In A Strange Insomnia, grief is turned to beauty and back again to grief, and finally opens to mystery. Christina Cook’s attention in these poems exerts a gentle and steady pressure upon the world of surfaces and changing light. Her precise eye examines the world and finds all interwoven. Things are what they are… and something more. This poetry returns us to a faith in the world’s beauty which we are not meant to possess but can never do without. | Cynthia Huntington
“Designed to deceive, appearances // leave all to the imagination, / while imagination leaves nothing to chance”—these exquisite poems by Christina Cook display a mastery of imagination and music, a force that derives not from an outpour of emotions, but of the tenderness of an “elegant wreckage,” a wisdom that praises life and its splendor. There are delicate and compassionate lyrics of grief and healing, interspersed by timely meditations and questionings about an “ageless self”: “When my face is most in shadow, I find the moon / to be the dark epitome of itself: // soon to start over from zero, / becoming the answer, which I am // to the question, which I also am.” A Strange Insomnia is an accomplished work of art whose quiet speaks through lush imagery and an abiding faith in wonder. | Fiona Sze-Lorrain
The poems of Christina Cook’s A Strange Insomnia run electric and earthy. With imagistic lushness, Cook proffers the natural world as both a threat and source of comfort, moving through grief and loss while always seeking redemption. These poems are most certainly “charmed/by life.” Any reader will also be charmed.
| Jennifer Militello
Published January 2016 by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press
Purchase via email request to editor, Kyle Laws, at email@example.com.
Jars, beakers, bottles; matte leather and glossy dark wood.
Either cayenne gin or vodka steeped in saffron and cardamom
bitters. Never mind how he looked sort of sad when he drank:
he felt a flowering push up through the fine chainmail
he wore under his purple checked Prada shirt. Never mind
what woman had bought it for him twenty years before:
juniper bloomed like tattoos from his chest and the fever
from loving her dropped to a low hum that steadied his pulse;
or was that the cayenne in the gin; right then he decided
to forge a flight of nickel steps to heaven for her, which she
no doubt would pronounce a gimmick: she’d see right through
his “final offer,” not bothering to look up from the silent film
with German subtitles she was watching in bed. At night he’d dream
she wore only lipstick and feathers while the wind reached
through him his whole way home from the bar. His mantra
was metal, and his shadow clinked with the weight of the human
predicament he found himself in, again and again and again.
That Whatever or Whomever is beyond our grasp does exist–that is the strange reassurance and buoyancy–we float to be taken somewhere–voiced so exquisitely, again and again in Christina Cook’s . It is a book of sustained address and quickened association, and it practices its craft not that it be mastered but that it be tested, that it be riddled with almost unaccountably beautiful vocalizations of a world that requires our singing. Loss dealt with freely and frankly, until the griever can paradoxically see in the other “the immanence of my departure” and be restored to continuities of daily-ness, family, place–“charmed by life.” The reader, too, will be returned to life by these generous poems. | William Olsen
Cook’s multifaceted gift manifests its quiet aria in this beautifully imagined, brilliantly wrought homage. Here, a barefoot human bond sinks its toes into lake sand, love, loss, black lily buds; and, consequently, death—that “most foreign land”–reveals an unforgettable intimacy reflected off the surface of a second glass of red. Bravissima. | Roger Weingarten
Christina Cook’s Lake Effect maps the poets journey through the profound grief of a mothers terminal illness and death. But that précis hardly does justice to this elegant first book. Like Asian scroll paintings, Cooks poems can distill a complex emotion in the brush-stroke of a single image: scattered in a lake, the mothers ashes soften, like last years peaches,/into water the color of koi; later, in another night piece, the poet hears filament-thin cicadas sing/Blue Monk/to the bass voice of the bullfrog. Such images resonate in poems that seem otherwise distilled, beautifully spare; theres nothing indulgent here, no sentimentality or hype, just the clarity achieved when a poet has allowed herself to be instructed by all manners of silence. So in the end, when the book arrives at a joy founded in the vitality of nature and human connection, we are utterly convincednot just by the meticulous craftmanship of these poems, nor their fierce intelligence, but by how they sing of Eros, the life force which, as the ancient Greeks knew, thrums throughout creation. | Clare Rossini