on May 23, 2010
Barbara Crooker's first poem captures the essence of this collection: "Always this hunger for more." She plays with her theme, gives us "Ode to Chocolate" and "Ode to Olive Oil" which is "velvet on the tongue The light of late afternoon." Most of her poems are as good to read as that luscious olive oil. We understand her; she understands us--how we long to identify with the famous paintings we view in museums. So she enters these works of art, becomes "the young woman in the butter/ yellow dress" in a Matisse painting. She says what we've always thought about "Hopper's Women": they are "always alone, even if someone else is in the room." But we never did say it. Barbara Crooker's poems are like this--a magical capturing of life in its dailiness, its dreams, its struggles and setbacks. The setbacks, however, don't prevail. The longing does: "I want the sun to run down my face like honey./ I want the wind to kiss me. I want all this to last."
on April 14, 2010
My copy of MORE arrived, at last, and it is a wonder. I read it in one sitting--then read it again and enjoyed it even MORE. The poems in themselves are lovely--some of my favorite "old" friends among them and lots of new ones--and the arrangement of the book is ingenious. I particularly enjoyed the epigraphs to each section--Van Gogh, Springsteen, and Thoreau rank among my own personal Household Gods, and I loved hearing their voices invoked here. (Amen! I kept shouting--inwardly, at least.) It all gathers to a greatness, as Hopkins says all things must, and commands assent. It is a gift to every reader. And the length is perfect, just enough to leave us wishing for--yes--MORE.
on May 29, 2010
It never fails. Every time I come face to face with a new poem by Barbara Crooker, whether it's in a literary journal, on-line, or in a perfectly splendid collection like this one (her newest), I shake my head in wonder all over again. In my opinion there is virtually no living poet out there who can spin out an image like she does--whether it's the sun, as it "lays out its light like a jazz saxophone lays out its brassy line"--or a flock of grackles "jabbing their cross stitches on the sky's pale muslin"--or the passage of time itself, when "The stone rests in your hand. It sings its one long song. Something about eternity. Something about the sea."
And as if these gems weren't enough, Crooker's MORE also offers a gallery of ekphrastic poems featuring works by Matisse, Rivera, Dufy, and Magritte, among others. There are also two deeply moving sequences here--one about the protracted death of the poet's mother, and an informal grouping that makes up the entire last section of the book, consisting of ten unforgettable poems that reflect the poet's unbridled passion for life.
This collection can only be called memorable--a quality too often missing in the poetry of the last few decades. I urge you to get your hands on a copy, and let it bring back to you what you've been missing.
on April 5, 2010
Open this book of poems and expect to fall in, though the page and into the lush language of Barbara Crooker's worlds. Daily life, art, and nature come together in layered metaphors that pull you in and leave you yearning for more, as the poet does of this life. Not skirting the losses and difficulties, whether it's the death of her mother, her daughter's serious illness, or raising an autistic son, Crooker shares her sharp vision of beauty in everything, rising to be joyful, as she says in "Excuses, Excuses," in the face of "the damaged child, the bodies that creak and sag." These are love poems to her husband and children and to everything delicious, from table to tree. You won't have to labor to understand these unforgettable poems and you may not resist reading them aloud to friends, as I do. My favorites: "Narrative" and "Anniversary Song."
on May 22, 2010
"More! More! More!" Yes, triple the motion. Despite so much sadness, in my own life, in others', and in the worlds', and despite so much philosophical existential stuff, which I totally feel (maybe even as much as Woody Allen), I'm happy and I want more! More mind, more heart, more love, more writing, more thrift-shopping, more living --67 years isn't enough! The older I get, the more I want. -- There are more poetic and more (so to speak) interesting and detailed ways to say that, and Barbara Crooker has used, uses, and will use them all. -- Favorite lines and passages from "More": "'What isn't given to love / is so much wasted,' and I wonder what I haven't given yet. -- "Time should be more elastic, we should be able to pull it / like molasses..." --
"The stone rests / in your hand. It sings its one long song..." -- "a goldfinch, bright as a grace note..." -- "I'm on the far side of sixty, athletic as a sofa, but this is where / the longing starts..." -- and finally, "I want all this to last." This book has inspired "more" in me, in particular more poems. There will never be enough -- and "more" books by Barbara Crooker will always be welcomed.
on April 8, 2010
Barbara Crooker's poems are rooted in both the sensual and the spiritual, in that place where the two are opposites and that place where the two become one. "Peaches" is a paean to all that is good about summer, fruit stands, good food, summer, and making love, and the miracle of it all is that it can happen again and again: "And tomorrow, another hot one, / and that sweet juicy sun / will pop up again, staining / the horizon red, orange, saffron." After eating olive oil on bread, she writes, "My chin gleams yellow, / the opposite of a halo, / but one surely even the saints / would recognize and bless" ("Ode to Olive Oil"). The ordinary is beautiful, the "here" is transcendent, and "now" can be so timeless it seems like eternity.
There are poems of sorrow and difficulty: a daughter in the hospital, the slow decline and death of her mother. But these too are part of life, part of why we come here to this plane of existence. In a poem about how a rock in the palm of the hand can be looked at as a mountain, she writes: "The way up is never easy. The air thins. / From the peak, the horizon falls away. / Borders are meaningless. The stone rests / in your hand. It sings its one long song. / Something about eternity. / Something about the sea." ("Geology"). This is a poem about climbing a mountain, and it is as far from cliché as it could be. In Crooker's hands, it's new again.
Combine the spirit with the senses, and you have these poems that are never contrived, never stale, never abstract. She recreates her experience of being open to life in all its changes, all its delights and pains.(I was reminded of an early favorite of mine - Denise Levertov's O Taste and See). She quotes Apollinaire, "What isn't given to love is so much wasted." I don't believe Crooker has wasted much, for she meets life fearlessly and openly, no matter what is coming her way or how long it lasts. In the same poem ("How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River"), she wonders "what I haven't given yet. / A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon, / so delicious I could drown in its sweetness. Or eat the whole / thing, down to the rind. Always, this hunger for more."
I'm sure I'm not the first to say it and won't be the only one, but Crooker's More makes me wish for more!
on September 3, 2014
This book contains a series of amazing poems! All are worth reading; more than half are extremely touching. Ms. Crooker is obviously a writer of sensitivity, great technical skill, and perception. I look forward to reading more of her work.....Recommend beginning with "Surfer Girl"!
on April 29, 2010
Barbara Crooker is up to her usual tricks, that is, writing terrific poems that hit the heart and delight the imagination. Whether she is extolling the pleasures of chocolate, grieving a mother's decline, exploring the halls of an art museum, or walking the physical landscape, she always treats her subject with reverence and the skill of a master craftsman.
on August 25, 2015
Barbara Crooker is probably one of the finest poets of our time. I so enjoy her work.