Wednesday, May 25, 2011

David Cooke's "In the Distance" -- An unforgettable collection that keep me coming back again and again

A review of David Cooke’s In the Distance”, Night Publishing, March 26, 2011.

The poems in this book are the kind one visits time and again, as with old friends, to pick up new nuances of meaning, and the simple enjoyment of memory. They are northern poems with northern landscapes, rhythms and winds; poems that put me in a reflective mood and get me to thinking. I am put in mind of some of my favorite poets: Kenneth White, Mary Oliver, and Naomi Shihab Nye.

Scottish poet Kenneth White says that a poem is the shortest form of short story. The final stanza from David Cooke’s “A House in Mayo” illustrates that point very well:

    Empty houses were scars on the landscape.
Wild seeds blew in to heal them. When people
vanished, the tracks they had made were smothered.
Returning, all I ever found were mine.

The house itself, “So long abandoned … lay caged in the tangle of briars.” A child looks for secrets, returns to find only his own tracks, and takes away memories.

One of my favorite poems in this collection is “Visiting”, which the author wrote in honor of his grandfather.

When once, as a clean-kneed
child from town, I first came
on a visit to your limewashed
house, your two great fists

    impressed me, for they
were ponderous chunks
    of granite, notched
carelessly for fingers

    and which, at your own willed
creation, you had torn
from the heart of the land.
Yes, I knew then how

    you had risen and, separate,
must have kept on walking.
I was almost frightened
to be your friend, but still

    am running so breathlessly
beside you as you stride
onwards, the castle of yourself,
across rough fields

    of thistle and clover.
And the dogs are running
before us, and our laughter
creates again a flawless sky.

There’s a complete story in this poem that gets my imagination soaring. The images of David Cooke’s poems pull me in and bring me back again and again, as all great poetry does.

“In the Distance” is a definite 5 star poetry collection, a “must add” to my bookshelf (most of which, these days, inhabits my Kindle). Paperback or Kindle, add this to your “must have” list, or pick up a copy now. I can’t get enough of it.

“David Cooke was born in 1953 in Wokingham, Berkshire, although his family comes from the West of Ireland. In 1977, whilst he was an undergraduate at Nottingham University, his poetry gained him a Gregory Award. His poems and reviews have been published widely in the UK, Ireland, and mainland Europe. A collection, 'Brueghel’s Dancers', was published in 1984. After a long silence he has returned to writing. 'In the Distance' reprints work which has long been out of print alongside a generous sampling of previously uncollected work.” — from

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