David Cooke’s In the Distance

David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977 and published Brueghel’s Dancers in 1984, but then stopped writing for twenty years. A retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published this year by Night Publishing. A new collection, Work Horses, will be forthcoming in 2012 from Ward Wood Publishing. His poems and reviews have appeared in journals such as Agenda, The Bow Wow Shop, Critical Quarterly, Cyphers, Envoi, The French Literary Review, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, The North, Orbis, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp, Stand and The Use of English

Cover art by Douglas Robertson

“The ghosts of a West of Ireland family haunt these poems, but Cooke is not treading ground already made familiar by others. Growing up in England, he is a poet whose ‘making strange’ grows naturally out of his exile between two countries. The limewashed pieties of rural Ireland are here, but in a wider context of European culture and history. After a long silence, David Cooke has burst back into life, in a welcome and gifted performance.”
– William Bedford

“Along with his understanding of the poem as a made thing, Cooke exhibits a flair for investing the ordinary with new significance. Experimental in the best sense, technically impressive, rooted in the actuality of everyday experience, David Cooke’s poetry is immediate, memorable and impressive.”
– Ian Parks
“These beautifully honed and memorable poems are real finds. Wide-ranging in themes and form, they attest to a natural and extremely gifted poet.”
– Patricia McCarthy
“David Cooke’s In the Distance evokes diverse historical places and persons. Hauntingly and beautifully, he also reveals something more than can’t be set in time and space.”
– Paul Sutherland
“Like bulbs kept a long winter under the stairs, David Cooke’s poems are grounded in experience and grow on an integral rhythmic pulse. His poetry will amply reward the hearing it deserves.”
– Peter Robinson
 The Latin Lesson
With sturdy jowls Brother Athanasius,
who back then we knew as Beef, chomped great slabs
of Virgil, which he digested for us,
struggling with the English in Brodie’s cribs.
Aeneas and Father Anchises moved
through a pagan world obscured by the toils
of syntax, while we shambled on, reproved
by a voice more urgent than the Sybil’s.
The Brothers could all quote Latin, pronounced
with a palatal blandness, the soft sounds
of a church’s dialect, and enhanced
their wisdom with words unscholarly minds
found locked in lexicon, drill, declension.
And those words, too, were the smell of incense
in a quiet house of genuflection,
tall candles lighting the untouched presence.
The Morris Minor
A lustreless
black, it slept all night
in a shed with the relics
of a different era:
a crumbling harness,
broken tools, a horseshoe
nailed to the wall –
then gargled to life
on busy mornings
when we drove
into town or to Mass.
Down the lane
the old man nudged it
as it lurched on
wrecked suspension,
its bodywork
strafed by brambles,
until at last
he coaxed it out
onto the open road;
and all those trips
we made in convoy
across that rambling landscape:
Enniscrone, Pontoon and back.
So many kids
and so much lumber –
the whole bloody tackle!
Going to Mass
I shuffled at the back
for years, and kept a truce
at home by looking
at others around me –
the prim communion faces
worn like a mask
on dutiful daughters
or those lighters
of candles, old women,
who crooned the response
from missals and knelt
as though caged
from doubt; through
pious circumstance
each rite had refined us
in faith, but now
when the host is raised,
a tiny weightless moon,
it drifts in orbit
beyond all touch of mine.
for Belinda
Coonalingan and Johnsforth,
my terminal townlands –
when I take myself back
it’s summer again:
the corn in stooks
like a redskin’s village;
the swallows slicing
through miles of blue.
How easily then
we assumed our right
of entry where our books
and accent exclude us –
the snug interiors
where Christ’s heart glowed
on a wall, delft ranged
on an ancient dresser.
Around the table,
foursquare, central, we sat
for soda bread, tea and cake.
Above our heads
from wedding photos
those who had left
smiled past, their features
fixed, yet distant.
from In the Distance (Night Publishing, 2011).
Order In the Distance.
Order a signed edition here.
Read more of David’s work at Write Out Loud.
Visit Doug Robertson’s website.

5 thoughts on “David Cooke’s In the Distance

  1. Adele Ward

    David has made quite a comeback over the past year. Writing again after a long silence can lead to quite a few surprises in theme and style and I think David has those up his sleeve. How lovely to see him here.

  2. Pingback: The Net Mender » Blog Archive » Peony Moon - In The Distance

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