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Gone Sane by Christal Rice Cooper   Leave a comment

 

Ms Cooper’s new book, Gone Sane, is a 197 page collection of poems based upon the lives of the famous and infamous. The book is split into six sections, each focusing on a particular point of view.

 

Christal’s experience as an editor and a free lance journalist is quite apparent throughout the book. There is a level of confidence in the facts of these cases that can only come from thorough research. At the same time, there’s an empathy that transcends the “just the facts” attitude of a reporter. Nowhere in the book is this more evident than in the poem Mark. It is prefaced by a quote from Cooper’s own story in the Altus Times about the case. Mark Gomez, at the age of one, was beaten to death. In the quote the journalist lists the injuries, in the poem the poet relates the purchase of a baby’s outfit which is then laid out over the grave,

 

as if I were dressing a baby

 

just before he climbs on a beer stained couch

to sit by Mommy’s boyfriend,

to feel his whiskered face.

 

The poem ends with Mark Gomez’s murderer’s death penalty sentence carried out, and the poet visiting her own child’s bedroom

 

His clothes are laid out for tomorrow:

red onesie, toddler jeans.

 

Someday I’ll say I knew

I’d hold him safe-

 

The skillful way she pulls the story full circle, into her own home, touches the heart and soul of every parent without being over sentimental.

 

If there’s anything to criticize within the book, it’s that certain sections don’t seem to mesh with the overall mood of the book. I’m not sure, for example, what a poem about Jim Carrey or the band U2 contributes to a book where the majority of the poems deal with murderers, rapists, and massacres.

 

Along the same lines, while most of the poems dealing with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are quite lovely, they dominate the first half of the book to the point where you turn the page and groan to see yet another one. For the purposes of this book, Cooper and Onassis would have been better served focusing on either her life immediately after the assassination of JFK, or her life with Aristotle Onassis, but not both.

 

Finally, the artwork in the book, pencil sketches, appears unfinished alongside the professionalism of the poems they are meant to enhance. It might have been better for the artist to create artwork that more closely mimicked photography, or the heavier, cleaner lines of pen and ink drawings.

 

Overall, Gone Sane is a book that will make you think and make you feel in equal parts. It is well worth the read, and is available on Amazon as both a paperback:

 

http://www.amazon.com/gone-sane-christal-rice-cooper/dp/096507644X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342543371&sr=8-1&keywords=gone+sane

 

and an E-book:

 

http://www.amazon.com/gone-sane-ebook/dp/B007HDVGNI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1342543371&sr=8-2&keywords=gone+sane

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Snow Monkey   1 comment

Photograph of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Image via Wikipedia

http://snowmonkeyjournal.blogspot.com/2010/05/helen-peterson.html

This May, Snow Monkey published my poem, “Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother“. Giving credit where credit is due, the title came from a book I once bought my mother-in-law for her birthday. This was a running joke with us, since she was in her mid thirties when I had my oldest son. Her husband, my ex-husband’s step-dad, was twenty seven, but it’s funny, I never did find a Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandfather book. Freud would have something to say about that, I’m sure.

Anyway, the title may have come from a funny little book, but the body of the poem came from the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my favorite poets. According to Nancy Millford’s excellent biography, Savage Beauty, when Millay’s mother thought her daughter might be pregnant, she forced her to take multiple scalding hot baths, and ride her horse bareback up and down the valleys and meadows near their home. It was such a crazy contrast to how my own parents and in-laws reacted, it stuck with me, more than anything else in the book, and it was a very good book, worth the read if you have the time and wish to do so.

You may notice, though, that I don’t use Millay’s name in the poem. In earlier drafts I did, added more details specific to her own life. In workshopping, others found the specificity distracting, and so I applied a name I had used before, in Baby Girl poems, the fragile and distracted Sweet Baby. It added another slant to the idea of a mother manipulating her daughter’s body, even after the girl is grown into her own sexuality.

This is just one example of how I sometimes get inspired by the lives of real people, and by what I read in books. Take something you’ve read, that has stuck with you, and use it as a writing prompt this evening. When you’re done, pick up a book you’ve been dying to read.  Begin to read it with an eye for inspiration, as well as for leisure. Taste the words and stories within, mull it around your tongue with the spices from your own life. Begin to read like a writer.