Peter Cooley and Carolyn Hembree - ACCOUNTING FOR THE DARK and FOR TODAY

Join us for a joint reading and signing with poet Peter Cooley celebrating the launch of his new book, Accounting for the Dark, and poet Carolyn Hembree celebrating her new book, For Today: Poems.


A poet wrestles with faith and loss post-pandemic

In these poems, Peter Cooley encounters both the political realities of loss through the pandemic in New Orleans and personal loss through the deaths of family members and friends. Death is a constant in this book of elegies, but the redemptive power of representation is persistent as this poet of faith memorializes imagined and lived experiences.

"Peter Cooley makes poems of faith, grounded in intelligent doubt. If his long view is eternity, his poetry marks a daily meditation that does not neglect the songs of neighborhood birds or the murder of George Floyd. His value is inestimable. Cued by Dickinson, Whitman, and Donne, for more than fifty years, he has remained one of a very few living poets who write for the ages." --Rodney Jones

"'Follow the dark,'" enjoins one poem in Peter Cooley's aching new collection. 'Yes, I can do this,' declares another: 'All it takes is absolute surrender.' Reading these poems, I savored not only how they come out of a long apprenticeship of reading and to poetic craft, but also how they come out of a long life of experience, love, and grief-out of a vale of soul-making. I believe Accounting for the Dark is Cooley's most memorable and powerful work to date." --Jennifer Grotz

"Grieving the death of his wife and the loss of a close friend to suicide, isolated in the midst of a global pandemic, this poet still finds the miraculous in life's dailiness. 'My soul has taken in the clear, cold light / paradise offers when we have lost enough,' he explains. Like a medieval mystic or iconographer plunked down in contemporary New Orleans, Cooley melds the language of angels, incarnation, and resurrection with smartphones, city garbage trucks, and granola bars on sale at Shoppers' Value. The result is a luminous collection that will leave even jaded readers reawakened to the beauty of perishing things and the mysteries of the unseen." --Julie Kane, Louisiana Poet Laureate 2011-2013


Peter Cooley is emeritus professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Tulane University and former Poet Laureate of Louisiana. His many books include The One Certain Thing, also published by Carnegie Mellon. He is poetry editor of Christianity and Literature.

FOR TODAY by Carolyn Hembree

A revelatory collection of poems set in the Gulf South, Carolyn Hembree chronicles the experience of a woman who becomes a mother shortly after her father’s death and struggles to raise her child amid private and public turmoil. Written in closed and nonce forms that give way to the field composition of the maximalist title poem, the work explores grief, rage, and love in a community vulnerable to Anthropocene climate disasters. Through relationships with her daughter, neighbors, friends, ancestors, other poets (living and dead), and the earth, the speaker is freed to accept and celebrate her own perishability.

“Carolyn Hembree’s For Today is a wild ride of formal innovation, odes, and elegies. Any reader would be taken with the poet’s modified sonnet crown, her villanelle, her prose poems, and the musical opus that is the gorgeously long title poem. But I am most impressed by how Hembree manages all of this while also daring to write a poetry so sharp and bare it aims at nothing but the heart.” -Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition
“A high-voltage talent, Hembree harnesses the fevered elements of what’s given—fraught landscape, fraught heart—because to do otherwise is to live (and write) a lie that denies love its innately fuguelike truth. These poems spun my reading swiftly into awe.” -Katie Ford, author of Colosseum
“The long poem ‘For Today’ is a brilliant, existential tour de force. I read it in one sitting. I couldn’t stop. And it gives me that sense that I experience with the very best poems, that I’m not reading them so much as living them.” -Rodney Jones, author of Alabama


Carolyn Hembree is the author of Skinny and Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine and Other Ways to Escape a Plague. She is associate professor at the University of New Orleans and serves as poetry editor of Bayou Magazine.


Event date: 

Sunday, March 3, 2024 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

Event address: 

Octavia Books - 513 Octavia Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
Accounting for the Dark (Carnegie Mellon University Press Poetry Series ) By Peter Cooley Cover Image
ISBN: 9780887486999
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Carnegie Mellon University Press - February 20th, 2024

Pre-order now and write "signed copy" in the comment area during checkout.

For Today: Poems (Barataria Poetry) By Carolyn Hembree, Ava Leavell Haymon (Editor) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780807181423
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: LSU Press - January 31st, 2024

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