Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Gold

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Gold

Article excerpt

Gold. By Barbara Crooker. The Poiema Poetry Series. Eugene, Ore: Cascade Books, 2013. x + 70 pp. $11.00 (paper).

Some poems are crafted to be explicated by scholars. Others are written to spool easily off our tongues, expressing our daily emotions. There is a via media: poems that express ordinaiy experiences, but with language that surprises and delights, opening us to new ways of thinking about those experiences. Barbara Crooker s book, Gold, is just such poetry.

The cover hints as much. Its chocolate brown foregrounds a mother tenderly holding her child. Warm colors are used for the mother and child: red-blonde hair, headscarf designs of deep red, violet, and green; rosy cheeks and lips; tousled charcoal curls. The colors draw us into the mothers loving embrace just as Crooker's poems draw us into the tenderness of human relationships, the admiration of the many hues of nature, and a deep appreciation for the everyday experiences of life.

A reader does not need to be a scholar to understand the topic of many of the poems in the first two sections of the book: Crooker's loss of her mother to cancer. A number of the poems chronicle Crooker's experiences from first hearing her mothers diagnosis, through long days of nursing, and on after her mothers death. "On the Day of her Diagnosis" expresses the irony that disease may at first appear as beauty: "The small pearl I'd seen floating / in the warm water of her breast // was cancer, a word that hissed / in the ear like fat in a pan // or the breath of a snake" (p. 14). And anyone who has lost a loved one can identify with the poem "Ashes": "all I wanted / to do was gather up every gritty particle, / every chip of bone, then mix them with my bare / hands, using sand and mud, saliva and tears, / and bring her back" (p. 26). Although none of the poems in the latter sections deals directly with Crooker's mother's illness and death, the book continues the trajectory-the shape-of sorrow. And so, among poems on topics as disparate as playing Monopoly or traveling to Ireland, Crooker's grief reemerges, just as it does for all of us who must carry on the task of living after a loss.

Prominent in Crookers book is the theme of natures beauty, colors, and transience. We see it in the title poem: "The goldenrod's tarnished and dull, gone to rust, / as the Dow Jones plummets like the mercury / on a January night" (p. 6). Food also features in a number of poems, at times tellingly personified, including this delightful description of donuts in the poem "In Praise of Dying": "their greasy faces shining through brown // paper bags" (p. …

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