Poetry as flight, song, life, beauty, otherness. Poem as bird. An egret flies over the title of When I Kiss the Sky. The collection’s first poem gives us a red kite, a mother-bird hunting: ‘What Eckhart calls the evenness of God made plain in the raptor’s patient, consistent attention to every inch of this rough, knotted ground’ (‘Exemplum’). The poet’s task in another poem is to consider objects ‘with a wide, kindly attention’. But this may fail, or be felt to. ‘In a moment of my inattention, your life lifted as a flock of birds’ (‘The Ascent of Gulliver’).
Divine love, agape, as maternal love, exemplified in the female red kite. The first word of the collection is ‘She’. The second poem, ‘Lupa’, is one of several poems celebrating the power of the maternal animal instinct (‘Duck, just inches from the back door’, ‘Calf’, ‘Pen’). In this ‘Ark of Continuing Creatures’ are poems for fox, leopard, moth, and peacock butterflies. And there are birds, often figuring something of the poetic: ‘The Fieldfare’, lark, seagull, heron, nightingales, and shag.
‘Pesci diversi’ offers a taxonomy of Florentine fish, including ‘Angel fish’, ‘Clown Goby’ and ‘Fox-face’. Could Cook’s poems be categorised under such headings? ‘Angel fish’ would include poems from a Christian imagination, including the long poem ‘Edmund in Edmundsbury’, perhaps a response to ‘Church Going’. Where Larkin offered ‘sprawlings of flowers, cut For Sunday, brownish now’, Cook portrays a living community and a live voice praying ‘most especially for the flower arrangers’. There is a Stanley-Spencer-style poem on the resurrection of the dead (‘The New’) and ...
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