poem index

Cynthia Macdonald on Nicole Cooley's Resurrection

Year

2004

Nicole Cooley was the winner of the 1995 Walt Whitman Award for her first collection of poems, Resurrection (Louisiana State University Press, 1996). The judge for the award was Cynthia Macdonald, who wrote the following citation.


Each one of the poems in this book is a dark delight. They form a world both familiar (in both senses of that word) and vertiginous. It is no surprise to find Alice Liddell (the child for whom Alice in Wonderland was written) and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) appearing repeatedly along with such other characters as Frida Kahlo, Snow White, Patty Hearst, Harry Houdini, a Gibson Girl, Thumbelina, and Helen Keller. They become part of a family circle which seems more personal, but is it? Family members and lovers are transformed into one another; only a chorus of immigrant aunts seems constant. And when the family is more stable, more graspable, eras and places shift: Los Alamos, 1950; Odessa, 1925; New Orleans, 1995; Budapest; St. Malo; the Chicago World's Fair, 1933; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Central Park, 1971.

Resurrection's cumulative power comes from its erotic, passionate, repressed, frightening, and ecstatic qualities. Nicole Cooley speaks in a voice unmistakably her own, a voice which need not demand attention because its quiet confidence is so compelling. A remarkable book!