I Ever? Different stories, of course, but that same mosaic structure of short, sharp vignettes that tell an overarching story. A similar tone as well.
Nicolle Elizabeth's writing is dead honest without being raw, with a beautiful mix of humor and sadness. Truth is both funny and painful. Life is. Complete honesty is a recognition of that. You can trust a writer who allows you to read between the lines a little, who has the skill to subtly make you feel. The prose is loose and conversational, but don't be deceived. She's in control of this narrative, as evidenced by where she decides to leave off, inject some white space. As evidenced, too, by a poet's deft use of repetitions and rhythm.

"one time i was in such a good mood that i drove past two exits to continue listening to pop radio. i was in such a good mood that i ate a carb. i was in such a good mood i almost called you from thousands of miles away to say i was wrong."

Hear that haiku-like drop at the end. Feel the sharp emotional punch of it. How much the writer was able to do in a few scant words.
This is a litany of memories, confessions, and epiphanies as told by a young narrator who's already lived a lifetime. But the spine of the story is a failed love that is movingly woven throughout. Nicolle Elizabeth has an intuitive gift for interspersing light and dark to maximum effect, dropping in lines like these --

"one time i was put on display. it was like i was one of those turning ballerinas in somebody else's music box."

-- that shatter, when a moment ago, you were laughing. That is the power of this small book. And as casual and wry as this narrator's voice is, it sometimes drops to a whisper. And that's when her vulnerability comes through. It's breathtaking.