On Our Shelves Now
About the Author
Peter Cooley was born and educated in the Midwest and has lived over half of his life in New Orleans, where he was professor of English, Senior Mellon Professor of English, and Director of Creative Writing at Tulane University, and is now professor emeritus. The former Poet Laureate of Louisiana, he received the Marble Faun Award in Poetry and an Atlas Grant from the state of Louisiana. The father of three grown children, he published his tenth book, World Without Finishing, with Carnegie Mellon in 2018. Cooley is poetry editor of Christianity and Literature.
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.
— Jericho Brown
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.
— Eduardo C. Corral
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.
— Linda Gregerson