Friday, March 16, 2018

Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us - Allan Cooper (Gaspereau Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us.  Allan Cooper.  Gaspereau Press.  Kentville, New Brunswick.  2017,

Allan Cooper's Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us is a little like walking into a log-fire warmed home where you know you are welcome.  The opening section of Cooper's thoughtful and tender volume reads like an open letter to his granddaughter and his daughter.  But they could be the children of anyone, these themes are universal.  

Cooper's poem "Standing At The Open Door" is a joyous yawp of observant optimism and we can all use a good dose of that these days.  Allan Cooper would have us believe that there is much more to be celebrated beyond beauty.  Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us will tell you "What the Cricket Said," and "The Young Raccoon," and "The Heron Flying."

They are all saying a different version of the same Walt Whitman grassy thing.  If Allan Cooper had a mantra it might be to take joy in the present and to celebrate the simplest gifts with grace.  Cooper is almost Zen, almost beatific, in his willingness to wait for the quiet moment simply so he can celebrate it with hope carefully disguised as an appreciation.

Hinges and Latches

I stop at the door in the middle of the night
to make sure the old cat is still breathing.
I will do this many times before I sleep.

I like hinges and latches,
the way the key clicks in the lock
before I open the cabin door.

What's this on the table? Someone has
brought me a gift: daisies and vetch,
goldenrod opening the doorways of the fall.

My child, bundle up this love
I have for you. What we carry with us
to the end is enough.

My father was standing at the open door
the moment you were born. Although
he'd been gone a long, still I felt him there.


Cooper's "Requiem" for his father stands alone as a tribute and a testament to the power of love and how it seeps through the generations with a great undercurrent.  Cooper muses about heaven but by now we know that Cooper believes heaven is on earth.  Somewhere between youthful promise and the jubilee Cooper sees in the eyes of his granddaughter and the memory of his father's gaze -- Cooper realizes the fleeting nature of chance and the true celebrations are always those of the heart.

This is no big leap for Cooper.  We had Milo, our head tech, head in to the stacks because I knew we had some Cooper gold.  Milo came back with Blood Lines (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1979), Poems Released on a Nuclear Wind (Pottersfield Press, 1987) and The Deer Yard (co-written with Harry Thurston, Gaspereau Press, 2013).  I remembered reading Cooper back in my Acme Art & Sailboat days and thinking that I would die to have a book with Fiddlehead.

Take a look at this gem from Poems Released on a Nuclear Wind.  Cooper has been playing with the same carefully considered tool box for a long, long time.

The Bee Leaves The Deep Flower Reluctantly

I think of so many things
contained by this cold:

old berries and poplar catkins
beneath the ice

the bones of a mole,

a day in 1965
when I played after school
the red shovel
tunnelling through a drift,

and overhead
the tiny crystals
sounding in every flake of falling snow.

     *              *           *

There is no moment that has more weight
than a child's:

moment of summer filled with the promise
of forever,

the smell of fresh grass, and a cricket singing,

the hand of my grandfather leading me
down to a river, through beech and alder,

a river
flowing always

         *           *           *

Basho said,

the bee leaves
the deep flower

Look inside a nest
inside a stone
or tree...

is inward
and divine.


And this, thirty years later, from Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us.

The Wild Clover Plant

There must be some reason why this earth keeps
on breathing. It must be out there somewhere
in the long grass, in the tiniest insect's carapace.

You used to come and get me to show me
the small garter snakes beside the foundation.
In your way, you gave me childhood's second chance.

The yellow mushrooms have gathered in a fairy ring
around the old spruce. When we stand inside it,
I tell you anything can happen.

There are times when I've drunk the dregs of grief.
But I'd rather be the silly man -- arms akimbo --
dancing in the middle of the kitchen floor.

When I say I'm in love with the world, I mean it.
Even the lonely bead of dew on the wild clover
seems enough to feed the world.


Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us is like a drink of ice-cold well-water on a sweaty-hot day.  These poems are clear to see through and pure when put to the poetry bullshit barometer.  

[Milo recently insisted we have one installed, to quote Milo's favourite movie character, "Just in cases."]

Everyone chimed in happy on the morning read today.  Our new intern Maggie led with an enthusiastic charge.  Maggie has only recently joined the Today's book of poetry staff.  We found Maggie in the poetry section of Black Squirrel Books here in Ottawa.  Every city needs a Black Squirrel Books and Ottawa is certainly grateful for all they do for the literary community.  Maggie told Today's book of poetry that her current favourite poets were Susan Musgrave, Sue Goyette and Eileen Myles.  We hired her on the spot.

The Invisible Book

     What is the language using us for?
           - W. S. GRAHAM

The invisible book
writes itself
whether we know it or not.
It's in love with the small things we abandon.


I like sentences that begin with rain
and end in silence.
The stones love it too,
and the white rabbit feeding at the edge of the field.


Heaven can wait,
But I seem to find it
in the fox sparrows
kicking up bugs from the leaves.


No one knows when the last word will come.
That's why I talk so much.
Let's spend the rest of the day with a stone Buddha,
who is always silent, always aware.


I can deal with silence, and age,
two or three books on my shelf.
I want to wander with Rilke near the dark roses.
I want to tell Hesse our homesickness will never end.


I'd like to take a little walk
that ends at water.
All the roads inside me
are turning to sand.


The earth breathes evenly,
takes everything inside: the bones
of a vole, the blue shadow hiding
inside an empty snail shell.


The brook sound reminds me
of the earth's hands,
holding everything steady.
What catches the earth when it falls?


I want to be playful with the light,
show it my shadow in late afternoon.
At night I am the lone presence
moving from room to room.


Night comes. The whole field
is soaked with dew.
Lovers don't mind: they spend
the night wrapped in a cocoon of light.


I step outside to take in
the moon, the clouds, a little wind.
Someone keeps changing my name,
and the small things I fall in love with.


Don't worry,
someone looks over us.
It would be a shame if the world
were a garden where nothing ever grew.


I am the voice that never leaves you.
I am the hand that never sleeps.
I am the voice of the wild grass ripening
the shade inside the light.


It's a good thing that the earth
shakes itself now and then, like a giant
waking from sleep. In the earth's cells,
whole pastures of light are waiting to be born.


Let's be playful, then.
It may be the only way to mend the soul.
A woman stitched it by moonlight
from the sorrows of passion and dew.


Call down the black and white angels of the air.
It may be the only hope we have.
Wings keep turning the pages of the invisible book
that we glimpse but may never know.


Today's book of poetry reminded everyone on our staff that we had purchased our first Allan Cooper title, Blood Lines, before ANY of them were born.  Now almost forty years later Today's book of poetry is proud to share Allan Cooper's most recent title with all of you.  In truth, not much has changed: Mr. Cooper's poems remain instantly engaging and inspirationally humane.

Allan Cooper has found what he was looking for, it is our great pleasure to share it.  Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us is a book of poetry that soothes where our souls ache.  This is always a welcomed tonic.

Allan Cooper

Allan Cooper has published over a dozen books of poetry, most recently The Deer Yard (with Harry Thurston) and The Alma Elegies. He has twice won the Alfred G. Bailey Award for poetry. He is the founder of Owl's Head Press and has been the editor of the intermittently-published literary journal Germination since 1982. Cooper is also a songwriter and performer. He divides his time between Riverview and Alma, NB.



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