The One Certain Thing

Peter Cooley

The One Certain Thing

Peter Cooley

Distributed for Carnegie Mellon University Press

80 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper $15.95 ISBN: 9780887486661 Published February 2021
Peter Cooley’s eleventh book of poetry is an elegy, not only of lamentation but also of self-reckoning in the face of his wife’s sudden death, after a marriage of half a century. The three-part conversation between the speaker, his wife, and God, plays across landscapes of home and the natural world. Faith and imagination carry us backward until the past and the present are one in language.
 
Review Quotes
Jericho Brown
Peter Cooley's The One Certain Thing is a book of tender elegies, and therefore, they are love poems that celebrate what was and what could be if loss were not at the foundation of the human condition. More than that, they are romantic love poems that declare everlasting love for the lost lover: "This morning when I woke up, you were here, / an indentation in the sheets." And just as that love remains in spite of absence, these well-crafted little wonders further document Cooley's 45 years of books dedicated to the poetic line and its power: "I take that darkness-light, / I hold it with both hands. It's everything, / everything of you I get to keep.
Eduardo C. Corral
Peter Cooley's astonishing new book makes visible the spectrum of grief. In the hours and months after his wife's sudden death, ordinary tasks, like selecting a bath towel, splinters grief into many emotional and intellectual states. Agony blazes into desire. Impatience ripples through faith. Sorrow flickers with humor. Cooley's masterful shifts in tone, deft control of imagery and line reconfigure loss in deeply surprising and moving ways. At the root of each craft choice and emotion, though, is his love for his wife. Its brilliance radiants in every syllable in this book.
Linda Gregerson
The power of elegy, like that of prayer, is to work this transformation: one voice summons another, becoming two. The dead may speak to us in the circumference of a scrubbed pot / or folding laundry. Or in the dawn, the blinding luminous, that fleetingly shap[es] the fractured world into unbrokenness. But amidst these eloquent summonings, the most moving passage in this moving book may be the one that dares itself to think outside the parameters of longing: what becomes of us, asks the poet, when the dead have ceased to wonder how we are? In that question lies the true measure of imagination, and of love.
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