First published in the “Briefly Reviewed” section of Frogpond 39:3, Autumn 2016, pages 113–114. See also my review of The Fingertips of a Glassblower.
Young Osprey by Bill Cooper (2015, Red Moon Press, Winchester, Virginia). 62 pages, 4¼×6½ inches, perfectbound. ISBN 978-1-936848-41-6. $12.00 from Red Moon Press.
This book was a discovery for me, a voice I need to pay more attention to. Finely crafted poems are interwoven with rich subjects that surprise and engage while avoiding alienation or distance (gumbo, roux, okra, plié, Sisyphus, staccato, cassowary, doo wop, hawksbill, habanero, poblano, pelican, ocarina, blimp, flapper doll, spatterdock). Cooper is not afraid of abstractions, yet grounds them in concrete images, as in “the slope of grief / snowmelt trickling through / a dam of leaves.” Many poems are empathetic (“rowers / the frail man on the footbridge / tapping his cane” or “old grasshopper / testing the sway / of a takeoff leaf”), or evoke childhood (“fingers splayed / on the window pane / first snow” or “cherry popsicle / the thrill / of a one-speed”). Over and over, amid the occasional visual poem and wordplay, these poems provide fresh and sometimes startling juxtapositions, often to great emotional effect or narrative suggestion (“a mussel filtering / just what she needs / Hiroshima Bay” or “cooling okra and peas / sisters revise the terms / of a trade”). An occasional poem feels private (“seaweed shimmer / the red knot rinsing / a plump egg”), but even these poems show confidence. If nothing else, a good haiku is assertive, and these assertive haiku engage through many senses, many subjects, and many effective leaps. Highly recommended.