Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Doubter's Hymnal - Laura Cok (Mansfield Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Doubter's Hymnal.  Laura Cok.  Mansfield Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2019.

Doubter's Hymnal is a coming of age song that questions faith, looks at family life, and makes readers sit straight up.  If there is a God he is a shadowy creature.

Laura Cok's manifesto is a stern examination of where faith meets practice.  The intersection is frantic with electricity and sombre as prayer.

Today's book of poetry was pushed to the edges of our understanding, we were also kept riveted.  Cok's poems move across the page with admirable precision.  If these poems were cakes - the icing would be perfect.


I was happy so of course
I looked for something to ruin

some proof that disaster
was already knit too many rows back
to unravel and save

the slipped stitch, the blinked-open gap
to poke a finger through and widen

what comes through is daylight
from another room and the water
running in another kitchen sink
where another pair of soapy hands

are lifting it up,
twisting out the water,
wringing its soft neck.


Laura Cok bends time in Doubter's Hymnal, she invests time in divesting all the traditional party tricks of their reason, she challenges both faith and fate.  When called upon Cok provides a "cure for loneliness" and does reap both an answer and some questions.  Today's book of poetry is making Doubter's Hymnal sound far more complicated than it is.

Doubter's Hymnal has Cok making it crystal clear in every poem, these poems have both intention and direction.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
              with thanks to Carlo Rovelli


Time passes more quickly in the mountains.
Not a romanticism, but a fact --
the higher you are, the faster it all goes.

Down in the desert there is a fraction of a fraction more.
You could wander out along and see
the curvature of space streaking overhead.
The Milky Way like a veil pulled back.
Behind it, another veil.


Today's book of poetry found themselves fully engaged, fully completely, as Saint Gordon of Downie suggested to us all.  The Today's book of poetry minions sat down to our morning reading and cracked through Doubter's Hymnal with agile reverence.

Today's book of poetry will surpass 800,000 readers sometime later this week, we were sitting at 794,000 earlier today.  That is a lot of poetry monsters and every one of you is welcome.  Today's book of poetry is currently expanding our offices.  We've had a moderate but steady improvement in our office machinery, we've been able to retire our Commodore 16.  We're feeling optimistic and plucky.

Laura Cok helped.

Tide Over

I'm thinking all the time what it'd be like,
the belly swollen, tidal turn moon.
One cup a day, then decaf, watching you
brew separate pots, since this is the one thing
I'll have to do alone. Not absentee:
you'd be there for each grainy ultrasound,
each diaper class, the baby CPR.
But when the foot kicks out there's only one
soft bladder it connects with. Flesh distraught,
my breasts unrecognizable to both.
Small alien that's chosen me for host.
Skin taut, now loose, in this, the great exhaling.
Sea-change inside, moon-conjured, amniotic,
first creature that could wash to shore and crawl.


Laura Cok surprised Today's book of poetry in the best possible poetry way.  Doubter's Hymnal is never terse, but these poems have been worked whippet thin.  Nothing left but muscle.

Image result for laura cok photo"

Laura Cok

Laura Cok is a writer and editor based in Toronto, Ontario. Originally from Northern California, she spent time in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Waterloo, Ontario before settling in Toronto. She holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto, winner of the E.J. Pratt Poetry Medal and the University of Toronto Magazine alumni poetry contest. Cok has previously published widely across Canada and works in corporate communications.



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