Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Muse: New Louisiana Poet Laureate

What I like about poetry is that it's like getting on a plane.
You don't even know what a plane is until you get there,
and then you learn how to fly it. . . You don't even know
where you're going—you find out
your destination along the way. . . .*
~ Peter Cooley

Peter Cooley has been appointed to the honorary position of Poet Laureate of Louisiana. The announcement was issued from the governor's office August 14, 2015.

Cooley, who succeeds Ava Leavell Haymon (2013-2015), will serve a two-year term. For details about the laureateship, see my post about Darrell Bourque (2009-2011). Julie Kane (2011-2013) was the state poet after Bourque.

As is required of the incumbent, Cooley will give an annual reading while serving as Poet Laureate.

Cooley has read throughout the United States and abroad. According to an article in The Tulane Hullabaloo, Cooley regards poetry readings, such as his recent appearance at Woldenberg Arts Center, as "really an opportunity to bring poetry to everyone. There's a whole new world of poetry through the internet, and obviously a whole new world of spoken word."**

* * * * *
I think in lines, and I write by the line.*

Detroit-born and long-time New Orleans resident Peter Cooley, Ph.D., has published three chapbooks and 10 poetry collections. His most recent collection, Night Bus to the Afterlife (Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series, 2014), addresses mortality, loss, and the ephemeral in the context of the devastating 2005 Hurricane Katrina (New Orleans has been his home for more than five decades) and the 2010 Gulf oil spill. His still-in-print full-length books of poetry include Divine Margins (2009),  Sacred Conversations (1998), and Nightseasons (1983), all published as part of the Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series.

Others of Cooley's collections are The Van Gogh Notebook (Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary Series, 2004), A Place Made of Starlight (Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series, 2003), The Astonished Hours (Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series, 1991), and The Company of Strangers (University of Missouri Press, 1975). His debut collection, The Room Where Summer Ends (Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series, 1979), is still in print. [Note: Some of Cooley's collections may be purchased through UPNE/University Press of New England. See link below in Resources.]

Cooley is a lyrical poet of broad vision and striking images. He is drawn to exploring the spiritual and religious (e.g., existence and the afterlife), particularly the constant tension between human and divine. (Rattle included him among "Poets of Faith" in its Fall 2014 issue.) He can be humorous, sometimes darkly so. Among his subjects are daily life and family, profound loss (three of his family members died in the same year) and its accompanying grief, memory, fragility in the face of disaster, morality, and art and artists including Michelangelo, Rodin, and Rembrandt (some of his ekphrastic poetry is cited in Resources below). Light, perhaps because of his spiritual orientation and his deep engagement with visual art, comes up often in his work. He also addresses personal experience and contemporary issues, such as the Gulf oil spill of 2010.

A practitioner of formal and traditional forms, such as the aubade, sonnet, sestina, and villanelle, and of what he calls "received form", Cooley described in an interview with Aaron Kuper that he neither writes for a specific audience nor for himself; rather, he said, "I'm writing for this strand of sky between the two of us. I want you to come to my sky, look at my sky, read what I have written on my sky. It's not just for me, I want communication." 

Following are several excerpts from poems I particularly like:

I've seen the face of God too many times
in such gold as the morning carves in trees[. . . .]
~ from "Recursives"

Beyond the stars inside noon, light you see
by teaching yourself to adopt blindness,
another light waits to be taken on,
the light inside invisibilities. [. . .]
~ from "Michaelangelo, 'Pieta'"

[. . .]
Look, if I tell you I have seen the sun
come straight out of the heat of morning grass
as if it slept there, you must believe me. [. . .]
~ from "Twice Bright, Twice Dark"

Director of the creative writing program at Tulane University, where he is also Senior Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Cooley has published in hundreds and hundreds of well-known literary periodicals, journals, and magazines, including AGNIThe Atlantic, Bellevue Literary ReviewBlack Warrior Review, Callaloo, Harvard ReviewThe Kenyon Review, The New England Review, New LettersThe New Republic, The New YorkerThe North American Review, The Missouri ReviewThe Paris ReviewIowa Review, Pleiades, PloughsharesPoetry, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Smartish PaceThe Southern Review, SpillwayThe Texas ReviewValparaiso Poetry Review, and Virginia Quarterly. 

Cooley's poetry has appeared in many anthologies as well, including The Best American Poetry (Scribner, 2012, 2002, 1993), Improbable Worlds: An Anthology of Texas and Louisiana Poets (Mutabilis Press, 2011), Poets on Place (Utah State University Press, 2005), Manthology: Poems on the Male Experience (University of Iowa Press), The Poetry of Men's Lives: An International Anthology (University of Georgia Press, 2004), New American Poets (Godine, 2005), Hurricane Blues: Poems about Katrina and Rita (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2006), Hammer and Blaze: A Gathering of Contemporary American Poets (University of Georgia Press, 2002), Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, edited by Billy Collins (Random House, 2003), Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website (Sourcebooks, 2003), and Poets of the New Century (Godine, 2001). Cooley's work also can be found at the online Poets for Living Waters.

Among Cooley's awards are a Louisiana Artists and Scholars (ATLAS) grant (2011-2012); fellowships from the University of Wisconsin, Louisiana Division of the Arts, and Yaddo; and his selection as the Robert Frost Fellow at Bread Loaf Writers' Conference  (1981). Recognition also has come to Cooley in the form of three Tulane Mortar Board commendations, the Inspirational Professor Award (2001), and Newcomb Professor of the Year Award (2003); a Pushcart poetry prize; the Faulkner Society's Marble Faun First Place Prize in Poetry (2012, for "Aftermaths"); and inclusion in International Who's Who in Poetry (Routledge, 2004; also 2005). Cooley represented the United States at the Second Wellington International Poetry Festival in New Zealand (October 2004), which produced an anthology (Headworx Publishers) featuring the poets at the festival.

Cooley edits the poetry section of the journal Christianity and Literature. He was the poetry editor of North American Review from 1970 to 2000.


Photo Credit: Tulane University

All Poetry Excerpts © Peter Cooley

* Quoted from Susan Larson's "New Orleans Writer Peter Cooley Finds Poetry in the Morning Light", The Times-Picayune, February 4, 2009

** Quoted from Nate Koch, "Katrina Poetry Reading Aims to Education, Inspire", The Tulane Hullabaloo, August 27, 2015

Juan Sanchez, "Dr. Peter Cooley Appointed Louisiana Poet Laureate", WDSU News, August 15, 2015

Peter Cooley Profiles Online: Knox Writers' House, The Literary EncyclopediaLouisiana Poetry ProjectThe Poetry Foundation, Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press, Shimer College Wiki, and Tulane University

Also see Peter Cooley, Interview, Notre Dame Review, October 7, 2014 (pdf) (He describes "the current state of poetry in America" as "indescribably rich. . . .")

Peter Cooley Poems Online: "An Exorcism", "Conclusion of a Letter to the Angel", "Fathers and Sons", "From the Gulf", "Holy Family: Audubon Zoo, New Orleans", "Messengers", "Observances", "Poem on the First Day of School", "Psalm Before Sleep", "Seascape with Attendant Premonitions", "The Boy Child", "The One Certain Thing", "The Soul", "The Way Back", and "Transcendentals", All at Poetry Foundation; "Third Heaven" at Poetry Society of America; "Phoning My Sister at the Nursing Home" at How a Poem Happens; "For the Reader Seeing Amusement in Poetry", "A Cafe in Amsterdam", "Always the Last Color Print in the Rembrandt Books", "Rembrandt, 'The Last Self-Portrait'", and "Rembrandt, 'The Adoration of the Shepherds'", All at Superstition Review; "Rodin, 'Eternal Spring'", "Rodin, 'The Hands'", "Rodin", "Rodin, 'Monument to Balzac'", and "Rodin, 'Victor Hugo'", All at Connotation Press; "How I Once Saw the Pelican as Eternal Symbol, Not Victim of the Oil Spill", "This Is How I Romanticize Death", and "Note Bene", All at Poets for Living Waters; "Michelango, 'Pieta'" at Conte; "Sunday Afternoons With My Sister" at Poetserv; "The Climbers" at Valparaiso Poetry Review; "Lament", "Hunger", "Rhapsode", "Van Gogh, 'Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saint-Marie'", "Van Gogh, 'Stairway at Auvers'", "Moving Away", "Landscape", "Driving Through Small Wisconsin Towns", "Starwork", and "Not Stevens' Florida", All at VQR Online; "Rodin, 'The Cathedral'", "Rodin, 'The Age of Bronze'", and "Rodin, 'The Hands'", All at Pool Poetry; "My Crow, Your Crow" at The Nation; "Twenty Line Sonnet" at Blackbird; "The One Certain Thing" at American Life in Poetry Column 268 (Published Also at Barbara Abercrombie's What Poems Can Do); "Pursuit of Happiness" at Boston Review; "Letters from the Dead" at AGNI Online; "Recursives" at Rattle (Audio Available); "The Third Heaven" at Poetry Daily; "Correspondences", "The Secret", "Your Own Hour", and "To the Morning Tree", All at Louisiana Poetry Project; "End times", "Michelangelo, 'Pieta'", "Rembrandt, 'The Woman Taken in Adultery', National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London", and "Rembrandt, 'Titus'", All at The Christian Century; "Washing My Face" at Verse Daily; "Company of the Motel Room" at The New Yorker; "Gate 134" at Guernica; "Rodin, 'Hand with Small Torso, Bronze'" and "Rodin's 'The Cathedral'", Both at Plume Poetry; "Holy Saturday", "An Ordinary Morning in New Orleans", "In Camera", "Twice Bright, Twice Dark", "Poem in Which the Devil is Always Present But Only Appears at the End", and "For My Mother and Father", All at Weber: The Contemporary West (Weber Studies Archive); "I See a City in Tears", "Television", and "Summertime", All at Notre Dame Review (pdf); "Anti-poetics" at Image Journal; "And Then" at The American Literary Review; "Sunday Morning" and "I Say", Both at Commonweal Magazine; "NIGHTMORNINGSKY" at Academy of American Poets; "For My Sister on Guy Fawkes Day" and "My Sister Closes the Closet Door", Both at Scholarworks; "Rodin, 'The Burghers of Calais'", "Rodin, 'The Hands'", and "Rodin, 'The Kiss'", All at Hunger Mountain, The VCFA Journal for the Arts; "For Jay Gatsby" at Eating Poetry on Tumblr; "The Holy Fool Meets Himself on One of His Highways", Image Journal; "The Annunciation", "Television", and "The Rapture", All in Enskyment: An Anthology of Print and Online Poetry; "Portrait of Adam in Landscape with Swine" at The Missouri Review Archives; "A Few Years After a Death" at Plume Poetry

Listen to Peter Cooley read a selection of his poems, recorded in New Orleans, for The Knox Writers' House. (The poems' titles are listed in the right margin.)

Peter Cooley, "My Conversion Experience: How Hurricane Katrina Made Me Into a New Orleanian and a New Man" (pdf), Notre Dame Review

Cooley has poems in The Maple Leaf Rag: An Anthology of New Orleans Poetry (New Orleans Poetry Journal Press, 1980), which is on GoogleBooks. The poems are "Last Conversation", "The Descent Into Heaven", "Song of the Madman", "Song of the Hooker", and "Conclusion of a Letter to the Angel".

Cooley's The Company of Strangers (1975) may be read online (pdf) via University of Missouri System's digital repository called MOspace.

Kaite Hillenbrand, "Peter Cooley Interview", Connotation Press, September 2015

Mark Guarino, "Poet Learns Valuable Writing Lesson During Katrina", The New Orleans Advocate, August 28, 2015

Aaron Kuper, "An Interview with Peter Cooley", Faulkner House, Tumblr, November 11, 2013 (Cooley speaks here of a four-part work based on his engagement with painters Cassatt, Rembrandt, Rodin, and Michelangelo and of how that engagement has changed the way he writes poetry. He also discusses what he calls "trying to name feeling" and "free writing", and what happened when one of his poems appeared in The New Yorker.)

New Orleans Public Radio, "The Reading Life with Peter Cooley, Thomas Brothers, and Fleur De Lit", February 4, 2009 (Audio)

Liam Pierce, "Interview with Peer Cooley for Stories from the Gulf: Living with the BP Oil Disaster", Natural Resources Defense Council, October 9, 2010 (Audio)

Susan Larson, "New Orleans Writer Peter Cooley Finds Poetry in the Morning Light", The Times-Picayune, February 4, 2009

Anne Babson, "Adam After the Hurricanes: Foraging for Hope in the Aftermath of Storms in Peter Cooley's Night Bus to the Afterlife", Review, Cider Press Review, August 13, 2014

Margaret Howard Trammell, Divine Margins, Review, Apalachee Review (pdf)

Peter Cooley on FaceBook

UPNE/University Press of New England (The link goes to a page listing Cooley's books.)

Peter Cooley on Video: Tulane (Poetry Reading, 2008, YouTube), Peter Cooley's Tulane Poetry Workshop Discussing C.D. Wright (Vimeo)

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Congrats to him, and thanks to you!