Reading Jane Cooper instead of unpacking

Perhaps because I’m unpacking my poetry books after almost two years of transition– only having a few that I brought with me (and that’s another story), and perhaps because of a need for a certain kind of order, and perhaps because the wind is blowing, I sat down in the middle of it all and read a few poems from an old favorite of mine, the book SCAFFOLDING by Jane Cooper. Here’s just one example from a woman Adrienne Rich calls “a serious and deeply valuable artist.”


Our last morning in that long room,
Our little world, I could not cry
But went about the Sunday chores
–Coffee and eggs and newspapers–
As if your plane would never fly.
As if we were stopped there for all time.

Wanting to fix by ritual
The marriage we could never share
I creaked to stove and back again.
Leaves in the stiffening New York sun
Clattered like plates: the sky was bare–
I tripped and let your full cup fall.

Coffee scalded your wrist and that
Was the first natural grief we knew.
Others followed after years:
Dry fodder swallowed, then the tears
When mop in hand the old world through
The door pressed, dutiful, idiot.

I don’t know if this is my favorite poem by Jane Cooper, and wouldn’t want to have to choose. But this is such a wonderful example of her restraint, her passion, and her quiet, lovely way of speaking. The rhymes are there, but so natural and gentle that we almost don’t hear them.

I love how she tells us things without actually saying them. It’s a winter day. It’s cold and the leaves are clattering and as she takes in the day outside her window, that’s when she trips and spills the coffee.

And the German cleaning woman of the title becomes, in the poem, the intrusion of the world, the daily life, her own routine that seems crazy after the realty and the warmth of love. These things, and much more, are said with such grace and indirection. There’s a lot to be learned by reading Jane Cooper.

I love that there are always unanswered questions. Why does she say “stiffening sun” instead of stiffening leaves? Perhaps for the rhythm of the line, perhaps because the other would have been too ordinary. Perhaps the sun itself is acting upon the leaves, stiffening them, or perhaps the day itself is unbearably cold because it’s the day of her lover’s departure. Whatever it is, it’s interesting. Perhaps it’s she who is being stiffened by the sun, by the moment, the sadness she does not wish to feel.

Is it a real German cleaning woman? Or is it she, stiffened by the day’s event, the need for ritual, the refusal to cry, who cleans up the coffee, feeling like an idiot when what she really wants is for the day not to end?

Why the “long room”? Was it really long or did the room represent some emotional state? And on and on and on… Much to think about. I trust Jane Cooper’s poems. I know she knew what she was doing, that nothing was done carelessly or just because (Oh well…) she couldn’t think of anything better. As I said, there’s much to be learned from reading Jane Cooper.


Devil, Dear

“Devil Dear teems with erotic life. These poems adore the world within us and outside us, embracing our hungers and imperfections alike. I love Mary Ann McFadden’s range of tones and her long, musical lines, shaped by the pressures of intelligence and deep honesty. She takes us to the edge of an irresolvable mystery and lets us see its beauty.”  –Joan Larkin

When Mary Ann McFadden lures us into her fertile and earthy-pungent poems, we become lost in her world of “jellied forms,” in “clouds of milk in water” and we feel as the speaker of these poems feels when she says “The things of this world fill me up.” These poems are sly and full of generous humor and wisdom. To read McFadden is to be surprised, in poem after poem, by the ecstatic.    –Anne-Marie Macari

Mary Ann McFadden’s wise and compassionate poems celebrate a world of wild-life and animal warmth, oceanic communions and ecstatic sexual unions. Old flames rekindled by intimacy reveal the hard-won heart-truths that “We are truer together than we are alone.” “Now I mourn the loss of magic,” the poet writes. “Now I see it everywhere.”     –L. S. Asekoff


DEVIL, DEAR  will be out on November 11, 2014.   Just a bit over two months from today!    You can pre-order the book at the Alice James Website:    or at




Eye of The Blackbird


“In its first few lines, Eye of the Blackbird declares itself to be a book with rare authority. Its obsessions are pursued with a passion that’s reckless but also meticulously careful with the truth. Throughout these lush, quirky, stubborn poems, Mary Ann McFadden writes with fluidity, inventiveness, and unselfconsiousness, qualities that deepen and intensify page after page. Also remarkable is McFadden’s sustained vision of her family’s past and its ongoing presence in herself. This is a large work of intelligence and imagination, an inquiry into the formation of self that takes us on an adventure in which language, emotion, and the thinking mind seem made of the same substance. It’s also wonderfully free of the usual authorial presence–autobiography still tethered to ‘what happened.’ However much fact it may drag in its undertows, this voice is pure invention. Like the voice in Whitman, which she exuberantly appropriates and updates, McFadden’s speaker is at once uniquely human and recognizable in all of us. Eye of the Blackbird is a genuinely ambitious book, a book with big wings.”

–Chase Twichell, judge, Four Way Books Intro Series

To Purchase:

Or, you can try Amazon Books.  I know there are used copies available from booksellers there.