I don’t often read poetry, but when I do, I like it to be moderately straightforward and logical, able to reach my heart and stir emotions, buried deep as they are. The poems in Allan Cooper’s latest collection, Waiting for the Small Ship of Desire, fit the bill perfectly. They are clearly written by a poet who has lived and loved enough in his lifetime to confidently spin out some of the most touching words I have read in some time. More on those in a moment.
First, I would like to quote a bit from the author’s Afterword page which sums up the collection better than I ever could:
“The collection as a whole is a long meditation on life, love, and the changing face of desire as we grow older.“
The collection is divided into four parts, which more or less mirror the timeline of the above quote:
- The Small Ship
- The Red Peony
- The Star’s Way Home
- Broken Psalms
Many aspects of nature figure prominently in Cooper’s poems, particularly birds, trees (leaves) and the heavens above, whether it be sky or celestial bodies. From “The Winter Wasp”:
We love the smallest things –
the wasp that wakes
and flutters on the floor
as if spring were rising
from the earth again.
What is it that shakes us,
shocks every cell of our bodies?
My friends, there are things
we may never know.
But what we love
is enough to shake the world.
This poem comes near the beginning of the book, and within it are all the elements of Cooper’s poems: nature, the awakening of the wasp signifying Spring, a return to life, and finally, love. Not just any love. This is the kind of love that “shocks every cell of our bodies”. In later poems, we see this love directed toward family and old friends (including deceased ones).
Leaves also feature prominently in many poems in this collection. In “Want” the author wants to “meet that young man I knew forty years ago” to tell him, among other things, that:
I want to tell him it is October,
and the first yellow and gold leaves
are falling to the earth as they did for him,
leaves that resemble hands holding the invisible thread
between the heart and it’s desire.
And in “Keats” the poet tells us:
The earth gives us
her gold, even if it’s only
the last old oak leaves
in the autumn wind.
Indeed, throughout Waiting, permeated as it is with oak leaves and autumn winds, I had the distinct feeling of the early months of fall here in the northern hemisphere. But I also know that autumn symbolizes the latter stages of a prolonged life from a human perspective because of course, some trees live forever if left to their own devices.
As I myself approach the age of sixty (the early autumn of my life, I suppose), poems like Cooper’s really hit home as it were, stimulating one to look around themselves at the smallest mundane things and be thankful for them, as Mr. Cooper has done in Waiting for the Small Ship of Desire. I am putting this collection on the 2020 longlist for “The Very Best!” Book Awards for Best Poetry. Five stars!
About the Author: Allan Cooper is a Canadian poet and musician born in Moncton, New Brunswick in 1954.
Cooper found an interest in writing while in secondary school, and after graduating from Moncton High School, continued to pursue his passion by studying English at Mount Allison University. Cooper lives in Alma, New Brunswick with his wife, Laurie, where he continues to write and make music.
Waiting for the Small Ship of Desire
- Paperback: 80 pages
- Publisher: Pottersfield Press (March 31 2020)
- ISBN-13: 978-1989725016
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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. The Miramichi Reader (TMR) —Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases— highlights noteworthy books and authors across Canada from coast to coast to coast (est. 2015). James works and resides in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.