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Line Dance Paperback – January 1, 2008
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About the Author
Barbara Crooker is the author of one previous collection of poetry, Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Poetry First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Good Poems For Hard Times; Sweeping Beauty: Contemporary Women Poets Do Housework; Red, White, and Blues in America; and Boomer Girls. Her work has been featured on Verse Daily and read by Garrison Keillor on NPR's The Writer's Almanac. She is the recipient of three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, twenty-four Pushcart Prize nominations, and a number of other awards: the 2006 Ekphrastic Poetry Award from Rosebud, the 2004 WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the 2004 Pennsylvania Center for the Book Poetry in Public Places Poster Competition, the 2003 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, the 2003 "April Is the Cruelest Month" Award from Poets & Writers, and others.
Top customer reviews
With Line Dance the simple beauty remains, but each seems filled with particulars, e.g., in describing the Pennsylvania mountains, Crooker reveals: "... Blue, Allegheny, Kittatinny / Tuscarora, this big-muscled, broad-backed / hunk of a state." Or in listing the winters of impressionist artists: "Caillebotte's chimneys exhale like glamorous / women in a cafe."
Crooker's strong metaphorical language inhabits the lines, but the poems seem airy and natural. Each word is perfectly placed; the line endings are natural--not straining toward the jarring/illogical effect of much contemporary poetry; and the final lines are lessons for anyone who has ever wondered how to end a poem.
Other reviewers have mentioned the "autism poems," and anyone who reads such poems as "45s, LPs" will understand how, as in other fields of endeavour, less is more! The "less" in this and other poems that deal with the autism of her son, breaks our hearts--less is more.
And, perhaps, in this amateur review, I should end with less: Buy and Read this Book.
Here's a sample poem you can dance to:
I want to tell you something. This morning
is bright after all the steady rain, and every iris,
peony, rose, opens its mouth, rejoicing.
I want to say, wake up, open your eyes, there's
a snow-covered road ahead, a field of blankness,
a sheet of paper, an empty screen. Even
the smallest insects are singing, vibrating
their entire bodies, tiny violins of longing
and desire. We were made for song.
I can't tell you what prayer is, but I can take
the breath of the meadow into my mouth,
and I can release it for the leaves' green need.
I want to tell you your life is a blue coal, a slice
of orange in the mouth, cut hay in the nostrils.
The cardinals' red song dances in your blood.
Look, every month the moon blossoms
into a peony, then shrinks to a sliver of garlic.
And then it blooms again.
In "Blues for Karen" Crooker reaches out to a dead friend the best way she knows how, through words and images:
How could you die? We weren't done talking yet.
So I am trying to call you using the morning glories,
whose blue mouths are open to the sky,
whose throats are white stars,
thinking those tendrils could trellis upward,
hand over little green hand, so tenacious,
they hang on in any storm...
Crooker's use of metaphors is reader-friendly. We can all relate to her descriptions with a sense of wonder. This excerpt from "Zero at the Bone" takes us to a frozen place where the wintry season joins the unwritten lines of the heart:
The scouring light of winter
scrubs whatever it falls on,
the bright whiteness revealing
all the small incursions,
marks and stains of another year.
In the bare bones of trees, we see
old nests, broken branches, bagworm,
gall, all that was hidden by summer's
green scrim. Now we are at the heart
of things, the bone chill
of zero, the closed eye
of the pond. No secrets.
Buried within "The VCCA Fellows Visit the Holiness Baptist Church, Amherst, Virginia" is one of the sweetest, most touching and comforting ruminations on death I've ever read:
...a deacon speaks of his sister,
who's "gone home," and I realize he doesn't mean
back to Georgia, but she's passed over. I float
on this sweet certainty, of a return not to the bland
confection of wispy clouds and angels in nightshirts,
but to childhood's kitchen, a dew-drenched June
morning, roses tumbling by the back porch.
These poems represent "the thin rind of memory" protecting the juicy pulp that is Barbara Crooker's life and poetic mind. Highly recommended.